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How To Really Write An Essay and Get A 6 or 7?

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Hey guys I'm currently a year 12 IB student and started the course last September. I am quite weak at History SL and for my past three tests I only got a 4. Are there any ways/tips/strategies of writing a good essay and get like a 6 or 7 for it?

Cheers!

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Well, it really depends on your writing style and where on the criteria you're losing marks at the moment - Ask your teacher next time you do an essay for him to give you a completed markscheme, so you know where your weaknesses are.

A common early weakness relates to maintaining a line of argument throughout the essay. Remember, when you get a topic you have to develop an argument in relation to it; even if it's something like "Assess the role of Stalin's domestic policies in his rise to power" you would be best served to both argue as to how important domestic policies were as a whole (compared to, say, foreign policy or Trotsky's failures) and how important specific domestic policies were in regards to each other. Make sure everything you write is directly relevant to this argument as you will be extremely pressed for time. The easiest way to ensure this is to dedicate some time (but probably no more than 5 minutes in a 45-minute essay) jotting down a plan with a rough proposed structure in relation to the question. Each point you propose in the plan should be linked both to the overall argument and the other points. You can either go paragraph per point, or paragraph per category, it's up to you. Then, in the body of the essay, you bring in relevant evidence as examples to reinforce your argument. Essay structure varies from person-to-person, but in my introduction I'd introduce the topic and the line of argument I would be taking, before essentially listing my key areas of investigation; then in the conclusion I'd synthesise the arguments related to each area of investigation.

Those are basic history essay-writing skills, now if you want to get a 7 there is, unfortunately, more to it. At our school it's a trend in History that 6s are relatively easy to get, 7s as rare as unicorns. Our teacher explained it to us that what we often missed when we scored 6s was a proper use of historiography and an ability to present and refute counter-arguments (often these two went hand-in-hand). For example, in my exam I scored a 12/20 on my first essay, 15/20 on my second (high 6 and mid 7 respectively). First was longer, more in-depth and featured more stats, but overall it was primarily a descriptive-evaluative essay of primary data. The second evolved into a discourse between two conflicting arguments related to the cause of the Cold War (the topic was something along the lines of "Was the Potsdam Conference the beginning of the Cold War?" in more complex terms). I argued back and forth, reinforcing both sides with historian's opinions (i.e. secondary quotes) and evaluated each argument's merit, before coming to a conclusion. Such a style of essay is said to be more friendly towards a 7, but to an extent requires luck in the type of question you receive.

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Well, it really depends on your writing style and where on the criteria you're losing marks at the moment - Ask your teacher next time you do an essay for him to give you a completed markscheme, so you know where your weaknesses are.

A common early weakness relates to maintaining a line of argument throughout the essay. Remember, when you get a topic you have to develop an argument in relation to it; even if it's something like "Assess the role of Stalin's domestic policies in his rise to power" you would be best served to both argue as to how important domestic policies were as a whole (compared to, say, foreign policy or Trotsky's failures) and how important specific domestic policies were in regards to each other. Make sure everything you write is directly relevant to this argument as you will be extremely pressed for time. The easiest way to ensure this is to dedicate some time (but probably no more than 5 minutes in a 45-minute essay) jotting down a plan with a rough proposed structure in relation to the question. Each point you propose in the plan should be linked both to the overall argument and the other points. You can either go paragraph per point, or paragraph per category, it's up to you. Then, in the body of the essay, you bring in relevant evidence as examples to reinforce your argument. Essay structure varies from person-to-person, but in my introduction I'd introduce the topic and the line of argument I would be taking, before essentially listing my key areas of investigation; then in the conclusion I'd synthesise the arguments related to each area of investigation.

Those are basic history essay-writing skills, now if you want to get a 7 there is, unfortunately, more to it. At our school it's a trend in History that 6s are relatively easy to get, 7s as rare as unicorns. Our teacher explained it to us that what we often missed when we scored 6s was a proper use of historiography and an ability to present and refute counter-arguments (often these two went hand-in-hand). For example, in my exam I scored a 12/20 on my first essay, 15/20 on my second (high 6 and mid 7 respectively). First was longer, more in-depth and featured more stats, but overall it was primarily a descriptive-evaluative essay of primary data. The second evolved into a discourse between two conflicting arguments related to the cause of the Cold War (the topic was something along the lines of "Was the Potsdam Conference the beginning of the Cold War?" in more complex terms). I argued back and forth, reinforcing both sides with historian's opinions (i.e. secondary quotes) and evaluated each argument's merit, before coming to a conclusion. Such a style of essay is said to be more friendly towards a 7, but to an extent requires luck in the type of question you receive.

