Answer Structures

IGCSE History: Paper 1 (Core)
Answer Structures

How to answer part (a) of a question [5 marks]

This question is purely knowledge-based; no analysis is at all required.
In this question, you get 1 mark for each fact you have written. The facts should be presented in very brief statements. You are wasting your own time if you decide to turn this simple answer into an essay. It should take up no more than 4-6 lines. For developing one point, you may be awarded an additional mark for that point. However, the examiners are very stingy about awarding the development mark, so don’t rely on it. five facts, five marks. Keep it that way.

1 mark per point, total 5 points needed.

How to answer part (b) of a question [7 marks]

This question tests both knowledge and understanding. You are awarded 1 mark for explaining a relevant point and an additional mark for explaining and analysing that point fully, which means that potentially you can gain 2 marks per point. That means that a minimum of 4 fully explained points will get you full marks. If you have not properly explained a point, you won’t get the mark for it. Once again, don’t waste your time by turning a simple answer into an essay. Yet, giving each point its own paragraph will help the examiner keep track of your points and appreciate their value the way you want them to.

1 mark per explained point
2 marks per fully explained point.
Do the math.

How to answer part (c) of a question [8 marks]

There is no need for an introduction paragraph. However, you need to have a clear structure in this answer so that the examiner can keep track of your points.
In this answer, you MUST show both sides of the topic. You must show both why you AGREE with the question and why you DISAGREE with the question. Ideally, the best candidates will provide three points in agreement with the topic and three points in disagreement with the topic. You then MUST give a conclusion, which involves:
(i) Which one point is the most important and why
(ii) Why you agree or disagree with the topic in the question.
Once again, don’t waste your time by turning a simple answer into an essay. Yet, giving each point its own paragraph will help the examiner keep track of your points and appreciate their value the way you want them to.


IGCSE History: Paper 2 (Source-based paper)
Paper Structure

In this paper, the candidate is provided with around ten sources, which include pictures and extracts. A set of questions follow, asking you to comment on particular sources and compare sources with one another. There is one question at the end that asks you to entertain an overall issue using all the sources provided on that paper.

While answering the parts leading up to the main question, some key principles should be kept in mind:

Don’t Summarize/ Explain/ Describe: The examiners know very well what every source is saying/ looks like, so your job becomes not to explain the source but answer the question relevantly.

Show Both Sides of the Argument: Every question will entail evaluating sources in particular directions. As a historian, you are expected to show why the source is and is not very reliable, and why two sources agree and disagree, etc. It is likely that you will not gain marks in the higher bands of the marking scheme if you fail to show both sides.

Find the Spirit: The marking schemes favour the candidates that can give a beyond-the-obvious explanation. Think, “what is the central message of this source”. If you can manage to hack that, the examiner will know that you are no doubt a solid candidate. Even when comparing two or three sources, remember to compare the main or “big message” first, and then later you may compare the smaller, subsidiary messages.

Look at Provenance: In the vast majority of questions, you should also use the provenance of the source in the answer. The provenance is written bellow the source in italics, and describes the origin of the source. For example, a source written in Germany could potentially have a bias toward Germany. A history book extract is likely to be objective. Extracts from speeches may contain false information that politicians use to misguide the crowds, etc.

Cross Reference: Support every point of analysis you make with a relevant fact or two from your memory, or a reference to a quote from another source. This an important step in reaching the top band of the marking scheme. Avoid going into lengthy descriptions using your own knowledge, I’ll say it again, just a quick “fact or two” to give your point the maximum band of achievement.

In certain questions, you may be required to suggest why a particular source was published or what the ‘purpose’ of a source is. In this, the vast majority of past marking schemes have suggested the inclusion of three main items in the answer:

1. Why did the author publish this? Here, you need to analyse the context of time and place of the author and use that to deduce the reason for that publication.

2. What is the spirit or big message of the publication? Here, you deduce the central idea the artist or  author is trying to convey to you. Explain this message clearly and fully, while avoiding extensive answers.

3. What is the desired effect on the audience? By audience, one could mean the public, the media or politicians etc. What does the author want them to do? How does the cartoonist want them to feel?

Recently, some more interesting questions aim to put you in the shoes of others. For example, a recent question once placed the candidates in the shoes of Woodrow Wilson, requiring you to write how he would react to a particular source. Here, you get to become bias, and are not required to show both sides of the argument. Use the following steps to answer this;

(i) Analyse Woodrow Wilson’s views using your own knowledge. (Note: the views an ideologies of people may change over time, so be sure to check the date in which the question has been placed)

(ii) With those views in mind, begin analysing the sources like you usually do.

In more complex cases, they have asked the candidates to look at a source with the viewpoint of the author of another source. This means you really have to use analysis of time/place/situational context as well as analysis of the message of that source to successfully hack into the mindset of its author. Then go on to answer the question.

The last question on each source-based paper is worth ten marks, with two additional/ bonus evaluation marks.

You need to go through each an every source and briefly explain why it supports the stance in the question or opposes the stance in the question. Sometimes, a source can be both for and against the issue, in such cases don’t panic- allot that source the side you feel it belongs in. While you briefly go through each source, remember to pick out any two or three of those sources and fully evaluate  and analyse them (in reference to the question) to get the bonus marks reserved for such. The CIE examiners have announced a precaution in regard to this question type:

“Source use must be reference to a source by letter, by provenance or by direct quote. There
must be examples from source content. There must be an explanation of how this supports/does
not support the statement.”


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