Pass History Exams Blog

This blog is dedicated to you – the history student. My aim is to help as many of you as possible achieve your highest grades, whilst studying history. The regular blog posts, alongside additional resources, aim to make your life as a history student easier and more enjoyable, whilst at the same time ensuring that you are fully prepared for all your exams.

Don’t know where to start? – check out the links to our further resources below and don’t forget to grab your free essay checklist:

Pass History Exams – A Level History Resources

Want to look at some of our most useful blog posts? – check out the links below for definitive articles on key issues:


Revise A Level History – Using Content and Technique To Revise History

When we revise A Level History for the purpose of performing better in exams or any assessments, then we have a choice of what exactly to revise. For most students, that choice is simply made from choosing different areas of content to revise – For example, somebody currently studying the Soviet Union under Stalin may elect to spend more time revising economic developments than the terror.

In this post I will argue that whilst revising content is obviously important, it is only half the story. By concentrating revision energy on content only, many students miss the other piece to the puzzle and fail to work on their question answering techniques enough. This will be especially crucial during 2021 with much content curtailed due to lack of learning time and a number of teacher/exam board based assessments likely to be used to grade students.

In this environment, the student that is a master of technique as well as content will achieve their best grades. Let’s now compare how we can use technique as well as content to revise for A Level History assessment.

– Using Content to Revise For A Level History –

Timeline of events leading up to World War II

All students should be familiar with using content to revise. As we can see above we have a standard piece of content that a student may use for revision. A timeline of events can be used by students to learn important dates and events within a period and also to gain an overview of the particular period of study.

Content for revision comes in numerous forms and will be accessible through text books, revision guides, class notes, online material and other resources.

Learning the content you need to know is critical to your performance in any exam or assessment. Without this knowledge, we simply cannot answer questions properly, as we do not have the correct information available to use in our answers.

However there is another crucial component to answering A Level History questions well.

– Using Technique to Revise For Assessment –

All A Level history exams or assessments require students to do certain standard tasks regardless of the specific area of history being studied.

  • Students will always have to answer questions that will require them to write essay answers.
  • Students will always have to answer questions based around sources or extracts.

Because A Level history assessment always works in this way, that gives us the opportunity to revise or ‘work on’ the techniques required to answer these question types properly.

When revising our technique for essay questions we can look at working on a number of different areas such as:

  • Interpreting and Understanding Questions
  • Planning Answers
  • Writing Introductions
  • Structuring Paragraphs or Themes
  • Writing Conclusions

Similarly when revising for source or extract questions we can also look at improving in different areas such as:

  • Planning Answers
  • Identifying and Extracting Information
  • Backing Extractions
  • Evaluating Sources or Extracts
  • Making Judgement on the value of Sources and Extracts

By understanding and practicing these different techniques we help to ensure that our A Level History assessment performance will improve, regardless of the specific content we are studying.

So how can we learn and improve our techniques for A Level History?

Pass History Exams offer a Free A Level History Essay Guide that provides a framework to answer any A Level History Essay Question. This is available at:

Pass A level History is a complete online video tuition course that shows you step by step how to answer any A Level History question that could be part of your assessment. See the full list of lessons from the course curriculum, by visiting our home page and scrolling down at:

Exam Technique

A Level History – Glossary for Revision (AQA,OCR, Edexcel)

The A Level History Glossary for Revision gives you definitions of key revision and exam terms related to studying A Level History. These are not topic specific, but are focused on general historical terms and methods that you need to understand. This will help you to properly revise and prepare for any A Level History examination or assessment. Where appropriate I have included an example to help your understanding.

This A Level History Glossary for Revision is a constant work in progress and regularly updated. Please do leave a comment if there is a specific term you don’t understand and/or would like added to the list.

A Level History - Glossary for Revision Image

glossary – an alphabetical list of words relating to a specific subject with explanations.

A Level History – Glossary for Revision

Analysis – is critically examining evidence in order to come to an understanding of an event/topic/question etc. This is a crucial skill to achieve higher grades.  
Assess – means to determine the significance or value and is used in conjunction with analysis. Example: ‘The Liberal governments of 1906-14 radically improved the lives of children and the elderly’ Assess the validity of this view.  
Bias – intentional use of language to present something in a one-sided way. Tends to be strongly in favour or strongly against what is being described. Specific word choices will indicate bias. Example: The Communist heroes of 1917 toppled the backward Tsarist regime. In this example the two italicised words would tend to indicate bias.  
Cause – this is the cause of an event, or a reason as to why it happened. Example: The immediate cause of the First World War was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Austria-Hungary then declared war on Serbia, which set in motion a complex set of events meaning many European nations declared war on each other, due to previously negotiated alliances and agreements.
Change – refers to something that is different from what occurred previously. This can happen over long periods of time or sometimes very dramatically in a short space of time.
Chronology – means the order in time in which events occurred. Is sometimes referred to as timeline. Example: 1st September 1939 – Germany invades Poland. 3rd September 1939 – Britain and France declare war on Germany.
Consequence/Effect – the changes that have occurred as a result of that event. Example: A short term consequence of Britain voting to leave the European Union was a dramatic 10% drop in the value of Sterling.
Contestability – the extent to which people hold different opinions/views.
Context – means the conditions that existed during a certain time and place when the event/issue was happening.
Continuity – this refers to something that has remained the same over time. Example: The social standing of women in Tsarist Russia had a remarkable continuity throughout the 19th century.
Description/Narrative – this means describing or narrating the events, often in chronological order. It is a sort of storytelling of what happened that simply describes what has happened but lacks analysis, evaluation or interpretation.    
Evaluation – means reaching an informed judgement based on evidence.
Evidence – is anything that can help us to understand the issue/source.
Interpretation – is the process by which we describe, analyse, and evaluate evidence to create an explanation on the past. Example: The historian’s interpretation was that the Roman Army was significantly overstretched leading to defeat at the battle of Cannae.
JEON Structure – This is a method of structuring paragraphs in an essay that some people find useful. J – Judgement – First you give your judgement about the point. E – Explanation – Use evidence to explain your judgement. O – On the other hand – Use evidence to critique your judgement. N – Nevertheless – Explain why your explanation judgement and evidence is more valuable than the critique part.
Perspective – the point of view from which someone views an event. Thus, different people/sources can describe the same event in different ways because it was seen from a different point of view. Perspective can exist independently of its poor relation bias.
Primary Sources – provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning the event you are studying. These are documents, images or artifacts, that were created or experienced at the time of the event. However, if an individual writes about events they experienced first-hand many years after the event occurred, it is still considered a primary source. Example: an official parliamentary report of a speech by Harry Brodie, Liberal MP, during a House of Commons debate on the Women’s Enfranchisement Bill, February 1908.
Secondary Sources/Extracts – are works that analyse, assess or interpret an historical event. Secondary sources often offer a review or a critique. They include books, journal articles and reviews etc. Example: Robert Service, The Russian Revolution, 2nd edition 1991 – this book was written in 1991 many years after the 1917 revolution by somebody not present during 1917.
Significance – is a decision we make about what is important. Different people may view different things as more or less important. Example: I believe the most significant factor in Stalin’s rise to power was his control of party apparatus, whereas you insist that ideology ‘socialism in one country’ was of greater importance. Significance needs to be determined by analysis and backed with evidence.
Validity – means whether something is logically and/or factually sound. Example: ‘Outremer remained over-reliant on the Latin West for its survival in the years 1119 to 1149.’ Assess the validity of this view.

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