Paper 1

IB exams are now 2 months away and students start to get worried about how they can prepare for their history exams.  Although general preparation may be the same, there are distinct differences in the individual papers, and the most distinct is, of course, Paper 1, the source-based test.

Paper 1 is primarily a skills-based test in which you are supposed to show your skills as a historian.  While content knowledge is  helpful, it is important to note that 21 out of 25 possible points can be obtained without providing any outside knowledge.  Thus, preparation for this paper centers on the skills.

There is a lot to read  in this question so the reading time really helps you out here.  Use it to look over the questions and then start reading the sources.

The first question is subdivided into two questions and asks you to show that you understand the meaning of sources.  Usually, the second question (1b) is on the non-print source and gives you the opportunity to show that you can interpret political cartoons, graphs, photographs, paintings and the like.  In both instances, brevity is important – if the question is worth 2 points, make 2 points and move on to the next question.  While these are the easiest of the questions, they can create a trap if you spend too much time on them, leaving too little time for the remaining questions.

The second question asks you to compare and contrast the content of two sources.  The task here is to read both carefully and then determine how they are similar and how they differ in content.  The best way to tackle this question is to have two paragraphs, one where similarities are explained, and one where differences are explained.  Be sure to specifically reference the sources – you don’t have to use the entire source, but writing something such as “In Source A” helps the examiner know which source you are referring to.

The third question is the OPVL and the task should be familiar to you as you also had to do it in your IA.  You are given 2 sources and asked to provide the value and limitations of each, with reference to origins and purpose.  Although you could provide integrated evaluation, it will probably be easier for the examiner if you cover each separately.  It’s not a bad idea to check off and determine if you’ve used all 4 components, and if the emphasis is on value and limitations. Remember that you are evaluating them as historical sources, not according to their usefulness to a study.  Consider the purpose and provenance when determining the value and limitations.

The final question is a synthesis question.  You are given an essay-type prompt and asked to answer the question using both sources and your own knowledge.  Even if it is only one sentence, answer the question explicitly, and provide a mini-introduction.  Try to use all the sources if you can and, once again, be sure that you identify the sources explicitly, leaving no doubt in the mind of the examiner.  Then, be sure that you bring in your own information to support your response.  Try to wrap it up with a brief – one sentence even – conclusion.

This all needs to be done in an hour, so use it all wisely.  You can answer the questions in any order you like but it is best to do them in order as they build on each other and the final question asks you to use the sources.  If you have answered the first 3 questions you can be more efficient with your time.

Review your notes on the subject.   You don’t have to be obsessive with the content but you should know enough that the topic is not a surprise to you.

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