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Thread: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

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    Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    I feel like giving a bit back to BoS, therefore I would like to help current Modern students where I can. I completed HSC Modern History in 2014 and achieved a Band 6.

    I can provide feedback on topics of WW1, Germany 1918-39, Leni Riefenstahl and Conflict in Indochina.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the subject and I give my best wishes to the 2015'ers and future students!
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by hawkrider View Post
    Thank goodness for this thread! So just to start off, personally, how did you go about memorising the content for exams? Was it via pure rote or seeing how each event follows chronologically.
    For internal exams/assessment tasks generally we were provided with a little direction/ a bit of information and indication of the likelihood of a question (excluding trials, where it was more or less a mystery/we had to make educated predictions amongst ourselves).
    With regards to this, for internals/externals, it wasn't hard for me personally as I have a decent memory and a knack for the subject.

    What you also need to remember is Modern History is not just listing facts, dates, places, names and historiography in an essay. It is creating an argument supported by content you have learnt, using relevant historiography to support your argument.

    Anyway a few tips would be:

    1. Make your notes early and then summarize them later on. (I didn't personally do this, I still hadn't by the HSC done full notes/summary for Indochina, but relied on someone else's to look over on top of my own work). This will help you learn your content well.

    2. Timelines of important events are great to see the development of issues and can be a tool for remembering years and dates, by the end of the course however you'll have a pretty decent idea off the top of your head on the years events happen, IMO. Also chuck laws in to your time line if they are relevant to the syllabus e.g. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935.

    3. Possibly the thing that helped the most was practice essays, a healthy amount of practice essays! Give them to your teacher to mark. Towards the HSC I was doing a fair few focusing on potential questions (unfortunately none specifically came up), however it really helped let information stick for me. I also did not memorize these essays, I obviously knew lines from them and certain historiography but if I was to get the exact same question in a exam I would not be able to spit it out word for word. In my opinion, they're practice essays for a reason, memorizing essays are risky to rely on and do not really show a flare for the subject (Inb4 HSC is a game).... They are of course beneficial at essay technique and allowing points to stick, so definitely do a fair amount of practice essays and get them marked. (If you ever want to send me one go for it).

    4. While history is ROTE based in nature, I don't think you can rely on it to be great at history. It is the combination of knowing your key issues and in depth knowledge of the subject and being able to formulate a response which combines all the ingredients including your own argument and historiography to create a masterpiece.

    Okay, so long story short.. Preparing for exams is subjective in nature, what may work for one person may not be the best for another. Use a combination of ROTE and seeing how events follow chronologically, combined with your intellect and passion for the subject to go beyond memorizing content. Oh and discussion with fellow students is great at allowing information to be articulated and be remembered.
    Notes/Timelines-->Summaries/Historiography-->Practice essays-->Discussion with fellow students.

    Anyway, I hope this was some help. I do tend to go off on tangents.. If you need anything clarified feel free to ask.
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Stoked that you're doing this, have been thinking of some questions to ask.
    Right now though, the biggest one for me is: How many words should I make my study notes?
    Really worried that I'm writing way too much, but I just can't find anything to cut... How many words were your notes?
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by HecticSandWitch View Post
    Stoked that you're doing this, have been thinking of some questions to ask.
    Right now though, the biggest one for me is: How many words should I make my study notes?
    Really worried that I'm writing way too much, but I just can't find anything to cut... How many words were your notes?
    I honestly don't think you should be too concerned about a word limit in your 'notes'. Obviously being concise is great when you read back over them, however I'm sure with the length comes good detail and that's what will help you out; that is having an in-depth knowledge of your topics.
    With that being said you can always make summaries of these notes to assist with retention of key information (I find really obscure and interesting things stick with me anyway). My Germany summary for example was 1240 words.
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Hi, this is a great thread! Hope you'll allow me to join this thread too - I am also a Modern History student of 2014 and I would be happy to provide any help for USA, Mikhail Gorbachev and Cold War topics

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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by dinomyte View Post
    Hi, this is a great thread! Hope you'll allow me to join this thread too - I am also a Modern History student of 2014 and I would be happy to provide any help for USA, Mikhail Gorbachev and Cold War topics
    I don't see this as a problem, thank you.
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    To get a band 6, how did you differentiate yourself from other candidates. For example, did you do extra readings of the subject or present some sophisticated historiography and argument in your essay to get an extra edge?
    I really want to get a band 6, I was ranked No.1 in my school for modern history but my assessment mark on my report was at the high 80s. I just received my first assessment mark, overall I didn't do too bad but I only scored a 5/ 10 for the 10 marker which was a source analysis on how useful is this source bla bla bla.
    I've heard the modern history exam has very tight timing, so you barely have any time to check and that's what really gets students because they may know their content but can't manage within the time limits.

