Key Features History Gcse Essay

This page will tell you how to answer different question styles in History GCSE according to how much marks they offer. Examples for each type of question will be available very soon:


Maximum marks to be awarded for the question: 4 marks.

Type of question: “What can you learn / infer from Source [XYZ...]…”

Time you should take to answer it: 2 minutes

Other information: Make two inferences that are supported from the source that you are given. Quote the source to ensure this. Start your answer with the words from the question to make sure you are precise with your answer, for example, start your answer with “From Source [XYZ…], you can learn / infer that…” . It is best if you do not spend much time on this type of question as it does not offer a lot of marks.
Maximum marks to be awarded for the question: 6 marks. 

Type of question: “Describe the key features of...”

Time you should take to answer it: 4 minutes

Other information: Start your answer with words from the question to make sure you are precise with your answer. It is good to link your points in this type of question, but do not go over 4 minutes simply because you are desperate to link because linking as it is not so important in this question type. You should write two developed statements (a simple statement with supportive facts etc.) which should make up two small paragraphs.
Maximum marks to be awarded for the question: 8 marks. 

Type of question: “Explain the effects of...”

Time you should take to answer it: 7/8 minutes

Other information: State the effect and fully explain it with facts and information. Link each of your effects. You must have at least two developed effects in this answer. To structure these two linked effects, either identify one factor that leads to another or identify two factors that are similar. This will make it easier for you to link your points, which is essential if you want a high mark in this question.
Maximum marks to be awarded for the question: 8 marks. 

Type of question: “Explain why...”

OR

Maximum marks to be awarded for the question: 8 marks (11 marks with spelling, punctuation, accuracy and grammar)

Type of question: “Explain how...”


Time you should take to answer it: 7/8 minutes

Other information: Start with an introduction that summarises the points / causes that you will cover in your answer. Give your first point, fully explain it then link it with the next point. Remember to use linking phrases and words to make it easier to link. You must have at least two, preferably three developed points (It is still possible to get full marks with two points). Also, you have to prioritise your points, explaining which is the most important or how important each point is. Link the effects to the outcome.
Maximum marks to be awarded for the question: 16 marks (20 marks with spelling, punctuation, accuracy and grammar)

Type of question: “[Question here]

You may use the following information to help you with your answer:

  • [Point one]

  • [Point two]

  • [Point three]

  • [Point four]”

Time you should take to answer it: 17/18 minutes

Other information: This question type awards you with the most marks, and thus deserves the most amount of time spent on it. It is a 16 mark ‘essay’, consisting of six paragraphs including the introduction and the conclusion (so four main paragraphs, preferably using the four stimuli given to you in the question). You start with a brief intro to set the theme of the question while suggesting the key areas you will cover. For the four main paragraphs, introduce the stimulus, fully explain it, make a judgement on its importance and compare it with other points’ importance, prioritise them and link them. You will need to do all of these for full marks. For the conclusion, it is easier to start with ‘overall...’, then make a final judgement on the relative importance of all the factors while linking them. Also, say something on the lines of “one most important reason cannot provide a satisfactory explanation” or “all are of equal importance”.

Introduction to 20 mark essay writing

Essay writing in Higher History is very important. Overall, 70% of your grade will be ascertained from the essays you write, 30% from your extended essay and 40% from your 2 essays in Paper 1 of the final examination.

As you have advanced through the school in Standard Grade and Intermediate 2 you will have learned how to write short essays worth 8 marks. You will remember how daunting these essays seemed to be when you first started writing them. You will also remember how writing these essays became easier with practice.

Essay writing is a skill, something that has to be learned. You had to learn how to introduce your essay, develop the points and then conclude your argument when writing 8 mark answers.

Essay writing at higher takes you a stage further in your development as rational, discursive and deliberating beings and again you will have to learn how to write Higher Essays skilfully.

However, some words of warning! Your development of these “higher” skills will not come naturally, neither will they come from listening attentively to your teacher or copying your friends essays (it does happen and these people are invariably caught). Your development of these essay writing skills will be down to hard work, reading and practice. Simple.

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