Critical Thought English and Humanities

O Level History Elective Paper 2273: How to Ace the Paper!

History Elective and  Social Studies  is one of the three Combined Humanities options. Some people think that History is a useless subject and prefer to choose Geography or English / Chinese Literature. However, I assure you that it is not. History is not just about past events; it is also about analysing, evaluating and making judgements about these events. These critical thinking skills are important for your child’s future, even if they do not study History.

O Level History Elective: What do we learn?

Unlike lower secondary history, O Level History Elective  does not feature Singapore. O Level History Elective is in fact modern world history. If you want to know why the current world is this way, you need to learn history. The following are the topics:

  • Impact of World War One.
  • Rise of authoritarian regimes and its impact in the interwar years.
  • World War II in Europe and the Asia–Pacific.
  • Cold War and the bi-polar world order.
  • Manifestation of the Cold War outside Europe.
  • Reasons for the end of the Cold War.

The first unit covers the impact of World War One, especially on Germany. The students then continue with two case studies to explore the rise of dictatorship in Europe. The two case studies are Russia (Stalin) and Germany (Hitler).

Students then study the reasons for the outbreak of World War Two in Europe and Asia and the reasons for the defeat of Germany and Japan. The events of the war are not emphasized.

Finally, students learn about the reasons behind the Cold War and use the case studies of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Korean War to explore different facets of the Cold War. Finally, they learn the reasons for the end of the Cold War.

As mentioned, other than content, the exam tests critical thinking skills. They are similar to Social Studies:

  • Draw inferences
  • Analyse and evaluate information through different perspectives
  • Differentiate between fact and opinion
  • Compare and contrast different viewpoints
  • Detect bias
  • Construct well-supported arguments and make reasonable judgement and recommendations

O Level History Elective: Paper Format and Assessment

The paper is divided into two sections just like Social Studies. Section A consists of Source-Based Questions and is worth 30 marks in total. The content that can be tested in this section are the four case studies (Stalin, Hitler, Cuban Missile Crisis and Korean War).

Section B has two Structured Essay Questions worth 20 marks in total. The two questions are further divided into two sub-questions. The student only needs to answer one question of his or her choice.

The O Level History marking scheme is similar to Social Studies as it also uses the Levels of Response Marking Scheme (LORMS). This marking scheme emphasizes the quality of answer and students who explain their reasons well will score for history.

What can parents do?

This subject requires specialist knowledge of specific content. Despite this, parents can still nudge their children into picking up more knowledge about this period:

  • Encourage students to watch shows based on modern world history. There are many dramas, films and documentaries set in this period.
  • There are a lot of YouTube resources of this period. Just ask your children to look up Google.
  • Always link back the present day to events that happened to the past. For example, why did America end up as the dominant superpower in the world?

I have a special section that features additional resources that students can access. Click here to read more about it.

In addition, I have prepared sample essays for students to refer to. They can be found below:

  • Treaty of Versailles
  • League of Nations
  • Rise of Stalin
  • Stalin’s Rule
  • Rise of Hitler
  • Hitler’s Rule
  • Reasons for World War II in Europe
  • Reasons for the Defeat of Germany
  • Reasons for World War II in Asia-Pacific
  • Reasons for the Defeat of Japan
  • Reasons for the Cold War
  • Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Reasons for the End of the Cold War

Critical Thought English & Humanities is your best resource for English, English Literature, Social Studies, Geography and History.

My experience, proven methodology and unique blend of technology will help your child ace their exams.

If you have any questions, please contact us!

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History is not just about writing lots of essays! It is also about discussion, debate and evidence. However, there will be, as with many other subjects at A-Level, some essays to write - but it is not as tough as it looks. Essay writing is a skill that you will get better at over time, but you might find the guide below useful to help you along.

How to Write a History Essay

  • Are you new to the 6th form?
  • Are you already in the 6th form but worried about your essay writing skills?
  • Are you moving on to study history at university?

Then this could be just what you need! This guide will not help you to get outstanding grades - that is up to you, but it will prepare you with the skills that you need to produce that masterpiece!

Key Features: The Must Haves

A-Level/Undergraduate essays should contain the following features; although it depends on the type of essay you are writing as to how far you go; for example, a personal study or dissertation will require a great deal of historiography and referencing, whereas class essays may require less. If you are unsure as to how much your teacher will expect, it is best to ask! 

A well considered argument - This is VERY important to get right. It means that you will need to make sure that you clearly state your line of argument and do it convincingly. At the same time, you will also need to give full coverage to other factors/opinions/arguments that are at play - even if it is to rubbish them!

Reference to the question

An introduction

A middle -  the substantive part of the essay, where you present the evidence and arguments

A conclusion

Footnotes and bibliography

Before You Start...

The key to success in any history essay is preparation. This not only includes focussed and wide reading around the topic, but also your preparation of your thoughts and arguments. Richard Harris, experienced history teacher and now lecturer in education at Southampton University provides a very good starting point for essay writing. His plan is designed to get you thinking and planning your structure before you write. You can find a copy of this planning sheet at the end of the guide. 

1) Considered Argument

The key to providing a considered argument is to read widely! What is the historiography (views of different historians) surrounding the topic? What evidence is there to support different lines of argument? Your job is firstly to present these lines of argument.

Secondly, you should critically evaluate these views and evidence as you explain them. Is there evidence to counteract? By providing a considered argument - what we don't mean is that you sit on the fence! Every essay MUST have an argument, but by considered, we simply mean that you should be prepared to consider other arguments/factors, other than your own view, even if it is to critically evaluate them and dismiss their importance! But you must be convincing and be prepared to examine them fully.

At A level, the mark-schemes tend to be stepped into 5 different levels; you cannot progress beyond level 2/3 if you do not provide a well considered argument! The examiner wants to see what your opinion is, but they also want to know that you have not just "plucked" this opinion from nowhere - they want to see that you have considered the topic fully, taken account of all of the views and arguments before making your judgement. Therefore, you should stick to your line of argument throughout, but you should clearly evaluate other points of view, showing your reader how and why they are less valuable arguments than your own. 

2) Reference to the question

Where possible you should show how the evidence you are presenting links back to the question. You should refer back to the question wherever a link or piece of evidence provides some clues to help formulate an answer. This should help you to avoid going off track. Always think as you are writing "does this paragraph help to present the evidence to support my line of argument or help me to answer the question?" 

3) The Introduction

The introduction should set the scene. It should be short and snappy, no more than a few lines, but they are very important as you need to hook your reader in. There should be some very brief background detail to the question. You should also include some brief historiography - what is the main debate among historians about this issue? Who is saying what? You should also at this point wish to state what YOUR argument is going to be.

You should then refer back to the question by stating how you are going to measure/argue your case; a good way to do this is by referring back to the question itself. It should help you to get the question straight in your own mind too and give you some direction. For example, if you have a question asking you how significant an event was, you need to explain what is meant by significance and how you will measure this.

E.g. 'How significant was the Reichstag Fire in the Nazi revolution?'

When this question is analysed, bit by bit it helps us to explain to our reader what the essay intends to cover. 

4) The Middle

This is the substantive part of the essay. This is the bit where you have to present the evidence and arguments. It should predominantly contain your analysis/argument but you must also look at the counter-arguments and the views of historians.