    I really want to get an extra edge and differentiate myself, and seeing as you got a band 6 this is fantastic you've set up this thread. I'm going to be doing Conflict in Indochina, any tips or heads-up about Indochina.

    Also, did your teacher give you all your notes? Or did they make you find your own notes from the internet or books etc. because my teacher often makes the students find the notes and we often go on HSC Online, but then everyone goes on HSC online!!

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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by sweetalmond View Post
    To get a band 6, how did you differentiate yourself from other candidates. For example, did you do extra readings of the subject or present some sophisticated historiography and argument in your essay to get an extra edge?
    I really want to get a band 6, I was ranked No.1 in my school for modern history but my assessment mark on my report was at the high 80s. I just received my first assessment mark, overall I didn't do too bad but I only scored a 5/ 10 for the 10 marker which was a source analysis on how useful is this source bla bla bla.
    I've heard the modern history exam has very tight timing, so you barely have any time to check and that's what really gets students because they may know their content but can't manage within the time limits.

    I really want to get an extra edge and differentiate myself, and seeing as you got a band 6 this is fantastic you've set up this thread. I'm going to be doing Conflict in Indochina, any tips or heads-up about Indochina.

    Also, did your teacher give you all your notes? Or did they make you find your own notes from the internet or books etc. because my teacher often makes the students find the notes and we often go on HSC Online, but then everyone goes on HSC online!!
    I find that to get into the band 6 range you need a sophisticated answer to the essay question. This obviously needs, first and foremost, a thorough and thematic understanding of the content. Remember that Modern History isn't about how well you can understand the dates and events, but about how well you understand the issues behind the key historical events such as causes, their repercussions, ideology, etc. In short, don't narrate history! This thematic understanding must be shown in your essays right from the very first sentence. A tip to avoid telling history in your essays is to prioritise what you learn about especially when you're writing your notes. When I wrote notes, I glossed over the telling of historical events and instead focused on the 'why' and not the 'what happened' (many students make this mistake!) Another tip for sophistication is to make sure your answers are focused, and not broad. Such as, if the essay required you to "Assess the most important cause of X" then avoid meaningless answers like "there are many causes such as A, B and C". Instead make informed judgments such as "While B and C contributed to X, A was the most significant because..." which shows that you have thought about the question thoroughly. Most of all, don't over complicate your argument. Make it clear, because over complication shows to the markers that you don't really understand the topic and you're just waffling. It's also so incredibly important to plan your response!!! It's so beneficial to organise your thinking, making sure you're going the right path when you're in the middle of the exam, to keep your essay clear etc etc (I could write a whole essay about the benefits of planning).

    Aim to do extra readings as well, and particularly take note of useful historiography. It definitely gets you an extra edge but it's not necessary for a band 6. If you use historiography, make sure you use it well as it's not a syllabus requirement (unless it's the Personality section because historiography and historical debate is highly valued there and it will differentiate you). I only did extra reading that was given to us. It wasn't a lot, just a few sheets of different historian opinions for the National Study and the Conflict Study. We were also given a booklet of about 10-20 historian readings for the Personality but I only used 3 readings (and I didn't read them thoroughly). Don't bother to use readings for WW1 because your school notes should be enough and you don't need historiography. In short, a band 6 doesn't require thorough extra reading but make sure you understand the main arguments of important historians and also be able to include them in your essays if necessary.

    For source analysis, I recommend frequent practice! You'll get the hang of it. The more source analysis you do, the better you get at picking up important information in the sources. Get your teacher to mark it for you

    And yes, the exam is very tight. I think it was my most stressful exam because of all the essays I had to write in such a short time limit. Unless you're a really fast writer you won't get any time to check, so don't leave any MC questions unanswered in WW1 because you might not be able to go back to them. Just make sure you have a working schedule prepared before you enter the exam. For example, we have 45 mins to do each section so I aimed to allocate 5 mins for planning and 40 mins for writing the essay. I also aimed to complete WW1 in 40 mins so I could leave the extra 5 mins for any sections that demanded extra attention (in the trials I used it on National Study because the question was unexpected, and in the HSC I used it on the Personality section because I accidentally wrote too much for Part A).

