GCSE History exams and revision: AQA explains what you need to do

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Our series on exam advice continues with tips from AQA on GCSE History

To help you make the most of your remaining revision time, we’ve worked with exam board AQA to create a series of exam advice articles.

In each of these features, you’ll find advice and easy-to-follow tips written by one of AQA’s subject matter experts.

Read on to get the inside track on GCSE History, direct from the people who make the exams.


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Give enough time to each question

A good rule of thumb is this: for every 4 marks on the question paper, spend around 5 minutes writing and aim to write around one paragraph.

This means you should try to spend around 10 minutes on 8-mark questions, around 15 minutes on 12-mark questions, and around 20 minutes on 16-mark questions.

Remember there are separate booklets for section A and section B in each exam, so try to spend equal time on each section - about an hour.

Use the extra time wisely

We’ve added an extra 15 minutes for paper 1 and paper 2 to give you more reading and thinking time.

So, take time to read through the sources and interpretations on each paper before you answer questions on them. You may also want to briefly plan your answers to the longer essay questions before you start writing.

Remember, examiners will mark everything you’ve written, so you can read back over your answers and add more to them if needed.

Answer the question!

Read the question really carefully. The best answers will often use the key words from the question, and will always link their explanations and judgements directly to the ‘tail’ or focus of the question.

For example, if a question asks you to write an account of how an event became an international crisis, then you need to go beyond just telling a story of the event by showing how the event became an international crisis.

Try to approach sources and interpretations positively

Try to avoid simply describing the source, or listing the things the source doesn’t show (this goes for the interpretations questions too!).

For example, for the ‘how useful’ questions, students tend to perform better when they focus on ways that sources are useful for the issue in the question by using their knowledge to explain the content of the source (what it says or shows) and the purpose of the source.

Use the specification when revising

You can use the specification to form a revision checklist. We’ll never set a question on something that isn’t in the specification, but we may set questions on any person, event or issue listed in the specification - so these should be the focus of your revision. 



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Good luck from AQA

AQA believes everyone has the potential to achieve, and we make sure our qualifications give all students the opportunity to show what they can do and progress to the next stage of their lives.

Our subject experts worked with The Student Room so we can reach as many students as possible with advice on how to approach your revision and exams. We wish you well in the weeks ahead, and don’t forget to look after yourselves too: eat well, sleep well and tell someone how you’re feeling if there are days when things don’t go so well or you don’t feel so good.

 Good luck!