THE DOS AND DON*TS OF THE VCE HISTORY EXAMS

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THE DOS AND DON’TS OF THE VCE HISTORY EXAMS
Luke Cashman
Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School
[email protected]
What we will discuss today…
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Know the exam paper
How to use reading time effectively
Time management during the exam
Where to start
Addressing the different types of questions
What constitutes evidence
Tags/triggers
Key words
Historians’ views
What happens if you just don’t know?
Nuts and bolts
Where to find help
What to do next
Time for any questions, queries and comments
Know the exam paper
• Download copies from the VCAA website and study them
carefully (including the front page):
• Revolutions:
http://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/Pages/vce/studies/history/revolution
s/exams.aspx
• Renaissance:
http://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/Pages/vce/studies/history/italy/exa
ms.aspx
• Australian:
http://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/Pages/vce/studies/history/aushistory
/exams.aspx
• Overall format of the paper:
• Renaissance and Australian (Question and Answer Book)
• Revolutions (Question Book and Answer Book)
Know the exam paper
• The weighting of the exam for your subject (50%)
• What you can, and cannot, take into the exam room
• Where the exam will be held
• When the exam will be held:
http://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/pages/vce/exams/timetable.aspx
• How much reading time (15 mins)
• How much writing time (120 mins)
• Do you have to make any choices in the exam paper?
• Renaissance: Section C (Florence or Venice)
• Australian: Section A (document analysis); Section C (essay);
Section D (document analysis)
• Revolution (which revolution for Section A; which revolution for
Section B?)
Know the exam paper
• The structure of the paper
• For all three subjects:
• Four Sections
• 20 marks each
• 30 minutes on each section
• The different types of questions that will be asked in each
Section (comprehension, short answer, evaluation, essay etc)
• How much time to spend on each question:
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Generally, 500 words per section (ie, every 30 minutes)
20 mark questions – 30 mins
10 mark questions – 15 mins
6 mark questions – 10 mins
How to use reading time
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15 minutes in all three exams
Best thought of as reading & thinking time
Go through the whole paper
Make any choices that you need to (Revs and Australian)
Start classifying the questions:
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Easy
Challenging
Very difficult
What?!
• Read written sources thoroughly
• Carefully analyse visual sources
• Mentally plan responses (based on the order in which you will
address them)
• Remember that you cannot mark the exam paper in any way during
reading time
Time management
• Be aware of how long you should spend on each Section and each
question
• Plan when you will move on from a Section or question
• Eg: “When it’s 3:45pm I’ll move on to Section B.”
• Write your time plan on the front page of the paper
• Be aware of the time during the exam:
• Look for the clocks in the room when you are seated
• Remove your watch and put it on the desk in front of you
• Be time disciplined – when your time is up for that question or
Section, move on
• Make a note to remind yourself to go back to unfinished questions
• Leave some time at the end to complete unfinished responses and
to check over your work
Where do I start?
Option 1:
• Start with the questions that you can do
• Move on to the more challenging ones
• Finish with the questions that you find very difficult
• Make sure you leave enough time at the end – write little reminder
notes for yourself
Option 2:
• Start with questions related to long written documents
Option 3:
• Start with the first question and work your way through to the end
Option 4:
• Chronologically – work your way through the questions based on the
historical timeline
Which ever option you choose, rehearse it often with practice exams
Addressing the different types of
questions
• Regardless of the question type, apply RUUP:
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Read
Underline (tags/triggers & key words)
Understand
Plan
• Address ALL key terms in the question
• 2 mark questions:
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Typically require observation/comprehension
Identify elements from the document/s
Easy, so get them right!!!
Look at the questions before reading the source
Mentally answer them in reading time
Write in full, albeit brief, sentences
Only a few minutes for all of them
Addressing the different types of
questions
• 4 and 6 mark questions:
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Spend between 6 – 10 minutes (depending on its weighting)
Between 80 – 120 words (depending on its weighting)
Typically knowledge based questions (ie “Explain how…”)
Putting historical events in context (causes, course, effects)
Might ask you to refer specifically to a given document
Quote a written source or refer to specific elements of a visual source
if required by the question
• Plan one of your points around a quote/reference to the document
to ensure that you can attain full marks for the question
• Structure:
• Topic sentence (answer the question directly)
• Two to four points
• Concluding sentence
• Use signposting to clearly differentiate between your points
• Use specific & relevant evidence to support your points
• Be succinct and start answering the question immediately
Addressing the different types of
questions
• 8 - 12 mark questions
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Around 12 – 18 minutes
200 – 300 words
Typically “evaluate” style questions
How useful or reliable is a document in understanding an aspect of
the past?