  • Present evidence in a balanced way: You should present your argument/response to the question clearly and effectively, using the views of historians and other evidence to back up the points you make. On the other side, you should also consider the arguments against your own and critically evaluate them in order to show why they are less important/plausible than your own.
  • Present your evidence in a logical order : Try to avoid jumping around. Make a plan before you write that organizes your evidence logically. This could either be in themes or in chronological order.
  • Include analysis: You must make sure that you don't just fall into the trap of presenting evidence without analysis. This reads more like a list! When presenting a piece of evidence or the view of a historian, don't forget to critically analyse. Is the evidence reliable? Is the view of the historian reliable or are they writing from a specific viewpoint? Are there different interpretations? What do you think? Is it a valid point?
  • Refer often to the title: Don't forget to link your points back to the question where possible. It will help your essay and your reader stay focused on the answer to the question!

How to Structure Paragraphs:

It is important to structure your points within the scaffolding of the paragraph well. A good way to do this is to PEE all over your paragraphs!!!

Of course, don't take this literally and ruin your essay - what we mean is to use the PEE formula:

E - Example

E - Explanation.

This is a good habit to get into and a good way to provide structure. Simply make your point, give an example or piece of evidence to back it up, then explain it. What is the context? How or why is it significant/insignificant? How does it fit into the topic? How does it help to answer the question? 

Test yourself:

See if you can spot the PEE on this paragraph which forms part of an answer to the question "Was Edward IV a new monarch?"

"Edward's power did not increase at the expense of the nobility; a key criteria for new monarch status. Edward continued the tradition of letting powerful magnates rule the peripheral regions of the country, such as the North and Wales. This resulted in the creation of a number of large power bases including the Herberts in Wales, Gloucester in the North, the Percys in the eastern marshes and the Woodvilles in London. This was largely due to the small number of noble creations in his reign - he only made nine promotions to high nobility. On the one hand this shows that he was in form control as he had sufficient power and stability without having to make lots of noble creations to gain support, yet on the other hand he was creating a volatile situation as rivalries built up between powerful factions and Edward was cresting a potentially explosive situation which only he could control." 

5) Conclusion

This is the end of the essay. This is the bit where you are expected to answer the question! Here you should sum up in a couple of sentences what your argument is, and why it is the most plausible explanation, being careful to remind the reader of supportive evidence. Finally, you should put the essay in context. Explain the wider context to the question. It might be that there are longer-term or under the surface issues that need further exploration, or it may be that there is a bigger picture in play. By putting your answer in context, we don't mean just adding some extra facts about the period at the end - your setting in context should display your broader understanding of the period. A good example of this is when a student was writing about the Golden Age of Spain:

"In conclusion, the extent to whether this period can be deemed as a "Golden Age" ultimately rests on the context of the time. Although it is true to say that Spain was making advances in several areas, in terms of power, unity, wealth, economy, culture, empire and discovery. The extent of religious and racial persecution however, could be deemed as less golden in terms of morality, even if both policies were successful in terms of strengthening Spain's power base. In the wider context of the time, Spain's achievements seem less golden than they may at first appear. We have to remember that this period saw the Renaissance. The Renaissance affected practically every area of life at the time, and was a new dawn of discovery and thinking -  Leonardo Da Vinci, William Harvey, Martin Luther, Copernicus and Galileo were but a few of the characters that shaped the time;  therefore, if Spain had a golden age, so too did many other countries." 

  • Re-state your argument using the key words from the title
  • Be confident in your argument
  • Hint at a broader context
  • What other issues would you explore, given more time? 

6) Footnotes and Bibliography

At A-Level and undergraduate level, you will be expected to footnote your essays. Because you are not expected to do this at GCSE, this may be a new skill for you, but it is very easy! 

What are footnotes?

When you quote evidence or the views of a historian from a book or periodical, you are expected to let your reader know where you got this evidence from, so that if they wished (very few would) they could go and check your evidence. You can do this by including citations or footnotes.       

How to Footnote

The process of footnoting is slightly different on different computer programs and may differ again if you are using a MAC, but the process is the same, even if you are handwriting.

Footnotes should be numbered and should either appear at the bottom of the page on which they are cited or in a list at the end of the essay. They should include the following information:

1.) Author's name (surname first)

2.) Date and place of publication (found on the first page of the book usually)

3.) Title of book (in italics)

4.) Page reference. 

How to footnote on the computer

If you have Microsoft Office, the simplest way to insert a footnote is by going to the references section on the tool-bar and then following the instructions above. If you are using an earlier version of Office, you should click on insert and then select footnote from the list.

Below is an example to illustrate what a footnote should look like:

"Leo, the holy pope in Rome, passed away; and in this year there was a great pestilence among cattle than man could remember for many years..." [1]   

Footnote extras

  • If the book is a collection of articles or a reproduction of primary source material, it will not have an author, but an editor instead. If the main name on the book is an editor, you need to write the letters (ed.) next to the name.
  • If your next footnote in the sequence is from the same book, but a different page, you do not need to write out all of the information again, you can simply write the word "Ibid" which means same source and then cite the page number. However, you should only do this once in any given sequence. If you have 3 quotes in a row from the same book, the third time, you should write out the information again. 

What is a bibliography?

A bibliography is the list of books that you have used to help you write your essay. This may include books that you have quoted from or used as part of your reading.

You should always include a bibliography at the end of your essay which lists the books that you have used. You can use the same format as you would for footnotes. Below is a sample to show you how it should look.

1.) Campbell, J (ed) Cambridge 1982 - The Anglo-Saxons

2.) Swanton, M (ed) J.M Dent 1997 - The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle                                                  

The Harvard Footnote System

Another option to make sure you have referenced correctly is to use the simpler Harvard system. This may be a preferred method for the writing of normal class essays, although for a personal study, the use of traditional footnoting is still recommended. Harvard referencing uses the author and the date of the work in the main body of the text, and then has a reference list at the end of the essay which contains the references cited in alphabetical order by author. The reference list contains the full details of the book or journal cited. Because you only refer to a shortened form of works in the main essay (author, date) your essay doesn't get filled with too much reference material. The use of the author/date shorthand does make it easy to locate works in the reference list.

An example from the main body of a text:

Within the last ten years, teachers who have attended INSET courses have reported that the courses have helped to increase their competence and confidence in using IT (see, for example, Higham and Morris, 1993; ESRC 1990), yet despite the fact that the passing years have presented opportunities for more teachers to increase their skills in IT, weaknesses identified by McCoy (1992) seem to be still evident (Gillmon, 1998; Goldstein 1997). This suggests that we need to look for explanations other than attendance at INSET courses for the reasons for the apparently poor state of teachers' competence and confidence in IT.

In this text the author is citing entire works by other researchers to support her argument. Notice the use of brackets and the author/s and dates of all works.

Another example from the main body of a text:

One resource provided in the secondary speech genre is the "posited author" (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 312).

Here the quotation is a direct one so a page number has been added. Quotations of no more than two sentences can be incorporated into the main text and marked off with quotation marks, but if you quote a longer passage it must be placed in a separate paragraph and indented from the left and right margins of the main text.


[1] Swanton, Michael (ed), J.M Dent 1997, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, pg. 185

Attached files:

  • Essay Planning Sheet 54.5 KB Word document
  • How to write a synoptic essay
  • A-level 'how to' guides

A guide to writing history essays

This guide has been prepared for students at all undergraduate university levels. Some points are specifically aimed at 100-level students, and may seem basic to those in upper levels. Similarly, some of the advice is aimed at upper-level students, and new arrivals should not be put off by it.

The key point is that learning to write good essays is a long process. We hope that students will refer to this guide frequently, whatever their level of study.

Why do history students write essays?

Essays are an essential educational tool in disciplines like history because they help you to develop your research skills, critical thinking, and writing abilities. The best essays are based on strong research, in-depth analysis, and are logically structured and well written.

