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History GCSE or A-level: 3 proven ways to raise grades

Is your teenager studying for a GCSE or A-level in History?  Do you want to help them get a good grade?

To get a high grade in history, they will need to be very organised.  History is very content heavy; they will be required to read, absorb, understand and remember a huge amount of information across a two-year course.  This will possibly be the most information that they have had to manage and remember so far in their school career, especially at A-level standard.  Therefore, it makes sense to get it all under control.  Investing time now will pay back tenfold later in the course.  Here are three proven tips to manage their history content and raise grades: 

Timeline History



History Exams – How to avoid being narrative



They need timelines.  Whilst they will not necessarily learn each topic chronologically and they certainly don’t want to start writing chronological essays (which tend to be narrative and get low marks) they will need a timeline showing all the key events and key dates for each topic.  This is absolutely crucial.    The timeline will help to:

  • Understand causation and consequence – how certain events or people influenced future outcomes.   
  • Understand continuity and change – how things stayed the same or changed over time.   
  • They will need to evaluate the importance of events – how significant was the event?
  • Understand similarity and difference.
  • Understand how all the different themes in a topic link together in an overall framework. 
  • Importantly – they need to zoom in like a laser beam on the date ranges they are given in their exam questions and know exactly what happened between those dates. 
Without timelines, this essential knowledge is almost impossible to capture and utilise in assignments and exams.  Encourage them to start their own timelines right now and keep updating them as they work through the course.  


 A*/level 9 tip – don’t just find and download a timeline someone else has written.  They should always make their own as the very act of looking up the event and writing it out helps them to remember it. 


history flash cards

Find a qualified history tutor


Flash Cards

This is an almost fool-proof way to capture and manage key content, and it will give them a ready-made revision resource that they can use for tests, mocks and the final exams.  Invest in some cards from a stationer, find a way of keeping them in order (record box, elastic bands etc) and encourage them to start writing cards for all the key people, key events, key themes and concepts.  They don’t have to write a huge amount on each card.  In fact, restricting themselves to one or two sides of a record card forces them to choose the most important and relevant information.  You might like to introduce a colour-coded system to help them organise the cards e.g. blue for people, green for events, yellow for themes and orange for concepts.  The important thing is to capture key information as they go along and keep it organised. 

 A*/ level 9 tip – they will be able to use these flash cards to revise for tests and exams.  In an exam they will only have time to include the most relevant and important information. A flash card is perfect to capture that key information as they go along. 

History Essay – How to write an A-Grade essay

Critical Thinking

It is important to think critically and analytically in history.  To be honest, experience has shown me that this is often the point that parents do not know or tend not to appreciate when their child first begins to study history.   In history, it is not just about knowing all the content – they will have to use the content in an analytical way.   This is absolutely crucial to getting a high grade.  If they just regurgitate what they know about a topic, however correct they may be, they will never get a high mark.  The task is to use the content as evidence to make an argument, or as a counter argument.  To do this, they need to know why the content is important and how it connects to wider events and the wider context. 

 As they write their timeline and flash cards encourage them to focus on these questions: 

  • Why is this event/person important? 
  • What caused this event? 
  • What was the outcome of this event?   
  • How did this event influence people or future events?  
  • Was this event a success?  If not, why not? 

 A*/ Level 9 tip – By asking questions as they write your timeline and cards, they will begin to think analytically and to evaluate historical people and events.   

5 ways to help your child raise their grade


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Dr Janet Rose

A Bit About Me 

I am Dr Janet Rose, an Oxford University Graduate and a trained teacher.  As well as being a mum, grandmother and education blogger, I am the Founder & Managing Partner of The Tutor Team

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