As we look ahead to revising for this unit, I offer four key things to remember for effective History Around Us answers, based on the responses we have seen from students so far.
Most schools have now taught the GCSE History B - History Around Us unit and the feedback we’ve had on how much students have enjoyed studying their site has been fantastic.
1. Make sure you make good use of the physical features and remains of your site in each answer.
Ten out of the twenty marks for each question are awarded for AO3 and it’s perfectly fine for the site to be the ‘source’ material that you use for this. But be specific with the examples you select to explain your answer, and make sure these examples actually answer the question.
These might all offer clues as to how and why a site has been used over time – be specific in selecting these to answer your question.
Fewer, more relevant, better explained examples are better than trying to cram in the whole history of your site into any answer.
2. Answer the specific question asked
Questions are created by taking aspects of two or more of the criteria (a-n) set out in the specification and putting them together.
Therefore it is vitally important to read the question carefully and plan your answer before starting.
If a question for instance asked “What challenges are there when trying to understand the appearance of your site when it was first created and how could someone overcome these challenges?” then a good answer will recognise that there are two parts to this question, both of which must be done well in order to reach the top levels.
Remember each of the challenges must be well explained, in addition as to how these can be overcome.
For example we have seen a number of answers from students that explain in detail the challenges of understanding, for instance, a castle’s appearance when it was first created – subsequent improvements, sieges, battles and modern health and safety regulations all presenting the site as looking and feeling very different from when it was first created.
But explaining how historians could overcome these challenges – the physical remains that still exist for instance that give clues as to its first appearance – must also be explained in order to reach the top levels.
3. Turning point and ‘choose a period’ questions, like any other, must be well explained
Sometimes a question might ask you to choose a turning point or a particular period in your site’s history. It’s very important that if only one period or turning point is asked for, students do not choose three or four.
The best answers we’ve seen so far showed evidence of thinking very carefully about what the best period or turning point would be for the particular question before starting to write.
These answers showed the kind of thoughtfulness and analysis expected for the top levels. If it is a turning point question, think carefully about the significance of that turning point:
4. Don’t just revise the key dates, people, and events; think how these could be used an answer
Finally students will need to show that they have strong knowledge of the key features and characteristics of the past of the site in order to reach the highest level in the mark scheme, but this is never to be done in isolation. Rather, this knowledge must be used to support a focused and convincing answer to the question asked.
When revising, it is probably a good idea to think about what key dates, people, events and physical features could be used for in the exam.
The best advice I’ve seen comes from Jen McCullough’s case study on the SHP website in which she states,
‘I think that our revision schedule next year must necessarily include not just factual recall tests, but activities which allow students to practice this skill, e.g. (‘Read the answer … can you tell what the question was?’ … ‘Here’s a list of facts; they are all accurate but which ones are relevant to Question X?’
Candidate-style answers for this unit, together with a Guide to History Around us can be found on our website.
Examples of site proposal forms can be found on our community forum: and additionally to the Sample Assessment Material for History Around Us, there are two sets of practice papers for History Around Us (and all other units) available on Interchange.
Share your experiences and submit your comments below, if you have any specific questions email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and for regular updates about all of our History qualifications sign up for email updates or follow us on Twitter @OCR_History.
Asher Goodenough - Subject Specialist - History
Asher has worked at OCR since September 2015, and is a History Subject Specialist and also looks after Critical Thinking. His degree is in Modern History with a focus on British and American history since the 19th century. Previously, Asher was a teacher of History, Co-ordinator of Critical Thinking, and Head of History, working in schools in England and Germany. In his spare time he is an avid cricket, travel and cooking enthusiast.