Think very carefully about the question and plan your response
before you start writing
You need to establish a clear argument in response to the question
Challenge the source in some way – either unreliable or doesn’t give
us the full picture of what actually happened
Use specific & relevant evidence to support your point of view
Usually asks you to include historians’ views – use these to help
support your own argument
Use signposting to clearly differentiate between your points
Addressing the different types of questions
• Essays:
• Same conditions in all three papers:
• 20 marks = 30 mins (plus any extra time you saved elsewhere)
• Approximately 500 ~ 600 words
• RUUP
• Intro:
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About 10% of the essay length
A couple of sentences – be brief and succinct
A clear contention related to the prompt – have an argument
Be nuanced – don’t simply agree or disagree with the prompt
• MBPs:
• Topic sentence (a clear argument that supports your contention)
• Plenty of precise, specific & relevant evidence
• Three of about 150 words
• Conclusion:
• Similar to the intro
• Possible structures:
• Chronological
• PECS (political, economic, cultural, social)
• By social group (particularly REVS and REN)
What constitutes evidence?
• Numbers:
• Dates
• Statistics (population & demographics, prices, food, casualties,
resources, indicators of economic situation etc)
• Capital letters:
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Individuals
Social groups and organisations (eg the Army)
Political parties and groups (eg the Bolsheviks)
Important events
Places and geographical features
Key documents
Government policies
Ideas and ideologies (eg the Enlightenment)
• Also – quotes from primary sources
• An historian’s opinion is NOT evidence – it is an argument that needs
to be supported with evidence
Tags/triggers
• Tags/triggers tell you how to answer a question
• Examples:
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Identify (observation & comprehension)
Describe (features & aspects)
Explain (a process or system, or a sequence of events that led to…)
Compare/contrast
Analyse (identify arguments & points of view)
Evaluate to what extent… (how useful or reliable; a judgment call)
Using your own knowledge,…
Quoting/referring to documents
Referring to historians/other views
Using two/three/four points,…
To what extent do you agree? (Indicate this clearly!!)
Provide evidence to support your response.
Key words
• Key words tell you what to write about
• Examples:
• Individuals & leaders
• Social groups, movements and organisations
• Key dates & important events:
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You MUST know the timeline for each AOS
Don’t go beyond the range of dates in a question
Refer to events that occurred on the dates in the question
Make sure you go up to the final date (eg 4 August 1789)
Key documents (visual & written) and speeches
Government policies, decisions and actions
Legislation, laws, constitutions etc
Concepts and ideas (eg Marxism; immigration; humanism)
Places and locations
References to key historians, their arguments and their works
Historians’ views
• Students find this the most challenging aspect of the History exams
• All three exams require an in-depth knowledge, and appropriate
inclusion, of historians’ views
• Know which questions in the paper require this:
• Will be tagged in questions
• Check Assessor’s Reports to be certain
• Know what historiography is and why you’re required to understand
it
• For key topics, understand the scope of the historiographical debate:
• What are the extremes of the debate?
• Who occupies the middle ground?
• Be prepared to position yourself somewhere within the debate and
justify this with specific & relevant evidence
Historians’ views
• How to incorporate their views:
• Paraphrasing is acceptable
• You can write their name in brackets at the end of the reference
• Keep quotes brief and incorporate them fluently into your own
writing
• Refer to specific historians and their arguments
• Don’t just refer to historiographical schools (eg Marxists; revisionists
etc)
• Don’t just list their views; explain and explore them
• Where to find them?
