Examine these articles relating to useful essay writing and source-based case study answer techniques to improve your grades.

JC History Tuition Bishan Bedok Tampines Singapore - How to revise for A Level History

How to revise for A Level History?

How to study for A Level History?
The study of A Level History requires carefully planning and execution to make significant progress in your preparation for the examinations. Apart from the identification of common errors, development of SBQ answering techniques and essay writing skills, it is imperative that you have organised your study materials and practice questions. Therefore, in this issue, we will focusing on various aspects of revision to guide you through this meaningful journey that leads you to the goal of attaining A at the A Level History examination.

Step 1. Arrange your materials
Start your revision by arranging your learning materials that you have received. By organising your own notes, essays and SBQs, you are also de-cluttering your mind. This approach is important as it ensures that you are clear on where to source for the relevant information should the need arises.

One useful way is to separate your materials by Themes or Topics. For example, the Topic on Cold War, which features a three-part series [Emergence of Bipolarity, World divided by the Cold War and End of Bipolarity], can be organised as one individual set of materials. You can consider using a file divider or even a colored A4 paper as a make-shift divider.

Within each set of materials, make sure that you have separated them into the following: (i) Notes (ii) Questions [Essays/SBQs]. For Notes, you are encouraged to include a summary cover page to list down the areas of study (which will be elaborated later below). As for Questions, you can organise them into ‘Basic’ and ‘Challenging’ types.

Step 2. Plan your timetable
Now that you have organised your learning materials, the second step involves the development of a personal timetable. A timetable is important as it helps you to set priorities on your daily tasks, be it academic, recreational or personal matters. As quoted by many, ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’. Getting your priorities right will ensure that you stay committed and focused on the ultimate aim of acing the A Level History examinations.

To get started, you can use a physical or online daily planner to organise your time. For example, you can use an Excel Spreadsheet that display the monthly calendar. First, fill in the time-slots that you are certain of, like the classes at school. Second, include time-slots that you want to revise for History, as well as other subjects. Personally, I am of the opinion that one day’s worth of revision should not exceed two subjects. For instance, your revision in one full day can be as such: History from morning till mid-afternoon; General Paper from mid-afternoon till late evening.

Step 3. Take notes during revision
In the context of A Level History, it is understandable that some students may dread the revision process as it requires thorough reading and comprehension of facts and figures. However, that is only partially true as students are not expected to regurgitate every single piece of information that they have access to. The third step involves the process of taking notes. This means that you take a given set of materials, then re-organise and summarise the essential parts that can be used for the examination questions.

There are many ways to take notes while reading the materials. One of the most common practices is writing out the points on a separate piece of paper. For some students, they have the preference of creating ‘mind-maps’ to form mental images of the information. Others may have the inclination to type the points out in soft copy and compile the pointers by topics or themes. Try out different approaches to determine your preference for note-taking.

Here are some useful pointers to guide you in your note-taking experience:
– List down the key events that took place. Include a brief description of the incident with the following considerations, like ‘what happened’, ‘why did it happen’ and ‘how does it relate to the topic of study’
– Create a timeline to obtain a clearer picture of the events that occurred in relation to the topic of study [For example, set a timeline of what happened before the Cold War began] 
– Leave out the intricate details in your personalised set of notes. Remember, you can always refer to your original copy of learning materials, like the additional readings or even online sources, if the need arises. Focus on the idea of preparing a condensed version of your notes  

Step 4. Attempt and review practice questions
After the note-taking process has concluded, assess its applicability by answering essay or source-based case study questions. By attempting questions, you can find out whether the information listed in your condensed notes are of relevance to the examination. If it is your first time preparing a personalised set of notes, do not be discouraged if you have left out any information. Revisit the original set of study materials and add the relevant parts into your notes.