Woah... Not my topic, but that helps a lot. do you have any advice for dealing with nerves and studying? I seem to do best with discussing, but IDK where to discuss and with whom given so many ppl in cram.

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A lot of what Vren has mentioned are very true!

I would suggest, know the structure of an historical essay like the back of your hand. Know the format so that way you can organise all your ideas accordingly.

Plans are also very helpful to accomplish this.

Dealing with nerves.

  • Honestly nerves is a mental thing. Remember you are bigger than the problem. Often we picture tasks like a huge monster that wil eat us (Well I do anyway). If you can control your emotions and jitterbugs to a certain extent, everything will be okay! Motivate yourself in a positive matter, that you can do good!
  • Be prepared. Study for your exams and really memorize and KNOW the content. Focus on the important themes of each war you learned in class etc. When you are confident about your knowledge, everything will go in place.
  • Breathe. Don't OVER STRESS yourself. Remain calm and really just breathe.

Tips for studying

  • Notes. If you have good organised notes, studying will be a LOT easier. For eample for me, my personal notes are divided in wars. For each war we have studied, my main sections will be the origin (type of war), nature and practices (intent of the war, purpose), causes (long term and short term) and effects and results (consequences, damages). For each section, I write a list of important historians and their views on a certain aspect.
    Little que cards work perfectly for remembering the key stuff! :D
  • Practice. Wether if it is for paper 1, 2, or 3, practice. Take exam questions from the previous years and time your self, and see how much you can write in that certain time period. For example, Paper 1, time yourself 45 minutes for writing an essay.

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Start to know the basics concepts then learn historiography. An example is topic 2.7 Comparing and contrasting WW1 and WW2 (link: http://rudbeck-ib-hi...ing+WW1+and+WW2 ). In your introduction you make a statement from AJP Taylor claiming that WW2 was a rerun of WW1. (or any statement as you want). Then write if you think the statement is true or not (or true to a certain extent). List your reasons (so the examiner will know what each part of the essay will be about.)

In the paragraphs you write something like " WW2 was a rerun of WW1 because xxxxxxxx. On the other hand xxxxxxxxxxxxxx, therefore WW2 can not be seen as a rerun of WW1.

conclusion: "[...]Clearly, the Second World War was not quite a re-run of the First World War, whatever A.J.P. Taylor might have argued." (copied from the page linked, the whole conclusion is on that page)

So the conclusion should be connected to your introduction.

Other useful tips:

  1. Do some kind of plan before you start to write where you make an outline e.g mindmap (around 5-7minutes/essay)
  2. Don't list the facts (like first happened X, then Y)
  3. Refer to the question in each paragraph e.g the paragraph should be relevant to the question. To learn this you could if you practice essay writing check your essay some day after and see if you from each paragraph could figure out the question. If you can then the paragraph is relevant.
  4. The conclusion or summary should bind the essay together. (By reading only the intro and conclusion the reader should get the basic Ideas of the essay)
  5. Don't add any new information in the conclusion.
  6. Learn concepts, use them!
  7. Practice at home, first without time, then within the time limit. Ask your teacher for papers and markscheme.

If you still have problem ask for sample essays and correct them, then ask your teacher for how the examiner have correct the essay. In this sense you will learn how the examiner thinks. Ask your teacher why the examiner gave the essay X points.

Edited by murgel

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My three biggest tips: ensure you can utilize an effective writing style that supports your argument; this is different for everyone, and can take a lot of practice (that's what the two years are for; content wise, the IB History exam doesn't require a ton). Secondly, I cannot stress enough the importance of an outline; even a very rough jotting down of key arguments will aid your thought process immensely. Finally, learn how to use historiography effectively; try not to substitute one historian's perspective for your own. Instead, isolate contrasting perspectives and supplement your presentation. Historiography should be integrated smoothly and logically, rather than replacing your arguments entirely, which can often detract from what coherence your essay possesses. Best of luck.

Edited by Oenos

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