The second part of the VCE History (Revolutions) exam is Section A Questions 2 and 3. For these questions you must write two extended responses.
These questions test your understanding of Area of Study Two (Consequences of revolution) in the first revolution you are writing on. Your responses should demonstrate a solid understanding of the new society and its significant events, leaders, challenges and problems. They should also demonstrate effective structure and historical writing skills.
What will the questions be about?
You will be presented with two specific questions drawn from the Area of Study. While questions will naturally vary from one revolution to the next, the most common themes are:
- The impact and significance of particular leaders, groups or ideas.
- How the new regime attempted to consolidate and/or extend its power.
- How the new regime attempted to retain/or and increase support.
- How the new regime responded to the threat of counter-revolution.
- How the new regime responded to the threat of war, civil war and/or foreign aggression.
- How the new regime dealt with dissatisfaction and dissent, both among the people and in its own ranks.
- How and why the new regime used coercion, violence and terror.
- How the new regime attempted to achieve its revolutionary goals.
- How the new regime attempted to resolve economic crises or problems.
- Whether the new regime remained true to its revolutionary promises.
- Whether the new regime became more radical or more moderate over time.
- Whether particular people or groups benefited or suffered in the new society. Did their status, rights and conditions improve, deteriorate or stay much the same?
What makes a good, high scoring response?
You must write an extended response to each question. Each response is worth up to 10 marks (20 marks in total). The exam booklet provides 25 lines of space for each response. The best responses will have these five features:
Answering the question
The task word in these questions is “Explain”. Both responses should be clear, well-informed explanations that answer the question and demonstrate a solid understanding of the topic.
Good responses begin by directly addressing the question in the first sentence or two. They also use and repeat the key terms of the question. Refer to the sample responses below for ways of doing this.
Do not rewrite the question in your answer booklet. This is unnecessary and it wastes time and space.
Using effective structure
Good responses are well organised and structured. Their points and ideas are arranged in a way that supports their answer. They have a clear, logical structure that makes them easy to read.
In previous years the assessors have expected these extended responses to contain three or four significant points, each clearly indicated or ‘signposted’. The easiest method for this is to begin each point with “Firstly,” “Secondly,” “Thirdly,” and/or “Lastly,”.
Writing with clarity
Good answers are clear. They write simply and directly, without unnecessary words or information. They tend to use short sentences (no more than two lines per sentence). They avoid language that is ambitious, complicated or flowery.
A note about handwriting. While your handwriting is not assessed, it is important that you write as neatly and clearly as possible. The assessors read your responses quickly, so messy or illegible handwriting may not help your cause.
Showing historical knowledge
As in the other parts of the exam, this is where the big marks are. Good answers demonstrate a close understanding of the Area of Study by using specific knowledge. They contain a considerable amount of detailed information such as names, places, dates, events, groups, ideas, documents and policies.
Some general tips when answering exam questions:
Fill the space
You have 25 lines for each response. For average size handwriting, this equates to about 200-240 words per response. It should take you around 15 minutes to write this amount.
You can write more if you have to. There is additional space available if you run out of room. The assessors will not penalise you for using the overflow space, provided what you write is relevant.
Note that “writing to fill the space” does not mean increasing the size of your writing and/or spacing out words across the line. The assessors will not be fooled by this.
Avoid dot points
Do not use dot points or numbered points to list information. The assessors expect to see a coherent, fully formed extended response. You will lose marks for writing dot points or a numbered list.
Likewise, do not write multiple paragraphs in the allocated space. Nor should you leave indents or lines blank between points. Your response should take the form of a lengthy paragraph.
Plan your answers
Remember the importance of structure and planning. A good structure will enhance the clarity, focus and direction of your response. An unclear or confusing structure will make your response difficult to read and detract from your historical knowledge.
While exam time is tight, it is worth taking a moment or two to plan each response. Jot down a basic dot point structure that you can follow when writing.
Work out your own guidelines for time and length (e.g. 2-3 lines for your opening statement, 4-5 lines for each point, 2 lines for a closing sentence).
Facts not debates
Avoid mentioning historical interpretations and historians in these extended responses.
Remember, the task word is “explain” – not “analyse” or “evaluate”. The assessors want to see factual explanations of what happened, how and why. They do not want critical evaluations or a comparison of views and interpretations.
Remember the importance of facts and evidence. The very best extended responses will contain specific information from the Area of Study: people, places, groups, events, dates, ideas, laws, policies, documents, statistics, slogans and quotes. Incorporate as much of this into your responses as you can
Here are some sample extended responses for Section A Questions 2-3. Some of the elements discussed above are highlighted in colour. Note: these sample responses show only one approach; there will be alternative approaches for each question.