Typically, the original set of notes should contain the examples and supplementary information to back up a common argument to a historical perspective. However, the notes may lack elaboration that provides direction in the discussion of the examination questions. Therefore, you can consider using a ‘basic’ question to organise your materials more effectively. For example, in the Paper 1 topic of United Nations, set a generic question, like the ‘Factors affecting the political effectiveness of the United Nations in the Cold War period’ to arrange your notes. Clearly, it would make more sense to re-organise your content from separate Case Studies into specific factors, since examination questions tend to focuses on the reasons why the UN was successful in certain cases.

Bonus: Keep trying!
Now that you have identified the basic methods to revise for A Level History, what matters most is that you incorporate these tips into your revision programme. Grasping historical concepts and mastering the ‘Art of Writing’ do not happen overnight. Persistence and consistent application are the key ingredients to realise your goal. Besides, you can also consider joining our JC History Tuition classes, which will give you exclusive access to condensed summary notes and practice questions to prepare you for the complexities of the A Level History examinations.

Also, we offer GP Tuition and Economics Tuition programmes that are effective in nurturing the right set of thinking and writing skills that bring you closer to grade A. Know that you are not alone in this enriching journey. With the help of our experienced tutors, we are certain that you have all the required resources to realise this goal of doing well for the A Level examinations. What matters is that you have the will to act. Are you ready?

JC History Tuition Bishan Bedok Tampines Singapore - How to ace the JC History SBQ

How to ace the JC History SBQ?

How to answer Source-Based Case Study Questions?
For A Level History, answering a source-based question (SBQ, in short) requires effective reading and writing skills. Given that the examination is 3-hours long, it is crucial to plan your time well. Therefore, we will examine some key concerns in handling this segment of the A Level History subject.

What is Source-Based Case Study? 
With reference to the syllabus description stated at the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB), the source-based case study features a series of extracts that discuss a common theme (such as Cold War or Inter-state Tensions). Students are expected to have a firm understanding of these sources and their given contexts. There will be a maximum of six sources provided in this Section, in which these sources can be depicted in either text (e.g. statements, interviews, accounts and speeches) or visual (e.g. posters) forms.

Given this understanding, we will now focus our attention on the answering of SBQs through the following considerations.

1. Read and identify the question requirement
Before you start to read the sources, you should look at the page that entails the questions to be answered for the SBQ. By reading the question, you will be more aware of what to look out for as you read every source. Also, try to analyse the keywords stated in the question description to pinpoint the perspective to analyse.

The SBQ contains the two questions: A 10-marks two-source comparison question and a 30-marks source comparison and analysis question. Below, we will illustrate an example question to understand this aspect better:

Sample part (a) question: Compare and contrast the evidence provided in Sources A and B about the attitude of Stalin towards USA in the post-WWII period. [10]

Sample part (b) question: How far do Sources A-F support the view that USSR was responsible for the outbreak of the Cold War? [30]

For the part (a) question, you are expected to compare two sources and identify the ‘attitude of Stalin towards the USA’. Source comparison involves identification of similarities and differences between the two sources. For the part (b) question, you are to analyse all sources to find out whether each source support or challenge the given perspective that ‘USSR was responsible for the outbreak of the Cold War’.

2. Read and annotate each source
After you have read and understood the question requirements, focus your energies on understanding each source. One useful way is to use a pencil to mark out parts of the source that can answer the question. You can also use a highlighter to denote excerpts from each source that can support your SBQ answering. This process of reading and annotation is important as it is a planning stage for you to prepare yourself mentally. In a way, the annotation helps in organising your thoughts before you commence writing.

3. Understand the context and nature of each source
As mentioned earlier, pay attention to the types of sources given in the SBQ. For the text-based sources, they can be illustrated in the form of news article, academic publication, interviews, speeches and official statements etc. For visual-based sources, they are depicted in the form of posters, satirical cartoon etc.

In view of these diverse types of sources, it is important to be familiar with how each type is being described and illustrated, so that you can extract the relevant information and underlying message within each source. For example, personal interviews with an important figure (e.g. Secretary-General of a regional organization) are useful in assuming their standpoint to discuss certain issues, but pay heed to their official position, which may restrict the extent of information provided.