    I mostly used notes that our teachers gave us but I found that it was sometimes not enough. I also used a few sets of notes and exemplar essays from high achieving ex-students which were incredibly helpful as they often had a lot of extra information and alternative explanations that helped me fill in the gaps of my knowledge. You could ask your school's ex-students for notes (usually they are ok with it) or buy notes from high achievers on BOS (I bought an essay once and it was really helpful in showing me the mechanics of a state ranking essay, then comparing it with my own essays so I know what to improve on or to aim for) You could also start peer sharing with your friends Collective effort can go a long way.
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Also, I doing some study notes right now for WW1 on impacts of the war on the homefront. I really want to do a few practice questions but I can't because most of the detailed knowledge I had from last term I have to review again because I've forgotten!
    How often do you reccomend studying for history (I do ancient also). Did you review once a week, twice a week...?

    Because it's such a disappointment when you knew it so well for the exam and then you take a few weeks break and then I can't even write a good answer for a practice HSC question cos I've forgotten the deeper details of the topic.It's like all that work I put in I've got to do it all over again.

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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by sweetalmond View Post
    Also, I doing some study notes right now for WW1 on impacts of the war on the homefront. I really want to do a few practice questions but I can't because most of the detailed knowledge I had from last term I have to review again because I've forgotten!
    How often do you reccomend studying for history (I do ancient also). Did you review once a week, twice a week...?

    Because it's such a disappointment when you knew it so well for the exam and then you take a few weeks break and then I can't even write a good answer for a practice HSC question cos I've forgotten the deeper details of the topic.It's like all that work I put in I've got to do it all over again.
    I wouldn't worry too much about doing practice essays for WW1 as it is source based. For the Source A and B and own knowledge make sure you have adequate general and in-depth knowledge to weave in to your response which will flow with the themes of the question and source.

    Reviewing is subjective, I don't think I reviewed my notes once a week, but it surely cannot hurt if that's what allows the information to help stay with you. Having a great interest in what your studying I find allows the information to stay with you easier.

    You'll find you'll retain it after constant revision; you cannot realistically expect a lot of things you learnt at the start of the year to stay with you entirely (obviously some things will). Don't stress about it all. Remember the HSC is about a 'sustained effort' throughout the whole year. Keep on keeping on with it and you'll be fine; try not to get too frustrated with yourself, it will only make things worse.

    I hope I was of some assistance.
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    How do you prioritise history with other subjects on your plate?
    I'm not particularly fond of indochina, i'd personally prefer the Romanov myself, but I'm stuck with it. Any advice?
    Also, i find it extremely hard to manage exam time, wasted most of them on sources, leaving me 30min or less for the essay (not good for my hand at all)

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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by klee98 View Post
    How do you prioritise history with other subjects on your plate?
    I'm not particularly fond of indochina, i'd personally prefer the Romanov myself, but I'm stuck with it. Any advice?
    Also, i find it extremely hard to manage exam time, wasted most of them on sources, leaving me 30min or less for the essay (not good for my hand at all)
    Well I enjoyed history and was naturally pretty good at it so I didn't have to spend excessive amounts of time on it; although I still did spend a fair amount writing practice essays and note making throughout the year. You should try find your own balance with your subjects depending on your interest levels and strong areas and weaknesses.

    Indochina was a very interesting topic for me personally. I guess try and not focus on the 'what if's' but more focus on the task at hand. For Indochina it is imperative you understand the follow up to 1964 and then the subsequent war. The syllabus breaks the conflict down well which makes it manageable to study. Also be looking at the top of the syllabus document in the 'key features and issues', they can give you an idea of potential essay questions.

    40 mins max should be spent on the sources; if you're struggling sit down and time yourself doing practice ones, you really need to get through the sources as quick as possible without compromising your marks.
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Smooth Operator View Post
    Well I enjoyed history and was naturally pretty good at it so I didn't have to spend excessive amounts of time on it; although I still did spend a fair amount writing practice essays and note making throughout the year. You should try find your own balance with your subjects depending on your interest levels and strong areas and weaknesses.

    Indochina was a very interesting topic for me personally. I guess try and not focus on the 'what if's' but more focus on the task at hand. For Indochina it is imperative you understand the follow up to 1964 and then the subsequent war. The syllabus breaks the conflict down well which makes it manageable to study. Also be looking at the top of the syllabus document in the 'key features and issues', they can give you an idea of potential essay questions.

    40 mins max should be spent on the sources; if you're struggling sit down and time yourself doing practice ones, you really need to get through the sources as quick as possible without compromising your marks.
    Thanks for the advice. I'll give it another go, have strong feeling i might drop it soon.

