Understanding Examination Words in History Exams

Explains the common examination words used in exams e.g. Reliability, usefulness, limitation, compare etc. and what it means to aid understanding of what is asked in exams! 

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Examination Words
Reliability ­ Basically can you trust the source? Who wrote or made the source? Have they got a reason to be
biased? Why was the source made and would it affect the reliability? Does the source agree with your own
knowledge? If not then why does it disagree?
Causation ­ This type of question is all about what caused an event although it may not include the actual word,
`Cause'. It may ask `who was responsible for?' or give an opinion about what caused an event and ask you to
decide how accurate it is. In this type of question you obviously need to explain all the causes and give a
conclusion.
Usefulness ­ How useful is ...? You must always write a balanced answer here. It is useful because AND it is not
useful because ... You may include; what is the important information in the source? Is the source one person's
view or an organisation's? Is the source useful because of the person who is writing it? Can you trust them? Is the
source bias or is it propaganda? If the question covers more then 4 marks then you can also use the examples
below.
Limitation ­ What information is missing from the source? Is this information vital to show what really
happened? Is the source biased or does it only give one person's point of view? Does the source exaggerate or
change the way the event happened? Is the author of the source reliable?
Interpretation ­ Give a balanced answer which looks at what is accurate and not so accurate, and fair. Compare
what has been written to what you know. Is it accurate and has the author missed anything out? Is the author
biased or are there any exaggerations?
Study the reasons why the source was made or written? Are they trying to make the reader believe something?
What would someone else believe and why?
Compare: Are the things very alike (similar) or are there Explain: Make clear.
important differences? Which do you think is best? Why?
Contrast: Look for differences. Illustrate: Give examples which make the point clear.
Criticise: Use evidence to support your opinion on the Interpret: Explain the meaning in your own
value or merit of theories, facts or views of others. words, for example you may be asked to interpret a graph.
Discuss: Write about the important aspects of the topic, Justify: Give reasons to support an argument
are there two sides to the question? Consider the or action.
arguments for and against.
Distinguish: Explain the difference. Outline: Choose the most important aspects of a topic.
Ignore the minor detail.
Differentiate: Explain the difference. Relate: Show the connection between things.
Evaluate: Judge the importance or success. State: Write briefly the main points.

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Trace: Show how something has developed from beginning Summarise: Bring together the main points.
to end.…read more

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