IGCSE History Paper 2 exam tips

Paper 2 exam advice

The summer 2018 exam will include a Paper 2 exam on the League of Nations in the 1920s and 1930s. There are extensive revision materials on this topic in the IGCSE/GCSE history revision menu.

This video (also available to download as a podcast) has been created specifically for students studying the CIE IGCSE History 0470 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.

This episode provides general tips on how to improve the quality of source answers, drawn from common mistakes that students make in the CIE IGCSE History 0470 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.


104 Responses to IGCSE History Paper 2 exam tips

  1. Emily says:

    Dear Mr. Allsop,

    I was wondering if you could tell me what other years had the topic of Treaty of Versailles on their paper 2. A look at a past paper may be helpful in knowing what to expect on the exam. Thank you for this video, it was incredibly helpful!

  2. Ishaan Doshi says:

    Hi, given that this years May/June paper will be based on the peace treaties, do you know which other years had the peace treaties as their paper 2 topic as well? It would help us practice

    • Mr Allsop says:

      June 2005, November 2006, and November 2011. All of these focused on Versailles.

  3. Fraya Ying says:

    Hi Mr. Allsop, not doubting you or anything but how did you know the paper in 2017 will be about the 1919 peace treaties? why is that the only topic that’s coming out rather than the cuban missile crisis or other topics? or did i miss something and that everyone knows the exam will come out about the 1919 peace treaties… I would be really thankful if it was just the 1919 peace treaties tho so i only have to study one topic! Thank you!

    • Mr Allsop says:

      The exam board always give information about which topic is coming up in Paper 2, and do so before the course begins. This information was released in the syllabus prior to the course beginning in September 2015. In summer 2017 (the exam being sat on 11th May 2017) is focusing on the peace treaties of 1919-1923. This information is given on page 28 of the exam syllabus, which you can view at http://www.cie.org.uk/images/203943-2017-2019-syllabus.pdf.

      • Fraya Ying says:

        Thank you so much mr. Allsop! I’m taking my exam tomorrow on 12 May, I’ll make sure to focus on the peace treaties 🙂

  4. hjf says:

    Mr. Allsop, is it possible to know the topic of paper 2 exams before we take it?
    Also, you said in your video in the part where you were giving tips for the 12 mark question that we had to explain “how these sources agree or disagree”. Does that mean we have to say something like, “this is how I know this source agrees”, kind of like showing proof?
    Thank you.

    • hjf says:

      Wait, never mind about the first question. It’s on the Peace treaties. Sorry, didn’t read the above description.

    • Mr Allsop says:

      Yes, the exam board always announces which topic is coming up in Paper 2, and do so two years before the exam information was released in the syllabus prior to the course beginning in September 2015). In summer 2017 (the exam being sat on 11th May 2017) is focusing on the peace treaties of 1919-1923.

      Regarding your second question, you need to make it clear how the source you are using as evidence agrees/disagrees with the question statement. So if you are saying, “Source A agrees with the statement as it claims, ‘insert quote'” you also need to explain how that is an agreement. So yes, proving your point.

  5. Hinch says:

    Thanks very much! Its very useful for the exam in 2 days 😛

  6. Daniel says:

    Umm. Sir, do you know if the other Treaties are going to come up? (or do you think that they won’t) in terms of the whole paper. I.e. should I be looking at cartoons about the Treaty of Sevres for instance?

    • Mr Allsop says:

      Traditionally any Paper 2 on the peace treaties has been on Versailles, but this was before the ‘new’ syllabus arrived a couple of years ago. The other treaties are now much more prominent, and it wouldn’t surprise me if one of those appears on Paper 2 this year. I’m not in a position to predict or advise, but if I were you I would definitely ensure I know the other treaties in addition to Versailles.

  7. Student says:

    What do you need to get the 2 bonus marks, in the last 12-mark question, for the evaluation? Do we assess the reliability&purpose of the source OR how it may contribute to both sides of the answer?

    • Mr Allsop says:

      The former. You need to include some evaluation of the reliability/usefulness of the source in the context of how it may or may not be useful to answering the question set. For example a source may completely agree with one side of the argument, but would be expected to do so based on its provenance.

      • Khalil says:

        Does the reliability mean that for example, something written by Clemenceau on Germany’s punishment means that it is less reliable? And are more modern sources more reliable since they have the benefit of hindsight?

        • Mr Allsop says:

          Not necessarily. It depends when Clemenceau was writing, and why. If it is asking about what French people thought about the treaty, then it is very reliable. You have to consider the context around the provenance in order to judge reliability.

  8. Urvi says:

    Hi Mr.Allsop!

    Could you please help me with the structure of the 12 marks question-

    In your podcast (which was very helpful) when you said that we can balance our argument and divide our answer into half, do we mention all the sources (which agree) in one paragraph and explain why do they agree with the statement given? I was a bit confused as to how should we answer by dividing our answer into half.

    Thank you

    • Mr Allsop says:

      That is one way to answer it, yes. Effectively the answer is an ‘in some ways they agree, and in other ways they don’t’. As long as you demonstrate both sides you should score highly. You can do this either by having the first half of your essay focusing on one side of the argument the other half focusing on the other, or by doing a yes/no/yes/no/yes/no structure. Rememeber you are not expected to write about every single source, but I suggest at least three on each side of the argument.

  9. Shona says:

    Hi Mr Allsop

    I’m new to the Cambridge IGCSE syllabus. In my old system there was a lot of focus on writing full essays, but from looking at the exam papers it doesn’t seem like we have to write full essays – more just long paragraphs – am I missing something?

    • Mr Allsop says:

      Cambridge IGCSE does break the exam paper in to shorter questions that, in some cases, can be answered in a paragraph or two. However, each paper is different and so I would suggest you study the mark scheme closely or review the exemplar essays in the Teacher’s Portal on the CIE website.