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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by klee98 View Post
    Thanks for the advice. I'll give it another go, have strong feeling i might drop it soon.
    If you're not feeling the subject I suggest you don't waste your time on it. It'll be beneficial as you can concentrate your time on your other subjects and hopefully excel at those.
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by hawkrider View Post
    Thanks for your brilliant answer smoothiebrah; will take into account the suggestions you gave. I also want to ask you on which method is better in the long-run for creating notes. Would it be:

    1) adhering to the learn about dot points in the syllabus and creating essay plans from there

    OR

    2) using the key features and issues section to provide a broad thematic viewpoint of the national and international topic (e.g. communism in theory and practice) and ultimately condense the content to super quality

    What do you think?
    Both sound great.

    I went for the former but kept in mind the key themes and issues with my essay plans and what not. So I recommend number 1 and you can add to that dot point summaries of the key themes and issues of them; e.g. what would be contained in body paragraphs of essays regarding the respective key theme and issue. That's just a suggestion, it could work well.
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Great thread smooth operator - Ive been a bit neglectful with Modern lately, so hopefully if there are some questions on Speer or Conflict in Europe I can pitch in.
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    urgent question cos I have a test on monday. when doing a personality or national study question where you are asked to give your judgement, do you have to either agree or disagree or can you partially agree but also disagree. because my teacher says if you don't present your judgement in the first intro it won't be a strong thesis, and also if you don't give a definite answer it won't be strong.

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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by sweetalmond View Post
    urgent question cos I have a test on monday. when doing a personality or national study question where you are asked to give your judgement, do you have to either agree or disagree or can you partially agree but also disagree. because my teacher says if you don't present your judgement in the first intro it won't be a strong thesis, and also if you don't give a definite answer it won't be strong.
    If you argue that the statement is of mixed truth, then that is your judgement.
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    What your teacher means by the strength of your thesis is not how strongly you agree or disagree to the question, but how strongly you present/explain your argument. Does that make sense? You can partially agree, but you must specify clearly and logically why you only agree to some aspects and disagree with the rest. If you can do that, your thesis will be strong.
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by hawkrider View Post
    So I'm really struggling with this problem for Modern History at the moment. My teacher would always tell me that in most parts of my essays, I recount my content as opposed to analysing. In turn, I can never seem to breach the 20/25 barrier and this frustrates me a lot. I get it - you're supposed to explain why and how x,y,z happened (like dinomyte said) - but HOW exactly do you do this? How do you avoid describing the event?

    Furthermore, I haven't been doing as well as I hoped for the first two assessments; we haven't been given our ranks yet, but from what I know I've gotten marks between 60-70% and I honestly can't understand why I'm doing badly. So are my chances of a b5/b6 for modern history gone? Feeling lost.
    Sounds like you need a bit of discussion and maybe allow your educated opinion to come across a bit stronger rather than just recount facts in a chronological manner. It's really a bit hard to give you advice when I haven't seen any of your work. You really need to ultimately evaluate and use historiography when appropriate to synthesize your ideas and make a logical, coherent and relatively sophisticated essay.
    I can send you a sample in private message.

    All hope for a B6 is not lost but that means lifting your game from here. Try allocate more time to practice essays without compromising study for other subjects.
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Yep, I know how it can get frustrating sometimes when its difficult to differentiate between narrative and analysis. Some key tips that my teacher and friends recommended:

    - When making notes, minimise *what* happened in the event but make it about the *importance* of the event. Talk about the *whys* and the *effects*, but minimise the *whats*.
    - Textbooks often are full of narrative. This is why textbooks can't be used as references in essays because they lack academic opinion. Similarly, don't talk like your textbook.
    - Analysis is *linking* your evidence to your argument. ~*~*LINK*~*~ however avoid superficial links and make sure it is logically fluid.
    - Have a strong argument, and your essay will tend to be more analytical.

    You can send me a paragraph of your essay if you want and I can try help you. I need a break from my uni readings.
    Last edited by dinomyte; 17 Mar 2015 at 9:51 PM.
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by hawkrider View Post
    So I'm really struggling with this problem for Modern History at the moment. My teacher would always tell me that in most parts of my essays, I recount my content as opposed to analysing. In turn, I can never seem to breach the 20/25 barrier and this frustrates me a lot. I get it - you're supposed to explain why and how x,y,z happened (like dinomyte said) - but HOW exactly do you do this? How do you avoid describing the event?