An essay should answer a question with a clear, persuasive argument. In a history essay, this will inevitably involve a degree of narrative (storytelling), but this should be kept to the minimum necessary to support the argument – do your best to avoid the trap of substituting narrative for analytical argument. Instead, focus on the key elements of your argument, making sure they are well supported by evidence. As a historian, this evidence will come from your sources, whether primary and secondary.

The following guide is designed to help you research and write your essays, and you will almost certainly earn better grades if you can follow this advice. You should also look at the essay-marking criteria set out in your course guide, as this will give you a more specific idea of what the person marking your work is looking for.

Where to start

First, take time to understand the question. Underline the key words and consider very carefully what you need to do to provide a persuasive answer. For example, if the question asks you to compare and contrast two or more things, you need to do more than define these things – what are the similarities and differences between them? If a question asks you to 'assess' or 'explore', it is calling for you to weigh up an issue by considering the evidence put forward by scholars, then present your argument on the matter in hand.

A history essay must be based on research. If the topic is covered by lectures, you might begin with lecture and tutorial notes and readings. However, the lecturer does not want you simply to echo or reproduce the lecture content or point of view, nor use their lectures as sources in your footnotes. They want you to develop your own argument. To do this you will need to look closely at secondary sources, such as academic books and journal articles, to find out what other scholars have written about the topic. Often your lecturer will have suggested some key texts, and these are usually listed near the essay questions in your course guide. But you should not rely solely on these suggestions.

Tip : Start the research with more general works to get an overview of your topic, then move on to look at more specialised work.

Crafting a strong essay

Before you begin writing, make an essay plan. Identify the two-to-four key points you want to make. Organize your ideas into an argument which flows logically and coherently. Work out which examples you will use to make the strongest case. You may need to use an initial paragraph (or two) to bring in some context or to define key terms and events, or provide brief identifying detail about key people – but avoid simply telling the story.

An essay is really a series of paragraphs that advance an argument and build towards your conclusion. Each paragraph should focus on one central idea. Introduce this idea at the start of the paragraph with a 'topic sentence', then expand on it with evidence or examples from your research. Some paragraphs should finish with a concluding sentence that reiterates a main point or links your argument back to the essay question.

A good length for a paragraph is 150-200 words. When you want to move to a new idea or angle, start a new paragraph. While each paragraph deals with its own idea, paragraphs should flow logically, and work together as a greater whole. Try using linking phrases at the start of your paragraphs, such as 'An additional factor that explains', 'Further', or 'Similarly'.

We discourage using subheadings for a history essay (unless they are over 5000 words in length). Instead, throughout your essay use 'signposts'. This means clearly explaining what your essay will cover, how an example demonstrates your point, or reiterating what a particular section has added to your overall argument.

Remember that a history essay isn't necessarily about getting the 'right' answer – it's about putting forward a strong case that is well supported by evidence from academic sources. You don't have to cover everything – focus on your key points.

In your introduction or opening paragraph you could indicate that while there are a number of other explanations or factors that apply to your topic, you have chosen to focus on the selected ones (and say why). This demonstrates to your marker that while your argument will focus on selected elements, you do understand the bigger picture.

The classic sections of an essay


  • Establishes what your argument will be, and outlines how the essay will develop it
  • A good formula to follow is to lay out about 3 key reasons that support the answer you plan to give (these points will provide a road-map for your essay and will become the ideas behind each paragraph)
  • If you are focusing on selected aspects of a topic or particular sources and case studies, you should state that in your introduction
  • Define any key terms that are essential to your argument
  • Keep your introduction relatively concise – aim for about 10% of the word count
  • Consists of a series of paragraphs that systematically develop the argument outlined in your introduction
  • Each paragraph should focus on one central idea, building towards your conclusion
  • Paragraphs should flow logically. Tie them together with 'bridge' sentences – e.g. you might use a word or words from the end of the previous paragraph and build it into the opening sentence of the next, to form a bridge
  • Also be sure to link each paragraph to the question/topic/argument in some way (e.g. use a key word from the question or your introductory points) so the reader does not lose the thread of your argument
  • Ties up the main points of your discussion
  • Should link back to the essay question, and clearly summarise your answer to that question
  • May draw out or reflect on any greater themes or observations, but you should avoid introducing new material
  • If you have suggested several explanations, evaluate which one is strongest

Using scholarly sources: books, journal articles, chapters from edited volumes

Try to read critically: do not take what you read as the only truth, and try to weigh up the arguments presented by scholars. Read several books, chapters, or articles, so that you understand the historical debates about your topic before deciding which viewpoint you support. The best sources for your history essays are those written by experts, and may include books, journal articles, and chapters in edited volumes. The marking criteria in your course guide may state a minimum number of academic sources you should consult when writing your essay. A good essay considers a range of evidence, so aim to use more than this minimum number of sources.

Tip : Pick one of the books or journal articles suggested in your course guide and look at the author's first few footnotes – these will direct you to other prominent sources on this topic.

Don't overlook journal articles as a source. They contain the most in-depth research on a particular topic. Often the first pages will summarise the prior research into this topic, so articles can be a good way to familiarise yourself with what else has 'been done'.

Edited volumes can also be a useful source. These are books on a particular theme, topic or question, with each chapter written by a different expert.

One way to assess the reliability of a source is to check the footnotes or endnotes. When the author makes a claim, is this supported by primary or secondary sources? If there are very few footnotes, then this may not be a credible scholarly source. Also check the date of publication, and prioritise more recent scholarship. Aim to use a variety of sources, but focus most of your attention on academic books and journal articles.

Paraphrasing and quotations

A good essay is about your ability to interpret and analyse sources, and to establish your own informed opinion with a persuasive argument that uses sources as supporting evidence. You should express most of your ideas and arguments in your own words. Cutting and pasting together the words of other scholars, or simply changing a few words in quotations taken from the work of others, will prevent you from getting a good grade, and may be regarded as academic dishonesty (see more below).

Direct quotations can be useful tools if they provide authority and colour. For maximum effect though, use direct quotations sparingly – where possible, paraphrase most material into your own words. Save direct quotations for phrases that are interesting, contentious, or especially well-phrased.

A good writing practice is to introduce and follow up every direct quotation you use with one or two sentences of your own words, clearly explaining the relevance of the quote, and putting it in context with the rest of your paragraph. Tell the reader who you are quoting, why this quote is here, and what it demonstrates. Avoid simply plonking a quotation into the middle of your own prose. This can be quite off-putting for a reader.

  • Only include punctuation in your quote if it was in the original text. Otherwise, punctuation should come after the quotation marks. If you cut out words from a quotation, put in three dots (an ellipsis [ . . .]) to indicate where material has been cut
  • If your quote is longer than 50 words, it should be indented and does not need quotation marks. This is called a block quote (use these sparingly: remember you have a limited word count and it is your analysis that is most significant)
  • Quotations should not be italicised

Referencing, plagiarism and Turnitin

When writing essays or assignments, it is very important to acknowledge the sources you have used. You risk the charge of academic dishonesty (or plagiarism) if you copy or paraphrase words written by another person without providing a proper acknowledgment (a 'reference'). In your essay, whenever you refer to ideas from elsewhere, statistics, direct quotations, or information from primary source material, you must give details of where this information has come from in footnotes and a bibliography.

Your assignment may be checked through Turnitin, a type of plagiarism-detecting software which checks assignments for evidence of copied material. If you have used a wide variety of primary and secondary sources, you may receive a high Turnitin percentage score. This is nothing to be alarmed about if you have referenced those sources. Any matches with other written material that are not referenced may be interpreted as plagiarism – for which there are penalties. You can find full information about all of this in the History Programme's Quick Guide Referencing Guide contained in all course booklets.

