How to revise for A-level History exams: AQA explains what to do

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Exam and revision advice to help you get your target grades in A-level History

When you're revising for your A-level exams, you want to make the most of your study time.

So, we invited the experts at the AQA exam board to share their tips and advice on preparing for A-level History exams.

The article that follows has been written by an AQA curriculum expert, based on their years of experience in the assessment of their subject.  

You can find more articles in this series, covering a range of subjects at both GCSE and A-level, over on our revision section.

Also on The Student Room, you can find student discussion of 2024 A-level exams.


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Timing

  • Aim to spend roughly an hour on the extract (paper 1) and source (paper 2) questions.
  • It’s important to give equal time to the evaluation of all three extracts or sources.
  • Aim to spend around 45 minutes on each of the essay questions.

Planning and preparing responses

  • Make sure you read the essay questions really carefully, paying close attention to start and end dates. Briefly plan your answer before putting pen to paper.
     
  • It’s really important that you take your time to read the whole extract or source before answering the question. Picking out individual words or phrases is not always useful. Weaker answers show little evidence that the extract/source has been read in full, and may miss the point entirely or focus on areas that aren’t relevant to the question.

Approaches to the exam questions

  • The best responses to the essay questions set out and sustain a balanced argument, using relevant knowledge and understanding to support the points made, leading to a judgement that answers the question.
     
  • The most effective approach to the extract and source questions is to evaluate each of the three extracts or sources in turn.
     
  • For the extract question on paper 1, you should identify the argument(s) and evaluate their strengths and limitations using relevant knowledge and understanding, leading to a judgement about how convincing each extract is about the issue in the question.
     
  • For the source question on paper 2 remember that the value of a source changes depending on the question being asked. So, focus on the value (and limitations) of the sources for the issue in the question, using the content, provenance, and - where appropriate - the tone of each source in relation to the question set. Use your knowledge and understanding to support your evaluation.
     
  • When evaluating limitations in the extracts and sources, students are often more successful when they use their knowledge and understanding to challenge what’s said in the extracts or sources, rather than focusing on what’s left out.
     
  • Unlike the essay question, introductions and conclusions at the start and end of extract and source responses often don’t add anything and can waste valuable time in the exam. Remember, you don’t need to evaluate which extract or source is most convincing or most valuable.


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