IGCSE History Paper 2 exam tips

exam tips

The summer 2014 exam will include a Paper 2 exam on the Gulf 1970-2000. There are revision materials on this topic in the IGCSE/GCSE history revision menu.

This podcast has been created specifically for students studying the CIE IGCSE History course, but a lot of the advice contained in it is appropriate for all source questions.  My advice comes from reading the examiner’s report, which is written by the chief examiner – that’s the person in charge of marking all your exam papers – in which they explain what students do well in the exam and what needs to be improved.

The podcast provides general tips on how to improve the quality of source answers, drawn from common mistakes that students make in the exam.  Specific advice is given on how the answer the final 12 mark question, which is always asks how far the collection sources agree (or disagree) with a particular point of view.

If you want more general guidance on answering source papers, download my other podcast called on Succeeding at Sourcework.  Although it’s not designed specifically for the CIE paper 2, it still contains lots of good tips that you might find helpful.

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50 Responses to IGCSE History Paper 2 exam tips

  1. Jim says:

    Hi Mr Allsop!

    I was just wondering about how I should structure the 12 mark questions!
    Should I include an introduction or should I start my essay directly with one of the viewpoints?

    Thank you!

    • Mr Allsop says:

      On Paper 2 it’s always best to open by directly answering the question in a direct way. “The sources agree to…extent”. You may introduce some analysis here as well (e.g. “although there are more sources which appear to support the statement, their reliability is questionable because…”

      Once you’ve given a very short introduction, get stuck in to writing your balanced response.

  2. Varsha Dillikar says:

    My IGCSE history students are writing their paper 2 in Gulf Was -1970-2000. Can somebody help me with sources related to the topic or sample papers for the same for the kids to practice

    • Mr Allsop says:

      The Gulf only became a topic in the Summer 2015 exam, so there are no past papers other than Paper 1 that was sat in June and the sample paper published by CIE. There are, however, a range of sources on the Gulf in the official IGCSE textbook by Ben Walsh. I suspect Russel Tarr will probably add some to his excellent http://www.activehistory.co.uk website this year as well.

      • Varsha Dillikar says:

        Thank you so much Mr Allsop, My hearty thanks once again as your podcasts have really helped me a lot. I did check activehistory.co.uk but did not find many sources which could be used for designing a practice paper for my students so that they can prepare thoroughly for the exam.In future if you come across any such thing please post it,will be very thankful to you

  3. Harshita Ranjan says:

    thankyou Mr. Allsop,it really helped me gain confidence for my tommorows paper. thanx in loads…..once agian

  4. Dania says:

    Thank you, Mr. Allsop. Your podcast really helped me a lot. I always did have trouble answering paper 2 and this podcast has sure helped me overcome my fears.
    my exam is tomorrow and I hope i do well.
    Thank you :)

  5. rororo says:

    On the 12 mark essay, I’m still not really sure what is meant by the ‘evaluation of sources’ to gain the extra two marks, and do you have to do it on every source? cheers

    • Mr Allsop says:

      ‘Evaluation of sources’ can gain you an additional two bonus marks in the 12 mark answer. What it means is that, as well as identifying which side of the argument the source is on, you also comment on why it says that. Evaluation should consider the origin of the source (i.e. where it is from / who wrote it) to explain why the source says what it does.

  6. Aanchal says:

    heyy Mr. allsop:)
    your podcasts have really helped me a lot, thank you so much but i had a small doubt for the 12 mark question in paper 2. sometimes, there are sources that neither agree or disagree. so do we include them in the answer too, stating that they come under neither?

    • Mr Allsop says:

      It is very rare for sources in the paper to not be useful in any way for the 12 mark answer. The mark scheme simply says that you need to write a balanced answer using the sources, so if you are in the curious situation where a source doesn’t help to answer the question you should be safe to leave it out as long as you’ve included a selection of other sources on each side of the argument.