Final suggestions

Remember that the easier it is to read your essay, the more likely you are to get full credit for your ideas and work. If the person marking your work has difficulty reading it, either because of poor writing or poor presentation, they will find it harder to grasp your points. Try reading your work aloud, or to a friend/flatmate. This should expose any issues with flow or structure, which you can then rectify.

Make sure that major and controversial points in your argument are clearly stated and well- supported by evidence and footnotes. Aspire to understand – rather than judge – the past. A historian's job is to think about people, patterns, and events in the context of the time, though you can also reflect on changing perceptions of these over time.

Things to remember

  • Write history essays in the past tense
  • Generally, avoid sub-headings in your essays
  • Avoid using the word 'bias' or 'biased' too freely when discussing your research materials. Almost any text could be said to be 'biased'. Your task is to attempt to explain why an author might argue or interpret the past as they do, and what the potential limitations of their conclusions might be
  • Use the passive voice judiciously. Active sentences are better!
  • Be cautious about using websites as sources of information. The internet has its uses, particularly for primary sources, but the best sources are academic books and articles. You may use websites maintained by legitimate academic and government authorities, such as those with domain suffixes like .gov .govt .ac or .edu
  • Keep an eye on word count – aim to be within 10% of the required length. If your essay is substantially over the limit, revisit your argument and overall structure, and see if you are trying to fit in too much information. If it falls considerably short, look into adding another paragraph or two
  • Leave time for a final edit and spell-check, go through your footnotes and bibliography to check that your references are correctly formatted, and don't forget to back up your work as you go!

Other useful strategies and sources

  • Student Learning Development , which offers peer support and one-on-one writing advice (located near the central library)
  • Harvard College's guide to writing history essays (PDF)
  • Harvard College's advice on essay structure
  • Victoria University's comprehensive essay writing guide (PDF)


Tips from my first year - essay writing

This is the third of a three part series giving advice on the essay writing process, focusing in this case on essay writing.

Daniel is a first year BA History and Politics student at Magdalen College . He is a disabled student and the first in his immediate family to go to university. Daniel is also a Trustee of Potential Plus UK , a Founding Ambassador and Expert Panel Member for Zero Gravity , and a History Faculty Ambassador. Before coming to university, Daniel studied at a non-selective state school, and was a participant on the UNIQ , Sutton Trust , and Social Mobility Foundation APP Reach programmes, as well as being part of the inaugural Opportunity Oxford cohort. Daniel is passionate about outreach and social mobility and ensuring all students have the best opportunity to succeed.

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History and its related disciplines mainly rely on essay writing with most term-time work centring on this, so it’s a good idea to be prepared. The blessing of the Oxford system though is you get plenty of opportunity to practice, and your tutors usually provide lots of feedback (both through comments on essays and in tutorials) to help you improve. Here are my tips from my first year as an Oxford Undergraduate:

  • Plan for success – a good plan really sets your essay in a positive direction, so try to collect your thoughts if you can. I find a great way to start my planning process is to go outside for a walk as it helps to clear my head of the detail, it allows me to focus on the key themes, and it allows me to explore ideas without having to commit anything to paper. Do keep in mind your question throughout the reading and notetaking process, though equally look to the wider themes covered so that when you get to planning you are in the right frame of mind.
  • Use what works for you – if you try to use a method you aren’t happy with, it won’t work. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment; to the contrary I highly encourage it as it can be good to change up methods and see what really helps you deliver a strong essay. However, don’t feel pressured into using one set method, as long as it is time-efficient and it gets you ready for the next stage of the essay process it is fine!
  • Focus on the general ideas – summarise in a sentence what each author argues, see what links there are between authors and subject areas, and possibly group your ideas into core themes or paragraph headers. Choose the single piece of evidence you believe supports each point best.
  • Make something revision-ready – try to make something which you can come back to in a few months’ time which makes sense and will really get your head back to when you were preparing for your essay.
  • Consider what is most important – no doubt if you spoke about everything covered on the reading list you would have far more words than the average essay word count (which is usually advised around 1,500-2,000 words - it does depend on your tutor.) You have a limited amount of time, focus, and words, so choose what stands out to you as the most important issues for discussion. Focus on the important issues well rather than covering several points in a less-focused manner.
  • Make it your voice – your tutors want to hear from you about what you think and what your argument is, not lots of quotes of what others have said. Therefore, when planning and writing consider what your opinion is and make sure to state it. Use authors to support your viewpoint, or to challenge it, but make sure you are doing the talking and driving the analysis. At the same time, avoid slang, and ensure the language you use is easy to digest.
  • Make sure you can understand it - don’t feel you have to use big fancy words you don’t understand unless they happen to be relevant subject-specific terminology, and don’t swallow the Thesaurus. If you use a technical term, make sure to provide a definition. You most probably won’t have time to go into it fully, but if it is an important concept hint at the wider historical debate. State where you stand and why briefly you believe what you are stating before focusing on your main points. You need to treat the reader as both an alien from another planet, and a very intelligent person at the same time – make sure your sentences make sense, but equally make sure to pitch it right. As you can possibly tell, it is a fine balancing act so my advice is to read through your essay and ask yourself ‘why’ about every statement or argument you make. If you haven’t answered why, you likely require a little more explanation. Simple writing doesn’t mean a boring or basic argument, it just means every point you make lands and has impact on the reader, supporting them every step of the way.
  • Keep introductions and conclusions short – there is no need for massive amounts of setting the scene in the introduction, or an exact repeat of every single thing you have said in the essay appearing in the conclusion. Instead, in the first sentence of your introduction provide a direct answer to the question. If the question is suitable, it is perfectly fine to say yes, no, or it is a little more complicated. Whatever the answer is, it should be simple enough to fit in one reasonable length sentence. The next three sentences should state what each of your three main body paragraphs are going to argue, and then dive straight into it. With your conclusion, pick up what you said about the key points. Suggest how they possibly link, maybe do some comparison between factors and see if you can leave us with a lasting thought which links to the question in your final sentence.
  • Say what you are going to say, say it, say it again – this is a general essay structure; an introduction which clearly states your argument; a main body which explains why you believe that argument; and a conclusion which summarises the key points to be drawn from your essay. Keep your messaging clear as it is so important the reader can grasp everything you are trying to say to have maximum impact. This applies in paragraphs as well – each paragraph should in one sentence outline what is to be said, it should then be said, and in the final sentence summarise what you have just argued. Somebody should be able to quickly glance over your essay using the first and last sentences and be able to put together the core points.
  • Make sure your main body paragraphs are focused – if you have come across PEE (Point, Evidence, Explain – in my case the acronym I could not avoid at secondary school!) before, then nothing has changed. Make your point in around a sentence, clearly stating your argument. Then use the best single piece of evidence available to support your point, trying to keep that to a sentence or two if you can. The vast majority of your words should be explaining why this is important, and how it supports your argument, or how it links to something else. You don’t need to ‘stack’ examples where you provide multiple instances of the same thing – if you have used one piece of evidence that is enough, you can move on and make a new point. Try to keep everything as short as possible while communicating your core messages, directly responding to the question. You also don’t need to cover every article or book you read, rather pick out the most convincing examples.
  • It works, it doesn’t work, it is a little more complicated – this is a structure I developed for writing main body paragraphs, though it is worth noting it may not work for every question. It works; start your paragraph with a piece of evidence that supports your argument fully. It doesn’t work; see if there is an example which seems to contradict your argument, but suggest why you still believe your argument is correct. Then, and only if you can, see if there is an example which possibly doesn’t quite work fully with your argument, and suggest why possibly your argument cannot wholly explain this point or why your argument is incomplete but still has the most explanatory power. See each paragraph as a mini-debate, and ensure different viewpoints have an opportunity to be heard.
  • Take your opponents at their best – essays are a form of rational dialogue, interacting with writing on this topic from the past, so if you are going to ‘win’ (or more likely just make a convincing argument as you don’t need to demolish all opposition in sight) then you need to treat your opponents fairly by choosing challenging examples, and by fairly characterising their arguments. It should not be a slinging match of personal insults or using incredibly weak examples, as this will undermine your argument. While I have never attacked historians personally (though you may find in a few readings they do attack each other!), I have sometimes chosen the easier arguments to try to tackle, and it is definitely better to try to include some arguments which are themselves convincing and contradictory to your view.
  • Don’t stress about referencing – yes referencing is important, but it shouldn’t take too long. Unless your tutor specifies a method, choose a method which you find simple to use as well as being an efficient method. For example, when referencing books I usually only include the author, book title, and year of publication – the test I always use for referencing is to ask myself if I have enough information to buy the book from a retailer. While this wouldn’t suffice if you were writing for a journal, you aren’t writing for a journal so focus on your argument instead and ensure you are really developing your writing skills.
  • Don’t be afraid of the first person – in my Sixth Form I was told not to use ‘I’ as it weakened my argument, however that isn’t the advice I have received at Oxford; in fact I have been encouraged to use it as it forces me to take a side. So if you struggle with making your argument clear, use phrases like ‘I believe’ and ‘I argue’.