    Furthermore, I haven't been doing as well as I hoped for the first two assessments; we haven't been given our ranks yet, but from what I know I've gotten marks between 60-70% and I honestly can't understand why I'm doing badly. So are my chances of a b5/b6 for modern history gone? Feeling lost.

    NEVER in history recount or tell a story/narrative.

    You need to use the facts and information that you have learnt to PROVE AN ARGUMENT, that is, YOUR CONTENTION.

    For example, my contention may be this:

    Lenin's leadership was indeed the most significant factor in the Bolshevik's successful consolidation of power between 1917 and 1924.

    Now, you need to substantiate this contention, again using your knowledge as your argument's fuel (or evidence).

    Craft a contention and argue it!
    Last edited by Ununoctium; 19 Mar 2015 at 8:33 AM.
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Hi was wondering if anyone has studied/ is learning either South Africa national study or Nelson Mandela. The HTA study guides don't cover these topics and textbooks have limited information for each dotpoint. Similarly HSC Online is the only place to go, but the info is an exact replica of Checkpoints Modern History.
    I'm really struggling to find good, thorough information that follows the syllabus.

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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    Hi.
    Recently got back my assessment task 2 for modern and really disappointed. I only scored a 17/ 25. My ranking for my first assessment was =1, and in this assessment it is =18, and my accumulative rank is now 6.
    I really need to know how to improve. The test was on two questions South Africa National Study, there was a statement/ quote on something to do with apartheid and then a question of 'what is the accuracy of this source in relation to policy/ practices of apartheid' and one on Nelson Mandela and his rise to prominence.
    I am disappointed, do you have any tips for improving on these types of essays.
    The teacher said I was not answering the question in my first sentence even though I thought I did. I just didn't use the same wording of the question. She also said, I had to explain not just what was it, but the consequences so it could have more analysis and to break my arguments into small paragraphs.
    So my questions are:
    1. What and how do you analyse for a national/ personality study essay question
    2. If you had for example three points/ arguments you are going to talk about. Do you do three paragraphs, because some of my arguments/ points were a page long and I got deducted marks as it apparently obscured my argument. Because, if you start a new paragraph, aren't you starting a new idea or point?
    3. also do you need to put historiography in, because the teacher hasn't really said anything about it, but I've been going on tips and apparently the top essays have it.

    Right, now I'm just disappointed by my mark and slightly freaking out as my mid course exam for it is tomorrow!!

  25. #25
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    Re: Modern History General Questions and Essay Help Thread

    My teacher gave us the following structure for all essays and it rEALLY helps me to stop narrating

    Intro:

    General statement (ie. About the topic)
    Make a judgement (eg, if the question is a "to what extent" question say for example, "it is to a critically significant extent that Trotsky's role in organising the Red Army lead to the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Civil War" | if Assess the factors then make a judgement as to which is the MOST SIGNIFICANT (eg. A vitally significant factor in the Bolshevik consolidation of power was the role of the NEP etc etc)
    Then go on to outline the points you will make, also making a judgement about the extent that they are useful to. Make sure to use Analysis words such as critically, vitally, pivotal, marginally, moderately, slight etc etc

    Argument paragraphs

    Step 1 must be an argument (it's not an argument unless you use Because or As) so for example "It is to a critically significant extent that Trotsky's role in organising the red army lead to Russia's victory in the Russian Civil War BECAUSE he kept them United towards a common goal and effectively organised troops making the Red Army into a credible fighting force"
    Step 2: justify your argument with examples, and explain the effect of each example to avoid Narration
    Step 3: Link the argument back to the question ( re answer the question using that argument)

    Conclusion:

    Re answer the question and state why using the points that you used in your argument.

    I'm not sure if every school uses this structure but I know my brother's doesn't and that's why he has a lot of trouble writing essays for history, but I've always used this structure and find it helps a lot

    PS. Sorry for all the Russia examples, I just did my half yearly so Russia is on the brain
    Last edited by nomieee; 23 Mar 2015 at 5:35 PM.
    Occupied likes this.
    2015 HSC

    Standard English: Away, Run Lola Run, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Simple Gift
    Ancient History: New Kingdom Egypt (Ramesside Period), Ramesses II, New Kingdom Egypt (Amenhotep III to the death of Ramesses II)
    General Maths
    Modern History: Russia and the Soviet Union, Leon Trotsky, The Arab/Israeli Conflict
    French Continuers
    French Extension


    ATAR GOAL: 85+
    COURSE GOAL: Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at UNSW

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