  7. Ab says:

    Hello again! I was just wondering if the examiners would give bonus marks for saying how reliable the sources are in questions other than the 12 marker?
    many thanks,
    Ab :)

    • Mr Allsop says:

      Unless the question says so, no. Obviously if the question is about the reliability of sources then you would comment, and it is feasible that in an ‘are you surprised’ question then reliability will be an issue to consider. Bear in mind that the 2 bonus marks in the final question are for evaluation of sources. This may include reliability, but not necessarily.

  8. Ab says:

    Hello Mr Alsopp! Your podcast for the paper 2 was very useful-our teacher played it to our class a few weeks ago and it really helped. I was just wondering how you would recommend structuring the answers, especially for the 12 mark qustions. In addition, how long would you recommend the answers to be?
    I was also interested in the microphone you use for your podcasts as it sounds like a very good one ha ha!
    my paper 2 is on monday so any last minute tips would also be beneficial!
    Many thanks, Ab

    • Ab says:

      Also, how would you distinguish between explaining the message of a source and the purpose of a source in your answer? :)

      • Iffy says:

        Not Mr.Allsop but I can help.

        For the 12-mark question you can either structure it from these two methods:

        1 – Go through each source individually and state whether they agree with the statement or not.

        2- ‘Group’ them, so sources ABDF could agree whereas sources KJDS disagree with the statement and just explain each one within your disagree/agree paragraph.

        The message of the source is what the source is SAYING – The author’s view and why they could feel this, use the source and QUOTE! (Even with pictures just give the detail.)

        As for the purpose you are trying to explain what the author is trying TO DO. I often just write out in this basis:

        What is the author trying to get people to think?

        How are they trying to make them feel?

        What is the author trying to make them do?

        So if the source is a Nazi poster based on the Re-armament rally in 1935 I would roughly write this:

        The author is trying to make people think about the growth of the German army and how the Treaty had inhibited this growth.

        The author is trying to make them feel patriotic towards a Greater Germany (One o Hitler’s policies).

        And overall wants people to SUPPORT this re-armament and Hitler.

        • Mr Allsop says:

          A great response to the original questions – thanks for taking the time to write. I can’t really add much to this, other than reinforce that ‘the message’ is WHAT the source says, whereas ‘the purpose’ is WHY it is being said.

          I strongly recommend approach (2) to answering the 12 mark question, as this shows clear planning and reads as a much more mature response. If approached in this way, the 12 mark question is really just a source-based version of part (c) questions from Paper 1. I should add that it’s also the way that is strongly suggested in the examiner’s report…

          In terms of length, that’s dependent on so many factors that I really can’t say. Go more on timing – divide the time given for the exam by the number of marks available, and that will tell you how long to spend on each mark. Obviously different people write at differences speeds, but you really need at least 2 sources on each side of the argument – ideally more.

          As for the techy stuff, my microphone is a rather basic Behringer C1. However, I have spent time sound-proofing a ‘booth’ to record in, and the microphone is run through a good quality pre-amp, compressor and EQ.

          • Ab says:

            Thank you Iffy and Mr Allsop, your replies are very useful! I will make sure I use your suggestions in my answers on Monday.
            many thanks,
            Ab :)

          • Shaili says:

            In the 12-mark question, I often have sources which agree and disagree with the statement (in different aspects). When using the second approach, how would you deal with these? Also, does anyone else use (Y), (N) and (Y/N) markings?

          • Mr Allsop says:

            The mark scheme only demands that you use the sources to show evidence on each side of the argument. If taking the second approach you could feasibly construct a solid balanced argument from the other sources and not need to use any that contain evidence on both sides. However, a good structure to incorporate these is to show one side of the argument, then include the element of the ‘mixed’ source that supports that side. You then begin a new paragraph showing how that source also contradicts the statement in some ways, and go on to give other evidence on that side of the argument.

            In terms of Y/N markings, do you mean to mark on the question paper? This is a good approach – note a Y or N next to each source to provide an overview plan. My students generally prefer to draw a quick table instead, as they find it easier to cross off the different parts of their argument:

            Support | Contradict
            A | B
            D | C
            E | F

  9. ANonymous says:

    Thank you so much for this podcast. I hope it proves helpful in my mock paper tomorrow.