I hope this will help as a toolkit to get you started, but my last piece of advice is don’t worry! As you get so much practice at Oxford you get plenty of opportunity to perfect your essay writing skills, so don’t think you need to be amazing at everything straight away. Take your first term to try new methods out and see what works for you – don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Good luck!

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110 Original History Essay Questions: Examples and Topics

history essays o level

When looking for history essay topics, people often think about the world-famous military and political events. However, there is so much more to history than battles and international affairs. Plenty of small but engaging incidents are hiding in plain sight, and yet, people usually miss them.

What are those intriguing aspects?

In this article, our team has prepared a list of interesting history essay questions with examples. They are all about unusual events and historical viewpoints. To help with your academic writing, we divided the article into subheadings. Here, you’ll find topics according to your essay type.

  • Top History Topics
  • 🔍 Extended Essay
  • ✒️ Historiographical Essay
  • 📌 Persuasive Essay
  • ⚙️ Technology Topics
  • 🎶 Music Topics
  • 🌄 American History
  • 🏰 European History
  • 🔥 5 In-Class Essay Tips

🤩 Top 15 History Essay Topics

  • Julius Caesar.
  • Middle Ages.
  • World Wars.
  • Holy Inquisition.
  • US Independence.
  • 20 th Century.
  • Bronze Age.
  • Thomas Edison.
  • Slave Trade.
  • Russian Revolution.

💁 Topics for Various Essay Types

There are many types of essays for an academic assignment. It may be a simple short essay or a long structured essay. Each one has its format and rules. Here, we are going to talk about essays that you might have questions about.

🔎 History Extended Essay Topics

An extended essay (EE) is an obligatory part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP). For an IB diploma, a student should do extensive research. It should be finished with a 4000-word paper.

The extended essay provides practice for undergraduate research. Besides, it gives a chance to explore a topic of personal interest. You may check out some examples in a free essays database to get a reference of how they actually look like. Here, we dive into history EE topics.

  • Oldest human settlements according to archeological sources.
  • The suffrage movement in the United States of the early XXth century.
  • How Dior’s bar suit revolutionized women’s fashion.
  • History of Chemistry in Europe during the Age of Enlightenment.
  • Psychology essay: evolution of treatment for various mental disorders. Psychological methods and medicine.
  • Development of black rights following the US Civil War.

The Battle of Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.

  • History of physics: from Antiquity to modern times.
  • Principles of medieval economics: a historical analysis. Analyze the financial structure in medieval Europe and the Middle East.
  • How did industrialization affect global climate change?
  • Expansion of traffic jams in China. The root of a problem and China’s solution.
  • The effects of capitalism on Caribbean republics. Study the history of capitalism in the Caribbean. What were the effects of plantation produce on their economy?
  • The use of sun reflection in the military. A historical analysis of the utilization.
  • Analysis of Victorian literature and culture by Carolyn Williams.
  • Biology in warfare. The use of biological weapons from Antiquity to modern times.
  • A study of malnourishment in African societies. Explore the historical roots of malnutrition in Africa. How did it affect their societies?
  • Research question: why Western countries have dominated the world in modern history?
  • Otto Skorzeny. How did Nazi Germany’s most effective agent become Mossad’s advisor? Dive in the biography of Otto Skorzeny. Analyze his character and post-war activity.
  • The history of visual arts in Christianity. How did religion shape the art of Western civilization?
  • Six-Day War of 1967. Examine the strategies of Israel and The United Arab States.
  • Imperial Japan in the late period of WWII. Its non-standard means of warfare.

📝 Historiographical Essay Topics

Now, let’s look into another type of essay—a historiographical essay. It analyzes and evaluates how scholars interpret a historical topic. Usually, the essay is problem-centered. So, compare the viewpoints of two or more historians on the same event.

Here you will find good topics for historiographical essays:

  • The Soviet internment camps of the Stalin Era.
  • What is the classification of a “historical fact?”
  • The fate of Japanese Americans during WWII.
  • Mongolian aid to the Soviet Union during World War II.
  • An analysis of the main areas of historical research.
  • What defined a nation’s sovereignty in the XIXth century?
  • The activity of Pamela Parsons in the 70s.
  • “The Life of the Prophet” by Ibn Hisham.
  • The history of Earth: from its formation to modern times. Make detailed research on the history of Earth. Talk about major geophysical and chemical processes. What did impact the Earth’s formation and evolution?
  • An argumentative essay. How substantial was the Allies’ aid of “Land Lease” to the USSR in WWII?
  • Things to know when studying cultural heritage.
  • Processes of detecting historical excavation sites.

📌 History Persuasive Essay Topics

A persuasive essay is a piece of academic writing where you list two or more points of view on a subject. In such a paper, you use facts and logic to support your perspective.

  • An argumentative essay on American involvement in WWI. How crucial was it in defeating the German Empire and its allies? Analyze the impact of America’s contribution to WWI.

The US maintained neutrality in WWI until 1917.

  • Slavery played one of the key roles in Ancient Rome’s rise to power. Discuss the structure of slavery in Ancient Rome. Provide evidence for/against this argument.
  • Festivals in India are an essential part of the nation’s identity. Analyze the role of local and national Indian festivals. Did they form identities of different cultural groups?
  • Why did the Soviet Union lose the Cold War? Could it be because of its involvement in Afghanistan? Explore the impact of the Soviet-Afghan War on countries of the Warsaw Pact.
  • Psychedelic substances allow people to think more creatively. Discuss the effects of different drugs on the human mind. Examine notable cases and experiments with drug testing.
  • The presentation of the American Revolution in movies. Research a few pieces of cinematography about the American Revolution. Analyze their historical accuracy.
  • Bipolar disorder essay and Vincent Van Gogh. Analyze activity and medical records of Vincent Van Gogh. Give arguments for/against the aforementioned idea.

Bipolar disorder causes shifts in a person's mood.

  • Florentine art history. How did the noble patronage of artists contribute to Florentine art? To prove your perspective, examine several famous art patrons of Florence.

⚙ History of Technology Essay Topics

Technology has been the cornerstone of powerful civilizations that moved the world forward. Advancement of technology is a curious phenomenon. It moved at a faster pace with every century of the last millennium.

