There is a saying that history is written by the victor. In the past, wars were fought over land, resources, and the occasional woman (Troy anyone?) and those conquered seemed to disappear. But is that what really happened? Can we trust the sources we read? Do they give us an accurate account of what passed and do the ones who don’t, do they hold any value?  Being able to critically engage with different forms of information is a necessity for a healthy society. If digging deeper is a skill set you love to utilise then consider sitting the NCEA scholarship history exam. Scholarship is about testing you on your critical thinking, writing, and memory skills.

You can find out about a complete guide to NCEA history here.

Over the years history has been manipulated to suit the agenda of certain people and you have to evaluate how much value we get out of these sources and critique our understanding of past events. It seems to be very simple, bad person vs good person, good person always win, the winner gets to write the story. But how do you know who the good person is? Did they actually win? Was there even a good person? Events and decisions made years ago affect people today and understanding our history is vital for us to build a better future, no matter how challenging that history may be. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to sort through a complex period in history and articulate clearly a response to questions given to you in the exam. The questions will be challenging, but luckily this NCEA history scholarship guide can put you on the right track.

Check out NCEA revision tips on how to tackle history exams questions here.

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Interested? Sign up for scholarship.

The most important thing, you have to be a history student. It would be incredibly difficult for anyone to sit this exam without studying the subject. If you are a student and are after a challenge and enjoy critically examining sources, take the plunge and have a go! Scholarship requires a lot of preparation, so you should decide if this is something you want to do halfway through the year. The next step is to talk to your teacher or the Head of Department about the scholarship exam. The material you cover in class is a great place to start but you will need to read more widely to give yourself the best chance to succeed. When you read through the resources, challenge them, look for the evidence, search for the inconsistencies and of course, the bias.  If you are unsure about the exam, sign up anyway and you can confirm your enrolment later on. There are a few things to be aware of before signing up, there is a fee to enter the exam IF you are an international student but it is FREE if you are a domestic student (you are a New Zealander or have a residence visa). Have a look at the NZQA fees website for more details.

What do I need to do in this history exam?

In this exam, you will be given three questions to answer. Each question is complicated and using your time wisely is crucial. Just so you know, the examiners aren’t that mean and you will know the theme before you go into the exam. The theme itself is quite large and the questions are designed to be as open as possible. For example, the 2021 theme is colonisation, but it does not mean you have to study explicitly colonisation in a certain country. You will be given an exam booklet as well as secondary and possible primary sources. The first thing to do is to understand what exactly the question is asking you to do. By having a look at a sample exam for 2021 we can look at how the questions are likely to be framed.

QUESTION ONE: Historical narratives

Historical narratives and the evaluation of historical evidence allow us to understand the complexity of past historical events through differing historical narratives.

To what extent do the different historians in Sources A–J enable us to have a more complex view of war and its impact?

Your answer must include:

  • a convincing argument substantiated by a combination of material from the resource booklet and your own knowledge of the theme, the significance of war in a historical context
  • a critical evaluation of differing historical narratives
  • a valid judgement about the nature of historical evidence, establishing its reliability and/or its usefulness and/or its limitations.

It seems like a massive question, but it isn’t. You just have to read through carefully to find it, ‘To what extent do the different historians in Sources A–J enable us to have a more complex view of war and its impact?’ Now that we have found it, the next step is to break it apart, are they asking you to do one or two things? Now we have figured out the question, how do we answer it? It is all there in the questions. You will need to provide a critical evaluation, a valid judgment on the evidence, and of course answer the question.

Find out about NCEA history past exam papers here.

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Preperation is key for you to go confidently into your history scholarship exam.
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So I write down the first thing that pops into my head?

Not quite, after reading the resources provided, you need to plan your response. I repeat, PLAN YOUR RESPONSE. This is a scholarship exam and you need to have a clear argument and structure in your writing. Spending 20-25 minutes to plan your writing will increase the clarity, flow, and limit repetition and/or underdeveloped ideas. You will need to identify the evidence that supports your arguments and it also gives you space to include information not provided in the exam. Just using the material provided in the exam is often not enough to gain scholarship as they want a wide range of evidence. When you write up your plan think about the ways you can incorporate the knowledge you already possess into your writing. Integrating your evidence is important as it demonstrates you can control your writing and you know how to use evidence to support your points.

What do I do with the history exam sources?

There are different ways you can approach them. Reading through and underlining important sections and writing over the resource paper can help. Especially as you evaluate their reliability as you go. The resource booklet is not marked and you can write on it if you wish. By doing this, it takes the pressure off your brain as you won’t have to remember everything when it comes to the writing part. While it can be tempting just to use sources that agree with you, using sources that do not support your points can actually be very useful. By acknowledging these sources and pointing out inconsistencies or contexts that may affect their reliability, it improves your credibility as a researcher.

Read about NCEA history study guide here.

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Preparing throughout the year will help you with the history scholarship exam.

What are the basics of writing a history exam essay?

Unlike in English, you need to have your main argument in your introduction. There shouldn’t be any surprises for the reader about what your argument is, be explicit. The introduction holds a lot of weight so give it the time it deserves. For your paragraphs, you have a general format; a topic sentence, explain it, support it with evidence, add in judgements and evaluate the sources you have used. Attending scholarship workshops at your school can help you fine-tune your writing abilities. If you are aiming for an Outstanding Scholarship award, a few keywords to think about when checking your work are; insightful, substantiated, coherent, possible limitations, thoughtful, and multiple sources.

Needing more history scholarship support?

Scholarship is a tricky beast and it is important to have a support group. Meeting with other students who want to do scholarship as well, is a great place to start. Make sure you attend scholarship meetings with your teachers and read the work they set. Discussions are a great way to engage, memorise and practice critiquing information. By giving your judgements with supporting evidence, others can challenge the weaknesses in your point and vice versa. Getting an extra hand outside of school can help improve your chances of success. Superprof has a wide range of specialised tutors that can help you understand and succeed in the scholarship exam. Have a look at our website to find a tutor that suits your timetable and your learning style.

 

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