  10. zaituni says:

    Thank you so much Mr. Allsop; this has helped me alot

  11. curie dang says:

    On the 12 marker do you get credit for grouping the cartoons as well? Some of the mark schemes say do not count these so I am a bit confused.

    • Mr Allsop says:

      I’m not really sure what you mean by ‘grouping the cartoons’. In the 12 mark question, every source can be used to argue either for or against the question statement. You get marks for using a range of sources – (which can be both images, or text, or both) – to support each side of the argument.

  12. Ismail says:

    Thankyou very much. As a teacher of History, your material helped me alot.

  13. Oyin says:

    So helpful. I am more confident about my paper 2 history.

  14. anon says:

    Hey, I’ve listened to the podcast multiple of times and I kind of have a brief idea on how to do each question, but is it okay if you tell me them in a written form to make it easier for me to understand? Please don’t hate me! I have my history mock exam tomorrow which is based on the peace treaties

    • Mr Allsop says:

      Thanks for your message. I am currently in the process of creating and uploading written transcripts for all my podcasts and hope to have these completed before the summer 2015 exams.

  15. anonymous says:


  16. Aisha says:

    Thanks alot all these tips make us learn deeply about our exams

  17. richard Tjazapi says:

    I really find this material very useful and it helped me alot in explaining paper 2 to my grade 12 at Putuavanga Secondary School . I used it mostly during the spring school that we recently held in August 2014.

    Please continue to post more of this type to make the teaching of Source papers much easier in our Namibian Schools.

  18. Isla says:

    Hi. These podcast lessons are great! I cannot say thank you enough!

  19. Tartil Nadir says:

    thank that was helpful i understood my exam in details

  20. A star says:

    wow! that was a great help.

  21. Rainha says:

    Your podcast was godsend! I’m going in for a Paper 2 test tomorrow and I feel prepared already!

  22. Isabelle says:

    Thank you very much for these great podcasts and resources. My history teacher is great and has covered everything, but it’s really been helping my revision to listen to the podcasts and remember the key facts I had forgotten :)

  23. Sandy says:

    This podcast has been of great help for my exam tomorrow

  24. Eta Katundu says:

    Absolutely love your podcast on Paper 2. It will be a great help to my students. Thanks!

  25. oscar says:

    Hi! I’m a bit stuck on how to structure the final 12 mark question :s Could you help me?

    • mrallsop says:

      I discuss this in the podcast. As with any ‘how far’ question the key thign to do on the final question of CIE IGCSE History Paper 2 is to present a balanced argument. Begin by presenting one side of the argument (e.g. “In some ways the sources do agree with the statement…”) and go on to give examples from a range of sources, and explain why they support the statement. Then do the same for the other side of the argument. You should include reference to at least two sources for each side of the argument. Then you need to write a conclusion in which you say ‘how far’ you agree with the question statement. This format will score you up to 10 marks. To gain the additional two marks you need to analyse the sources as well, such as discussing how reliable they are and why.

  26. Chloe says:

    Thank you for doing this pod-cast. I really struggle with history and now I think I will do okay. Thanks again :)

  27. alex says:

    This website is amazing for IGCSE History revision and prep. Thanks so much!

  28. Magdeline says:

    Dnt complain I luv this

  29. oliver says:

    i am teaching igcse history in zimbabwe. your podcasts have really proved to be of great help and i do not know how to express my sincere thanks.keep up the good work.

    • mrallsop says:

      Hi Oliver. Thank you for your message! Leaving such a nice message is thanks enough – I’m glad you find the podcasts helpful :)

      • Varsha Dillikar says:

        Hi Mr Allsop,

        I am still not finding suitable sources to prepare my students for paper 2 on gulf wars,please help me!!!!!

        • Mr Allsop says:

          I am in the same position as a classroom teacher. If I find any suitable materials beyond the IGCSE textbook they will, as I said previously, be made available here.

          • Varsha Dillikar says:

            Thank You so much Mr.Allsop, you are so prompt in answering our queries. I found a wonderful video on Saddam Hussein’s regime on activehistory.com. worth watching it!!!! Thought should share it with you

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