4. Organise your writing
Throughout the course of your writing, it is of utmost importance to develop a well-structured SBQ answer. You can address this concern effectively by employing various means, like signposting and topic sentence writing. For instance, you can include the use of connectors to guide the examiner from one sentence to the next. If you have quoted an excerpt of the source to provide evidence and desire to explain it, you can use phrases like ‘this means that’. This ensures that you are making a clear point in your writing.

5. Practice. Practice. Practice
It takes consistent practice to develop the necessary reading and writing skills to ace the A Level History SBQ component. Fret not, we also conduct JC History Tuition SBQ answering skills workshops to hone your writing techniques. During the lessons, you will have many opportunities to attempt practice questions. As it is unrealistic to pursue the idealistic goal of acquiring all skills in several sessions, we will be focusing on one or two skills during the programme. This ensures that you can pay attention to the intricacies of the skills development process.

6. What’s Next? 
On a related note, you can learn more about the essentials of A Level History essay writing in this featured article. JCHistoryTuition.com.sg features a broad range of articles that cover useful examination tips and issue-based discussion to expand your knowledge as you gear up for the A Level History examination. As the A Level subjects can be challenging for some, we also offer economics tuition and GP tuition programmes for JC1 and JC2 students to develop the knowledge and application skills to become proficient and exam-ready. Persevere and you will eventually achieve your goals!

JC History Tuition Bishan Bedok Tampines Singapore - How to write a History essay

How to write an A Level History essay?

How to write a History Essay?
In general, essay writing involves the organization of arguments to support or challenge a given view in the question statement. In the context of A Level History essay writing, it is important to adopt an argumentative style of writing to convince your reader that your stand is sound and well-analyzed. However, it is insufficient to weave a continuous line of arguments and submit your script with the expectation that you have just aced the examination. In this article, we will examine some key considerations that will support your efforts to create a good essay.

1: Read the question carefully
The first step to do well for A Level History essay is to read the question. Some students are eager to skip the reading process and attempt the writing immediately, which can lead to fatal errors. It is imperative that you read the question and pick out the keywords. Pay attention to the command words, like “assess”. Also, identify the given view in the question statement to find out what is the opposing view, in order to take a clear stand in your introduction. During our JC History Tuition, we conduct class discussions to guide students through the reading process, by using example essay questions. Through proper reading and annotation setting, you will realise the importance of careful reading, such as the identification of possible arguments to support your essay writing.

2: Set your essay outline
Once you have analyzed the essay question, plan your essay outline. By deriving a rough guideline on how you can arrange your ideas in the essay, this approach minimizes the potential error in which you arrive at a stumbling block and you are unable to decide on the direction of your subsequent paragraphs. The outline should be written in five minutes or less. Focus your efforts on the listing of key arguments that support your stand and those that challenge it. Under each argument, you can list down examples that come to your mind. Now, you are ready to write.

3: Acknowledge the given view in the question
Similar to how individuals engage in intellectual debates, it is important that you acknowledge the view stated in the question. Failure to do so, you may risk being marked down for the ‘inability to answer the question’. To do this, you should explain how the given view answers the question.

Example Question: “The effectiveness of the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping efforts depended solely on the Security Council.” How far do you agree with this view in the period of 1945 to 1991?

With reference to the above example question, you should acknowledge and explain the given view of how the Security Council played a part in contributing to the successes of the United Nation peacekeeping efforts in the first paragraph of your ‘Main Body’.

4: Align the arguments to your stand
This alignment of argument depends on the direction stated in your stand (which should be stated in your ‘Introduction’. With reference to the above question, if your stand is that you disagree and argue that the effectiveness of the UN did not depend on the Security Council, but rather the General Assembly, then your second paragraph should provide an analysis of the limitations of the Security Council’s role.