  10. Dennis says:

    Hello… I am in namibia and i am witting my matric this but until now i am still stuggling on how to answer paper2 history

  11. OSUNYIKANMI Iretimide esther says:

    Hello, I am from Nigeria and I am currently in school preparing for the IGCSE exams. I was wondering if you could help me with GERMAN DEPTH STUDY and 19th century events.

  12. tomiwa akinlaja says:

    hello I am from Nigeria and right now in my school we have not gone far in IGCSE history and I am writing IGCSE these year October so I need help with some topics like the cold war and Russian depth study

    • Mr Allsop says:

      I’ve created a fully resourced section on the Cold War, and have some things on Russia 1905-1941. However, I don’t currently teach the Russia unit and so this is not as detailed as the others.

  13. hwasan choong says:

    mr allsop, may i ask if a specific topic will be asked in paper 2, and this is announced to students or teachers? how do i know which will come out? say in nov 2016?

    • Mr Allsop says:

      Yes, the CIE IGCSE History Paper 2 topic is always listed in the syllabus so is available for everyone to see. November 2016 is going to be “To what extent was the League of Nations a success?”

      June 2017 is: “Were the peace treaties of 1919–23 fair?”
      November 2017: “How secure was the USSR’s control over Eastern Europe, 1948–c.1989?”
      June 2018: “To what extent was the League of Nations a success?”
      November 2018: “Why did events in the Gulf matter, c.1970–2000?”

      • Em says:

        Hello ! Thank you for all those infos, it’s really helpful.
        If there is a specific topi for paper two, is there also a specific one for the other papers ? If so, could you please tell us what are these topics ?
        Thanks a lot ^^

  14. Usama says:

    Hey Mr Allsop, thanks for your podcasts, just one big question, when im marking my questions for this paper there are different levels, if i include everything in the highest level but not from the lower levels will i still get the highest mark , i.e. Level 2 (2-3 marks) says … I dont do that but i do what it says for level 5 for example

    • Mr Allsop says:

      Level Descriptions are based on the skills you demonstrate, necessarily the content you include. The markscheme often gives ‘indicative content’, which means it gives examples of the types of things a candidate might say. You aren’t expected to include all of the examples, and similarly if you identify other (relevant) examples that aren’t in the markscheme you can still be awarded marks.

  15. Vin says:

    Mr. Allsop is it true that in igcse paper 2 2016 about Gulf War?? like every sources??
    According to you, we as candidate don’t need to do an introduction sentence is it true??

    • Mr Allsop says:

      All anybody knows about the exact topic of the IGCSE Paper 2 is that it’s based on The Gulf 1970-2000. It could therefore focus on any of the five key topics:
      * Saddam Hussein’s rise to power
      * Saddam Hussein’s rule of Iraq
      * The Iranian Revolution
      * The Iran-Iraq War
      * The Origins or the course and consequences of the Gulf War
      You need to be prepared to respond to sources on any of those possible topics.

      In terms of an introduction, I’ve never said that you don’t need to. Instead I’d encourage you to think about what you’re actually saying in your opening sentence, and make sure it’s relevant to the question. Here’s my advice from the podcast/transcript: “It is much better to directly address the question in the first sentence of an answer. This will help you to focus on what is being asked. For example, if a question asks ‘What is the message of this source?’ the answer should begin ‘The message of this source is…'”

      • Vin says:

        Thank you!! i hope i can have a great score in this coming paper 2

  16. JB says:

    You’re my hero!
    Keep on doing what you’re doing man, coz I love history.

  17. Adam says:

    How might one judge the reliability of a source?

  18. tona says:

    where can i find specimen papers for paper 2

    • Mr Allsop says:

      You will need to get these from your teacher, since the CIE website is password protected and only accessible teachers at approved centres.

      • HK says:

        In IGCSE Centre u can find all past papers for all subjects (as far as I know)
        try looking there. It’s in a google docx so it’s free.

  19. Caroline says:

    Mr Allsop,
    Is there a transcript available for this podcast?

    • Mr Allsop says:

      Hi Caroline
      I’ve now uploaded a transcript for this podcast. I hope you find it useful.

  20. kelly says:

    hello mr allsop.
    may I know what the difference between to summary the source and telling the message about the source. in the podcast u have said that we shouldn’t summary the source but instead tell the message?

    • Mr Allsop says:

      Summarising the source is repeating the surface details. If it’s a cartoon, for example, you’d be saying “There are two men wearing hats. They are shaking hands.” It’s just description. Giving the message of the source is explaining what the features actually mean and what they are telling us about the historical situation. For example. “There are two men who represent Britain and the USA. Britain is wearing a bowler hat while the USA has a top hat with stars and stripes in the style of Uncle Sam. They are shaking hands, which indicates that they have reached an agreement.”

  21. -_ says:

    I am a student taking igcse history.
    I was looking at the past papers, and I’ve seen that in 2014, 2013, etc. on the Paper 1 Section 1, there was always a source alongside with questions.
    But since 2015, there were no sources for Paper 1 Section 1.
    Did the structure of the questions in Paper 1 Section 1 change?
    Thank you!

    • Mr Allsop says:

      The CIE IGCSE syllabus changed for the exams in summer 2015 – Paper 1 introduced a new topic of The Gulf 1970-2000 and cut the United Nations, changed the marks for the questions (old style was 5,7,8 marks but the new is 4,6,10) and switched to a short sentence to introduce the topic on the question paper rather than include a source.

      Paper 4 was also completely re-written to become a single question, rather than a mix of sources and knowledge.

  22. 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.

  23. 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

  24. Harshita Ranjan says:

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

  25. 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 🙂

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