Here, we will take a look at thought-provoking topics on the history of technology. Besides, you’ll see a few history essay questions on technology.

  • Advancement of farming technology in the Bronze Age.
  • Technological advancements of Ancient Rome. Discuss Roman technological inventions. How did they impact the world for many centuries?
  • Structure of a Roman road. Explain the structure of a Roman road. Discuss how the road system connected the Empire. Did it help to spread Christianity?
  • The history of genetically modified food: corporation profits and risks.
  • The history of sanitation in Paris. A tale of revolutionary engineering solutions.
  • Evolution of heart surgeries.
  • The scientific contribution of Dr. Ivan Pavlov to physiology.
  • Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and the history of medieval medicine. Talk about Avicenna’s contribution to medicine. How accurate were his thoughts on it?

Avicenna memorized the entire Qur'an by age 10.

  • The trebuchet: the deadliest siege weapon of Medieval Europe.
  • The history of limb surgery: from pirates to modern medicine.
  • Japanese experiments on humans during WWII. Did they provide humanity with valuable data on the human organism?
  • Naval technology throughout human history. Research military and civic solutions of naval engineering during various periods. Consider Antiquity, Middle Ages, Age of Discovery, Age of Enlightenment, etc.
  • Rapid European scientific advancement of the Age of Enlightenment. Why did the advancement of science and technology in Europe increase in the 18-19th centuries?
  • History of blimps: strengths and weaknesses.
  • First computers of WWII. Study the first computer systems of WWII. Explain their technical capabilities and flaws.
  • How did the new technology make WWI so high with casualties?
  • The science of an atomic bomb: a case study.
  • How online social media impacted global society in the 2010s?
  • How China introduced new types of censorship with the creation of the Internet.
  • Compare college education of the XIXth century and modern times.
  • The city of Tenochtitlan. The technological marvel of the Aztecs.

🎶 Music History Essay Topics

Music is one of the most effective examples of human genius. People have made music to express their emotions to each other. Thus, the history of music is extensive and rich in detail. Exploring it can be just as fascinating as listening to music.

Below, you’ll find the best ideas on the history of music to talk about:

  • Jazz, New Orleans, and the Roaring Twenties: a musical phenomenon. Discuss the genre’s origins and technical aspects.
  • The music of the Antiquity of the Mediterranean region. From Egypt and Greece to Rome.
  • The use of music in Ancient Rome.

The Lyra is one of the most ancient stringed musical instruments.

  • Techniques a style of Mozart and Beethoven. A critical analysis.
  • Studio 54 – a story of disco, glamour, and exclusivity.
  • The history of organum and organ music.
  • Advancement of music technology in the early XXth century.
  • Baroque music and its famous composers. Analyze the technical details behind baroque music. Give examples of its notable composers.
  • Music theater as the main source of musical innovation of the late classical era.
  • Detailed analysis of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Examine the composer’s final symphony. Explore Beethoven’s health complications during the last years of his life.
  • Religion and music: how Christianity employed the vocal skills of monks. Research the history and characteristics of the Gregorian chant.
  • The golden era of classical music of the XVIIth-XIXth centuries in Germany and Austria.
  • The musical experiments by Andy Warhol.
  • The musical instruments of the Renaissance and modern times. What are the similarities and differences?
  • Musical instruments and chants of Bronze Age Mesopotamia.
  • Bohemian Rhapsody: a musical analysis. Discuss the story behind the creation of Queen’s famous song.
  • Lively music and deadly drugs. How did narcotics become a part of the music industry in the 60s and 70s?
  • The history of the club culture of New York. Discuss the history of clubs in New York. How did the advocates for gay rights start the new idea of clubbing?
  • The emergence of hip-hop and rap in Uptown Brooklyn and the Bronx. Analyze how the new genre started commenting on the reality of streets and black rights.
  • The history of Woodstock – America’s most iconic music festival.

👍 Good History Essay Questions

Writing an essay about countries should be divided into European and American theaters. Each region has a history rich in events and personalities.

Below, there are great European and US history essay questions for your paper:

🌄 American History Essay Questions

  • How did medics deal with casualties during the US Civil War? Talk about the organization of medical staff on both sides of the war. Analyze the treatment methods applied to wounded soldiers.
  • What factors contributed to the victory in the American Revolution?
  • US economy and culture of the 1920s. How did it develop?
  • How did civil rights develop during the Reconstruction era?

The Civil Rights Act became law over a president's veto.

  • Why was slavery so popular in the southern states? Analyze the economy of the southern states in America. Explain why slavery has such deep roots there.
  • Why did the United States emerge as a superpower after WWII?
  • Who were the main benefactors of the US economy in the early 20th century?

🏘 European History Essay Questions

  • The Renaissance essay. Why and how did naturalistic beauty become the main element of art?
  • What are the key ideas in Robin Briggs’s historical research on witchcraft?
  • The Modern European history question. How did the Mafia operate in Italy? Analyze the roots of Italian Mafia, its organizational structure. What were its spheres of influence?
  • Which scientific innovations were discovered in the late XIXth and early XXth century Europe?
  • Tudor history: what caused the English Reformation?
  • How did colonization transform the economies of European empires?
  • Which economic and political benefits were introduced at the creation of the European Union? Elaborate on the history of the EU. Analyze its economic and political aspects.

🔥 5 Tips for Writing an Essay in Class

For whatever reason, you need to write an in-class essay. It could be an exam or an ordinary assignment. It doesn’t matter as the goal remains the same. You have to compose a coherent paper in a short amount of time under supervision.

What is the best way to handle working under such pressure? By following our tips:

1. Practice beforehand

Any sort of training makes a person comfortable with the upcoming task. Practice writing an essay so that you memorize the format. Keep in mind how to outline the paper and some useful words for transitions. Even when you’re unfamiliar with the topic, you’ll still know where to begin without thinking.

2. Forget to panic

Students can lose time by bracing themselves. By staring on the blank page with the essay question can help no one. The sooner you start the task, the better. Don’t let your brain panic!

3. Plan before you write

Starting the essay right away may be tempting and promising, but that’s how you make mistakes. Reread and analyze the given question, notice the keywords. Make sure you’re answering what’s asked, not more or less. Come up with a thesis statement and make an outline.

Clear your thoughts to focus on your task.

Properly organizing your paper saves your time and reduces stress. It ensures that you addressed every issue. Plus, it shows whether you connected every argument to the thesis statement. Besides, putting topic sentences and transitions in the outline makes them less repetitive in the essay.

4. Keep in mind your writing speed

Remember the first tip? This one comes naturally from practicing. The more you write, the better you understand your pace. Learn how much time you need to complete each part of the essay writing. Try not to exceed the estimated time for an outline, an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

5. Proofread

Writing in a rush, you may forget about your spelling and punctuation. Save some time for rereading your paper thoroughly. Pay attention to logical reasoning and grammar errors. Add sentences if necessary. Your paper may look messy as long as you do so to improve your writing and ensure the perfect flow.

Proofread. Always.

Thank you for taking some time to read this article. We hope that it will help you in your academic studies. If this article proved to be informative to you, leave a comment below. Share it with others who might need some guidance in their studies.

🔗 References

  • How To Write a Good History Essay: Robert Pearce for History Today
  • Elements of an Effective History Exam Essay: Mark Brilliant, Department of History, Program in American Studies, University of California, Berkeley
  • UChicago Supplemental Essay Questions: College Admissions, University of Chicago
  • Tips for Writing Essay Exams: Writing Center, University of Washington
  • Popular Application Essay Topics: The Princeton Review
  • Historiographical Essays: Center for Writing and Speaking, Campbell Hall
  • Persuasion Essays: Sheldon Smith for
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O-Level History (Pure/Elective) Essay Guide for Units 2 & 3

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O-Level History Essay Guide has been written in accordance with the latest syllabus issued by the Ministry of Education, Singapore. This series focuses on essay techniques and effective ways to answer history essays.

