History is an optional subject for upper secondary, and most students doing history have the following subject combinations. Firstly, PCH (physics, chemistry and history) and secondly, BCH (biology, chemistry and history). However, history cannot be done in conjunction with geography and you will have to decide between the two. Most students chose history over geography, as they may have a preference for the subject, or have a university course in mind which requires taking history as a prerequisite. If you cannot decide between taking history and geography, fret not as there are no prerequisites to meet to do these subjects in the IB and thus, you can offer the subject at HL despite not offering it in Y3-4
The humanities department has made an effort in planning the syllabus for Y3-4 around two main themes. In Y3, the topics revolve around the theme of revolution and in Y4, the topics revolve around the theme of the world at war. However, the Y3 topics are not O Level topics, making it difficult for one to buy reference books in the bookshop. Nevertheless, the school hands out many readings, which are very useful.
The assessment for this subject is straightforward: for the mid-years and final-years, you’ll be doing Document Based Questions, DBQ, otherwise also known as source based questions, and you’ll be doing an essay. All within 1.5h.
With regards to homework load, the teachers generally do not issue that much homework, apart from the occasional DBQ and essay practices. However, the teachers do issue a number of readings per topic. Though reading some of them are optional, I would highly suggest you to have a look at them, highlighting key topic sentences and annotating by the sides, to convenience your revision later on. These readings are very useful as they supplement the textbook and notes, which can be very skimpy.
One main concern many students have is the level of “mugging” required to do well in the subject. From past experiences, many students feel that there are simply too many facts and dates to memorize. To overcome this, you can consider writing study notes. These study notes should be structured around your essay paragraphs. For instance, if you are studying “causes for the Meiji Restoration in Japan”, consolidate your lesson material and then write in paragraphs the factors. These paragraphs should follow the PEEL format for organization purposes, and it is important to always substantiate your points with relevant evidence, elaborating on the significance of the evidence.
When writing the essay in your exam, always remember to compare your various factors and determine the most important factor. Without accepted comparison, you will not be able to get a grade 6 or 7 for the essay. Avoid writing speculative or hypothetical comparisons, as history is based on facts and not what-ifs. An example of a speculative comparison would be “if the allies had not been as harsh with Germany when signing the Treaty of Versailles after World War One, Hitler would not have been driven to seek revenge on the allies and World War Two would not have occurred.”
Joel Chang is from the class of 4.13 (2015).