History exams begin 8 November – last minute advice from an examiner

With the Southern Hemisphere exams less than a week away I think it might be a good idea to review the examinations.  I am sure that you have other subjects on your mind since History isn’t until Friday but it is worth going over the basics – again.  I write again because I’m sure that your teachers have reviewed with you a number of times in the past few weeks:

Paper 1: This is the source-based test.  You will have 5 sources – one of them non-print – and 4 questions.  The best approach for most students is to do these questions in order.  They become progressively complex and you can use the information on the first questions to answer later ones.  Keep an eye on the clock – this exam is only an hour long and it is very easy to spend a lot of time on the first questions at the expense of later ones.

Paper 2: This is the topics paper; you answer 2 questions from 2 different topic areas.  This is of critical importance- if you answer both questions from the same topic you will only receive credit for one question.  That means your maximum possible score will be 20 out of 40, and more realistically, you will have about 10 points out of 40.  If you choose a question that requires examples from more than one region, remember the regions according to IB are: Africa;  Americas; Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Oceania; and Europe and Middle East.  If you only have examples from one region, the maximum you can receive for your response is 12 out of 20.

If you are an SL student, you are done on Friday afternoon after Paper 2.  IF you are an HL student you have a weekend to study and sleep so you are well-rested for Paper 3.

Paper 3: Like Paper 2, this is an essay test.  On this exam you have to write 3 essays in 2 ½ hours.  That works out to 50 minutes per essay, which is slightly more than you get for Paper 2 responses.  Use that time wisely – try to write a plan for each essay and think through your responses before you begin writing.  That extra time will help you focus and will help prevent burnout.  It is not just that this is a long test, but that you have to write 3 different essays.  Try to take a mental break after each essay so that you can stay on task.  And try to use all the time you are given – if you are the first one done, that is not a necessarily a victory.

On all 3 papers use the reading time to your advantage: even if you can’t write anything town you can read through all the material presented to you and start to plan out your answers.  Don’t choose a question because you think it’s interesting – choose the ones you know best.  Don’t argue a different viewpoint simply to challenge the question – there is no substitute for a good argument that is well supported.

Good luck!

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