Using a step-by-step explanation guide with suggested phrasing of answers, the books aim to help students master the skills of effectively structuring their essay answers to obtain maximum marks. Concise points are summarised in timelines to strengthen students’ understanding of historical events in a chronological sequence. Ultimately, this series hopes to strengthen students’ foundations in History essay writing and enable them to independently develop their own answers.

The books in this series serve as guides to both teachers and students preparing for the O-Level Pure and Elective History examinations and are suitable for students taking both Pure and Elective History.

This book covers on the two Core Units of the syllabus: Unit 2 (The World in Crisis) and Unit 3 (Bi-Polarity and the Cold War).

For students taking Pure History, this book complements the other book, which covers Units 1 and 4 of the syllabus.

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  • Published by: Tutor City
  • June 25, 2020

7 Useful Tips On How To Score A1 For O level History

To understand the present and be prepared for the future one needs to know the past. For some, history could be a very dry and dull subject but you need to study the subject to learn some essential life skills.

Knowing your history will help you answer all your questions related to the world today – What, Why, Who, When, and How. It’s said history repeats itself. The problems and issues arising now would have been a cause of concern in the past as well.

Why waste time and resources to reinvent the wheel instead we should leverage the knowledge and experience of our ancestors to tackle the problem at hand. And this can be done only if we know our History .

Now that you know why history is an important part of our academics , let’s get into how you can excel in the same. It can be a very challenging and boring subject if you don’t give it equal importance as math and science.

Just mugging alone would not help you get an A1 in your history exam . Follow our simple and doable tips to master this beautiful subject.   

1. Study Plan

History is not a subject you can study in a day. Make sure it’s part of your weekly study plan and you have enough time for revisions before your exam. Familiarize yourself with the syllabus and break it down into sections to incorporate it into your study plan . Make the sections in such a way that it helps you get the bigger picture and are in chronological order. You will just be confusing yourself if you don’t follow a sequence when you are studying the subject for the first time. You can prioritize the topics and concentrate on the ones you found difficult to understand when you start your revisions.

2. Weave a Story

History is nothing but a story of different life-changing events . As you read different topics, try and connect the dots so that you can relate to the events, and have a clear story in your mind. There is a high chance that your grandparents or a relative might have been eye-witnesses to some of the events mentioned in your syllabus. Discussing history with them might be a good way to get to know more on the topic and you might even get to know some of their personal experiences during that period. The personal touch would help you remember and weave the story better.

3. Graphical Representation

History is all about facts. Remembering the names of people, movements, and dates are so important to ace the subject. To help you remember all these facts it’s advised to make a table or chart with all the important events in chronological order. Graphical representation really helps in retaining and recalling what you have studied. You can use online tools and apps to make learning resources like flashcards, quizzes, mind maps, and online notes. These resources would be a quick way to recap the topics while you prepare for your exams.

4. Know your exam format

It’s so important to know how and on what topics you would be tested in your exams to prepare for it. Knowing the exam format well would help you practice only that particular type of question like multiple-choice questions (MCQ), essay questions, or case studies. You should also know the weightage given to each topic in terms of the number of questions and marks so that you can concentrate more on them. Click here to know the 2020 O-level national examination syllabus and exam format in detail. This document would help you understand the assessment format, the way to answer the questions, and how the marking is done.     

5. Edutainment

To prepare for your history exam you definitely need to know your course books inside out but there is no harm in using additional resources to get a clearer and deeper understanding of the subject. Leveraging different edutainment resources would make the learning experience fun too. You can watch movies, documentaries, podcasts, and online courses available on platforms like YouTube, Netflix, Udemy , Harvard University, and Coursera . Reading biopics and autobiographies on the historical leaders would help you connect well to the historical events and their leadership styles and struggles. Visiting museums and other historical places , whenever possible, would be a great way to reinstate what you have learned in your history class.

6. Mock tests

Quizzing yourself on what you have studied is a great way to gauge how much you have understood and retained . They would help you learn from your mistakes as well as boost your confidence. Solving mock tests regularly would give a good understanding of the exam format as well as practice to answer the different types of questions . You would also get an idea of what topics you need to concentrate on for your final exams.  

7. Find a Tutor

If you still feel you are struggling with the subject, finding a good history tutor to get extra help is a good idea. A dedicated tutor can adjust his teaching style based on your learning needs. Through their experience, they would be able to guide you on how to approach the topics you find difficult to understand. Also from the examination standpoint, the tutor will be able to help identify the key topics and advise you on how to structure your answers in your exams. Make sure you make the most of their knowledge and get all your questions cleared as and when they arise in your mind.

To excel in history, the first step is to start studying the subject with an open mind . If you have a preconceived notion in your mind that the subject is boring and difficult you would never be able to conquer the subject. Change your approach to the subject by following our 7 tips and you would for sure see a difference. It is not impossible to score A1 in history. Give it an equal amount of time and dedication as other subjects to ensure academic excellence. All the best!

history essays o level

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read.  We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn. Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education. Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.

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Programmes & Qualifications

Cambridge igcse history (0470).

  • Syllabus overview

Cambridge IGCSE History looks at some of the major international issues of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and covers the history of particular regions and events in more depth.

The syllabus:

  • enables learners to develop historical knowledge and the skills required for studying historical evidence
  • gives flexibility for teachers to develop a course that interests and stimulates their learners
  • provides a sound basis for further study and encourages a lifelong interest in the subject.

Coursework and non-coursework options are available.

The syllabus year refers to the year in which the examination will be taken.

  • -->2023 Syllabus update (PDF, 156KB)
  • -->2024 - 2026 Syllabus update (PDF, 143KB)

Syllabus support

  • -->Support for History (PDF, 2MB)
  • -->2023 - 2026 Grade descriptions (PDF, 118KB)

Syllabus updates

We have updated Cambridge IGCSE History to make sure that the content reflects the interests of our schools. Some content has been amended and introduced to improve the international focus and some content has been removed. The assessment has been refreshed to make it clearer and more accessible for both teachers and learners.

The 2023 syllabus (previously for 2023-2025) is now for examination in 2023 only. The updated syllabus is for examination from March 2024 onwards.

We communicated this to schools in March 2022.

For full details of the changes, please see the 2024-2026 syllabus above.

Visit the School Support Hub for a wide range of teaching and learning resources to support this syllabus.

To book a place on any of our face-to-face or online training courses, visit our Events and training calendar .

Endorsed resources

Cambridge IGCSE and O Level History Option B: The 20th Century Third Edition (Hodder Education) front cover

Rely on author Ben Walsh's bestselling approach to navigate through the syllabus content and help students acquire the skills they need.

Read more on the Hodder Education website

Cambridge IGCSE™ and O Level History Option B: the 20th Century 3rd Edition

Encourage your students’ curiosity for the past with our new series. Includes source analysis guidance, revision tips, essay-writing support and more alongside five depth studies, including WW1 and WW2.

Read more on the Cambridge University Press website

Important notices

Please note that if you make an entry for the A*-G grading scale, it is not then possible to switch to the 9-1 grading scale once the entries deadline has passed. If you find that you have accidentally made an entry for the A*-G syllabus, you must withdraw and re-enter before the entries deadline.

School Support Hub

Teachers at registered Cambridge schools can unlock over 30 000 teaching and learning resources to help plan and deliver Cambridge programmes and qualifications, including Schemes of work, Example candidate responses, Past papers, Specimen paper answers and more.