• Read books by historians; look for their own summaries of the
historiographical debates
• Go through textbooks
• Assessor’s Reports (especially high-level student samples – also good
for examples on how to include them)
• Past exams (VCAA and otherwise)
What to do if you just don’t know…
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NEVER leave a question unanswered
If you have studied diligently, you will know something
Questions can ONLY be drawn from the Study Design
Leave it for the end – save enough time (based on its
weighting) and make a note for yourself
Take a deep breath to calm yourself
Read the question again very carefully
Apply RUUP
Focus on the key words and base your response on them
Write as much as you can that is related to the key terms
Give it your best shot – you never know what assessors will
reward you for
Evaluate the extent to which this representation provides a complete depiction of the revolutionary situation in Russia
in October 1917.In your response, refer to parts of the representation and to different views of the Revolution. (VCAA
exam 2012)
The painting by Kochergin presents a fascinating, if somewhat fanciful, depiction of the events
surrounding the Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917. He presents the storming of the
Winter Palace as an event of great heroism and struggle, as exemplified by the pose of the
anonymous Red Guard in the very centre of the image and the battered gates behind him. In a
typical display of Soviet propaganda, it implies that the Provisional Government was toppled by
an anonymous mass of workers, soldiers and sailors. While British Marxist Christopher Hill would
agree with such a depiction of October, the actual storming of the palace was much less
dramatic and something of a non-event. No one, it seemed, was willing to stand up for the
Provisional Government (Trotsky). Pipes, however, seeks to undermine the popular legitimacy of
the Bolshevik regime by arguing that October was little more than “a classic coup d’etat… with
hardly any mass involvement.” Revisionists like Fitzpatrick and Service dispute this view by
noting that, as Fitzpatrick writes, “the Bolsheviks’ greatest strength… was the party’s stance of
intransigent radicalism.” This made the Bolsheviks by far the most popular political alternative, at
least in the industrial centres of Petrograd and Moscow. The image also does little to explain the
role of Trotsky, as head of the three-man MRC, in personally planning and staging the October
Revolution. Trotsky himself argued that his, and Lenin’s, presence in Petrograd was vital to the
success of the Revolution, while Ian D. Thatcher emphasises Trotsky’s preference to seize power
in the name of the soviets rather than the Party, which was ultimately more popular. Therefore,
while this painting emphasises the role played by the ordinary people of Petrograd in the
October Revolution, it places too much importance on them and not enough on the
determination and organisation of revolutionary leaders like Lenin and Trotsky. (312 words)
Nuts and bolts
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Write your student number first
Write in blue or black pen only (especially for Revs as it will be scanned)
Take plenty of spare pens in case one runs out
Highlighters for marking key words
Handwriting – as neat as possible
Avoid re-writing and scribbling out
Focus on correct spelling, punctuation and grammar
Write in a formal and sophisticated manner:
• Read historians’ works
• Read high-level student samples (Assessor’s reports)
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Get your first sentence/essay introduction right!!
Don’t attempt convoluted sentences – be straightforward and direct
Write in full sentences
Make use of paragraphing (not dot points)
Plans will not be graded by assessors
Nuts and bolts
• Writing space:
• Ensure that you write in the correct place
• Particularly in the Revolutions Answer booklet
• You MUST write within the border as indicated, otherwise it may not
scan properly
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It’s the number of words that counts, not how many lines you fill
Small handwriting – you don’t need to fill all the lines
Large handwriting – you can write beyond the lines
If you write it, the assessors must read it
Best option is to use the extra lines provided in the booklets
At the end of your response, write “continued in extra space”
Clearly indicate the response being continued in the extra space (eg –
Question 1c continued)
• Call for an extra booklet if required
• Clearly indicate if you continue a response in another booklet
• Label the booklets: 1/2 and 2/2
Additional help
• VCAA Study Design:
http://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/Documents/vce/history/historysd.pdf
• Assessor’s reports on the VCAA website
• Chief assessor’s articles in newspapers
• Your teacher
• Your classmates
• Practice exams:
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HTAV
Insight
QATs
Cengage
What can I start doing now?
• Ensure that you have all your resources organised:
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Textbooks
Class booklets and handouts
Your notes (fill in any gaps)
Copies of SACs and any practice tasks with written feedback
Past VCAA exams
Exams from other organisations
Assessor’s reports on the VCAA website
Form study groups with your classmates to share ideas and information
Memorise the timeline
Compile lists of statistics, leaders & social groups
Complete practice exams
Increase the degree of difficulty
• Typed/by hand (train yourself to write for two hours by hand)
• Open book/closed book
• No time limit/exam time limits
• See your teacher regularly for feedback, advice and assistance

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