Bear in mind that the analysis of factors in every essay question cannot be memorised and stored piecewise in your own revision notes. It is a misleading approach that limits your thinking ability. Instead, our JC History Tuition will feature numerous question practices to widen the scope of assessments, such that you will be familiar with the possible perspectives in a given topic.

What’s Next?
Practice makes perfect! I strongly encourage you to attempt more essays. Once you start, you will realise that this perceived sense of hesitation and reluctance can be overcome. Furthermore, your worries (Can I complete my essays on time? How do I remember so many examples?) will dissipate as you practice more often. I do not deny that writing can be a frictional process at the start. Do not give up. Your determination will bring you closer to your goal.

You can also consider joining our related JC tuition programmes, such as our Economics Tuition and GP Tuition classes to improve your writing skills. The knowledge and skills acquired over time are applicable in all three subjects (History included). Besides, you can gain broader perspectives that help you to answer the History essay questions effectively.

JC History Tuition Singapore Bishan Bedok Tampines - Myths and Errors of History

Common errors and myths of JC History

How to learn History?
For students who have selected A Level History as one of the subjects to learn at schools, some hold the perception that it is a challenging subject due to the vast content to remember and understand. As such, these students feel a sense of apprehension and anxiety as they are concerned over the inability to recall relevant information during examinations. While it is undeniable that A Level History is indeed a subject that covers a wide range of themes, topics and issues, I believe that it is a feasible and achievable task to grasp the essential knowledge and ace the examinations. In this issue, we will examine the common myths and errors that students that may have with regards to JC History.

Myth #1: The content is too much for me to remember!
Based on conventional views, some argue that A Level History is a tough subject to grasp as there is too much to remember. Let’s refer to the syllabus requirements set by the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB):

For H2 History students, there are two overarching areas to learn, namely ‘Shaping the International Order (1945-2000)’ and ‘Making of Independent Southeast Asia (Independence-2000)’. For the former, there are three main themes that cover the Cold War, Global Economy and the United Nations. Similarly, the latter features three themes that cover Political Development, Economic Development and Regional Conflicts and Cooperation in ASEAN.

Given this understanding, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that it is an uphill task to learn these topics and be competent in applying the knowledge to A Level History examinations at the end of the two-year journey.

In fact, this misconceived perception is the result of ineffective strategies. The absence of an organized revision plan, a proper process to analyze historical issues and development of proficient writing methods are some of the critical components to create a productive revision plan. On a related note, students who have attended our JC History Tuition programme benefited from our exam-driven class activities and developed the capabilities to address the above-mentioned challenges.

Myth #2: I should provide as many examples as possible to attain higher marks for my JC History Essays.
In addition, some students may bear the notion that they should include many examples to support their arguments in their History essays to obtain higher grades. As such, these students tend to spend much of their revision time reading through notes and additional readings to remember specific case studies and country-based examples. Then, the ‘regurgitation’ of information is evidenced by the disproportionate weight of writing on the use of examples in each ‘Main Body’ paragraph.

By applying this strategy, there is one fatal flaw. Students who lack the awareness may lose track of their arguments and deviate from the discussion, giving rise to the problem of ‘not answering the question’. For example, the essay writing may contain irrelevant information, like specific dates and quotes mentioned by Historians. Consequently, examiners are likely to penalise the students.

This error is the result of the inability to identify the question requirements. Students should pay attention to the command words and given statement (if any). By analyzing the question, students will know what to write and how much to write. By joining our JC History Tuition programme, we will guide students through this learning process and review their answers to minimise this error.

Do I have enough time to rectify my errors?
Yes, there is! Although A Level History may appear intimidating to students, especially JC1s, it is possible to grasp the content well and attain grade A for the examinations. You can learn the ‘art of writing’ by focusing your efforts on reading reflectively, write logically and answer systematically. We provide GP Tuition classes for our History students to cultivate proficiency in answering essay and source-based case study questions.