Schemes of work

Example responses, past papers, specimen paper answers.

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Sign up for updates about changes to the syllabuses you teach

  • Past papers, examiner reports and specimen papers
  • Published resources


  1. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Brilliant History Essay

    history essays o level

  2. Complete Guide: O-Level History Second Edition

    history essays o level

  3. History Essay: Example of essay with harvard referencing

    history essays o level

  4. O-Level English Essays 1

    history essays o level

  5. Key Guide O-Level History

    history essays o level

  6. Sample History Essay

    history essays o level


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  3. How to Study for Leaving Cert History Essays 👨‍💻💯🏆

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  5. Level Two History Essays

  6. Writing A Level Essays


  1. O Level History Elective Paper 2273: How to Ace the Paper!

    Detect bias Construct well-supported arguments and make reasonable judgement and recommendations O Level History Elective: Paper Format and Assessment The paper is divided into two sections just like Social Studies. Section A consists of Source-Based Questions and is worth 30 marks in total.

  2. [O LEVEL] HISTORY SEQ Questions All Topics COMPILATION : r/SGExams

    [O LEVEL] HISTORY SEQ Questions All Topics COMPILATION PLEASE CONTRIBUTE Database for History Short-Essay Questions, O-LEVEL Standards. Compiled all the questions I could find around me and of course, if you guys have any extra questions please feel free to contribute!

  3. [O LEVELS] Some Elective History Notes : r/SGExams

    hello!! i took my Os in 2019 and made some elect history notes that helped me get an A1 in the end so i decided to share them with you guys :) these notes just need to be memorised and can be applied word for word during essays especially. hope this helps!! notes can be found here :) jiayous everyone just a couple more weeks to go 💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻 93

  4. History

    'O' LEVELS HISTORY NOTES Find notes for every chapter & other learning materials like summary mind-maps & mock papers! We will be uploading more chapters as we progress into 2021! All resources here are free to use. If you wish to request for notes, join our telegram channel @overmugged & make your request there! - Brian, 'O' Levels History Tutor

  5. [O Levels] History sample essays from 2018 : r/SGExams

    i took the o levels back in 2018 and scored a1 for combined humanities (ss + history). i was really shitty at social studies so i guess my passion for history + compiling these notes helped me get the a1 in the end. i thought that these essays would be useful for yall since many people i shared it with thought it was really comprehensive. not su...

  6. Cambridge O Level History (2147)

    2024 Specimen Paper 2 (PDF, 1MB) 2024 Specimen Paper 2 Mark Scheme (PDF, 972KB) Sign up for updates about changes to the syllabuses you teach. Cambridge O Level History looks at some of the major international issues of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

  7. Past Papers

    AS/A Level latest papers added! If any paper is still missing, please report using the Contact Us! tab. June. 2147_s20_ms_12.pdf; 2147_s20_ms_22.pdf; ... Papers O Levels History (2147) 2020, Papers O Levels History (2147) 2020 Past Papers, Papers O Levels History (2147) 2020 Question Papers, Papers O Levels History (2147) 2020 Marking Schemes ...


    Narrative or long introductions which 'set the scene' are not required. Part (c) requires facts, explanation and analysis. The most effective responses argue both for and against the focus of the question and reach a balanced judgement.

  9. PDF Guidance on Edexcel AS History unit 1 essays

    Guidance on Edexcel AS History unit 1 essays. In AS unit 1 students must study two topics, each of about 50 years, which are linked by a coherent period or theme. This enables them to gain a broad overview of historical knowledge, with the focus, not so much on the acquisition of detailed information, but rather the ability to explain broader ...

  10. Past Papers

    AS/A Level latest papers added! If any paper is still missing, please report using the Contact Us! tab. 2020; 2021; 2022; Other Resources; Common Search Terms: O Levels History (2147), O Levels History (2147) Past Papers, O Levels History (2147) Question Papers, O Levels History (2147) Marking Schemes, O Levels History (2147) Grade Thresholds ...

  11. PDF History (Syllabus 2174)

    2174_y22_sy History O-Level for 2022 Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (2022) History (Syllabus 2174) MOE & UCLES 2020 CONTENTS INTRODUCTION Desired Outcomes of Education and History Education in Singapore

  12. Essay Writing / Historical Association

    A-Level/Undergraduate essays should contain the following features; although it depends on the type of essay you are writing as to how far you go; for example, a personal study or dissertation will require a great deal of historiography and referencing, whereas class essays may require less.

  13. Writing a history essay

    To write an effective essay, students should examine the question, understand its focus and requirements, acquire information and evidence through research, then construct a clear and well-organised response. Writing a good history essay should be rigorous and challenging, even for stronger students. As with other skills, essay writing develops ...

  14. A guide to writing history essays

    Where to start First, take time to understand the question. Underline the key words and consider very carefully what you need to do to provide a persuasive answer. For example, if the question asks you to compare and contrast two or more things, you need to do more than define these things - what are the similarities and differences between them?

  15. Tips from my first year

    Here are my tips from my first year as an Oxford Undergraduate: Planning Plan for success - a good plan really sets your essay in a positive direction, so try to collect your thoughts if you can.

  16. 110 Original History Essay Questions: Examples & Topics

    Here, we dive into history EE topics. Get your 100% original paper on any topic. done in as little as 3 hours. Learn More. Oldest human settlements according to archeological sources. The suffrage movement in the United States of the early XXth century. How Dior's bar suit revolutionized women's fashion.

  17. How do I structure a History Essay?

    Now as to how to structure the paragraph itself: The first line of the paragraph should be a signpost sentence - it should summarise your argument for that paragraph. This gives the examiner a clear idea of what is coming in the next 300-400 words. There is a commonly used mark scheme with most exam boards, which rewards the P.E.E structure.

  18. O-Level History (Pure/Elective) Essay Guide for Units 2 & 3

    O-Level History Essay Guide has been written in accordance with the latest syllabus issued by the Ministry of Education, Singapore. This series focuses on essay techniques and effective ways to answer history essays. Using a step-by-step explanation guide with suggested phrasing of answers, the books aim to help students master the skills of ...

  19. A Level History Essays: Understanding the Questions and ...

    This video goes through how to do A Level History essays. I start by looking at types of question (cause, consequence, change, continuity, similarity, differ...

  20. 7 Useful Tips On How To Score A1 For O level History

    Follow our simple and doable tips to master this beautiful subject. 1. Study Plan. History is not a subject you can study in a day. Make sure it's part of your weekly study plan and you have enough time for revisions before your exam. Familiarize yourself with the syllabus and break it down into sections to incorporate it into your study plan.

  21. Cambridge O Level History (2147)

    The Cambridge O Level History syllabus looks at some of the major international issues of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and covers the history of particular regions and events in more depth. The syllabus: enables learners to develop historical knowledge and the skills required for studying historical evidence

  22. Cambridge O Level History (2147)

    Description. Provides support for Option B for the Cambridge IGCSE, IGCSE (9-1) and O Level History syllabuses (0470/0977/2147) for examination from 2024. This coursebook provides coverage of Core Content Option B: The 20th century and the following Depth Studies: The First World War 1914-18, Germany 1918-45, Russia 1905-41, The USA 1919-41 and ...

  23. Cambridge IGCSE History (0470)

    Cambridge IGCSE™ and O Level History Option B: the 20th Century 3rd Edition. Encourage your students' curiosity for the past with our new series. Includes source analysis guidance, revision tips, essay-writing support and more alongside five depth studies, including WW1 and WW2. Read more on the Cambridge University Press website