History A Level has a reputation for being boring, difficult and very literature-based. Doesn't make it sound very appealing, does it? Part of the reason this subject is described with these words is probably the fact that History is a subject that can easily dishearten the student who studies it. Unlike science (thinking of Maths or Chemistry), subjects like History don't have questions that come with an answer that is either right or wrong. Essays can be written in numerous ways which can make it frustrating to know how or where to improve your grade. To make some of this confusion clearer, I have written 4 ways that have proven useful to me when I was studying and will help you succeed with A Level History.

Read Sources

Extra reading is a great way to learn more about a topic, especially to help you learn more about historical characters. Researching the history and background of each person involved in an event can give you a better understanding of their character and the tactics they use. If your history teacher hands out extra reading material make sure you have a read of it. You can also have a look in the school or local library to see if they have any books about the person or topic you're studying. If they don't, you should be able to put an order in for a particular book. Have a look on second-hand book websites such as World of Books or Wordery as well - they sell books in good condition for low prices. 

Reading extra material puts people and places in context and will help you find examples you can use in your essays and exams that don't necessarily appear in the history textbook. How about incorporating extra reading into your revision session for a few minutes? It will definitely be worth it. Highlighting important parts and interesting bits makes it easier to skim over later (just maybe photocopy it if it's from the library!).

Use Dates and Examples

One of the key things you need to succeed in History is understanding the importance of using dates and examples to back up your argument. Having the knowledge of a battle is great but it's also important to remember when it happened. Although it might seem a minor detail, I would recommend learning how to spell it correctly, doing this means you'll have to write it down several times whilst learning about it and remembering information connected to it. One of the best pieces of advice for A Level History is this - For every argument give examples.

For example, if you want to argue for someone being a good leader:

Not so good example:  I would agree Nelson was a good leader because he had a different approach and wasn't afraid to ignore convention.

Good example: As seen in the Battle of Cape St. Vincent on 14th February 1797, Nelson wasn't afraid to ignore convention, I would argue his different approach made him a good leader.

Not so good example: The Battle of Ypres was a disaster

Good example: The Battle of Ypres from July - November 1917 was a disaster because of bad leadership, seen by leaders such as Field Marshal Haig.

Learn About Historians

As well as examples, quoting historians and their views is a great way to supplement your argument. Spend some time learning about historians who have studied the same topics as you and have a look at their viewpoints. Decide whether you agree with them or not and write down their names, books they have written, quotes they have said, what their opinion is and whether or not you agree with them. Then memorise these to use in your essays. This shows that you have researched your topic and gives depth to essays, which is what the examiner wants to see.

Read the Essay Questions Well

Read every essay question really well before starting an essay, whether it's for homework, a mock exam or the real thing. Check you understand exactly what the question is asking you to write about before answering it. The more essay questions you practice, the easier it becomes to understand the questions. You don't even have to write whole essays to improve, you could start by highlighting the keywords in an essay question and writing a few bullet points on how you might answer the question if you were to make it into an essay.

What do you find the most difficult part of A Level History?

Thanks for popping by! I hope you learnt something from this post.


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