Exam Practice and Questions

Exam questions can come in all shapes and sizes, and here we breakdown what the question is asking you to do and the best way to frame your response

Question StartMeaningFrame
How FarYou want to argue the one factor against other factors, usually 2 or 3, and their importanceThe best way to respond is to start with the factor raised in the question, followed by a caveat, followed by agreeing with the primary factor. Conclude with how far the factor in the question fares compared with the other factors raised
Explain OR WhyYou want to describe and explain the reasoning behind an event and use factorsIf you are asked ‘Why’ someone or something happened, you need to describe the event and analyse the factors that caused it. You don’t need to concentrate on the impact of each factor, rather how it contributed to an event or person. You need to explain how and why.
In What WayYou want to compare factors and analyse change and continuityThese type of questions want to look at a number of factors and describe the way they impacted an event or caused it. These questions will typically relate to change or continuity due to an event or person, so evaluate the extent of how it affected change (if any)
DescribeYou want to describe an event and analyse it within contextQuestions which start with ‘describe’ require a description of the event and explanation of the before and after. You want to discuss how the event started and unfolded.
AssessYou to evaluate an event and analyse the factors involvedIn ‘Assess’ questions you are looking at the factors involved and comparing them, weighing up if one was more important than the other. You are looking for if one or many definitive factors caused an event and look at the consequences of such.
*Insert Quote* – Do you agree?You want to decide whether you agree or disagree with the question/ quote and provide evidenceIn ‘do you agree’ questions, you are finding evidence to both agree and disagree with the statement. From this, you want to conclude if you agree or disagree with the statement.

In some exams you may be required to compare or analyse sources, which can be images, videos or written extracts. Although the questions would typically fit the above convention, you may need to use your powers of inference to analyse the sources effectively. Do not simply describe what you see or hear, you need to further analyse this and offer an explanation.


R – Reputation – What is the status of the source and its creator? What is the quality of the source?

A – Ability to See – What is the source? Does the source creator understand what they are describing or recording?

V – Vested Interest – Does the source creator have an ulterior motive? Is there bias?

E – Expertise – Does the source creator have any expertise in the event they are describing?

N – Neutrality – Is the source creator a neutral or independent party?

Now it’s your turn! A really useful method of revision is to make your own questions and practise writing the answers. This helps you learn how questions are created and responded too, and know what response you are looking for. For example, ‘How far was Germany responsible for the First World War?’

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