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Some thoughts on succeeding in Modern History by a State Ranker - Opening Well (1 Viewer)

RecklessRick

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Hey all,

My name’s Pat, and in the 2015 HSC I received third in NSW in Modern History. Many of you may know me for my infrequent bursts of actual advice or, more likely, my far more common role as an agitator and cynic on bos. Now in this short guide I’m not going to try and fool you - the most effective way to state rank modern history is to work hard and build up a broader depth of knowledge than any of your competitors. As arrogant as it sounds, my success (particularly in the German national study and Speer personality study) largely stemmed from my borderline unhealthy amounts of knowledge about the options I studied. That being said, knowing more than anyone else in NSW about the Weimar Republic is not enough to guarantee you 25/25, or indeed to gain you any marks at the HSC. I doubt that even Richard Evans would score a 25 just by virtue of not being adjusted to 45 minute hand written essays. In order to get the top results in Modern History, you need to be able to express yourself in the most effective way possible. This is perhaps the most straightforward way to improve and what this brief guide will be focusing on.

Opening well
Anyone who tells you the opening does not matter is blatantly wrong. Not only does your introduction immediately signal to markers the quality of your writing, it also allows you to show off the sophistication of your argument and your intentions for the rest of the essay. Never open your introduction by restating the question. You can work within the framework of the question’s phrasing, and you should use the keywords, but don't get caught up in its structure. Your first sentence needs to knock the marker out of their chair and immediately tell them that your essay is something different. Even better students will sometimes lead with weak opening sentences - you are able to differentiate yourself as being amongst the best the second the marker sets their eyes on your work. A large part of this which will be also covered next is how clear your argument is. You should be able to precisely phrase your line of argument in your first sentence. That is not to say that your argument should only be worthy of one sentence in its magnitude. Rather, no matter how complex the thesis is, you should be able to reduce it to one or two sentences which the marker can easily comprehend and understand. It is not necessary to use lots of convoluted vocabulary. No one cares how much you sound like a thesaurus if you can’t clearly and concisely express yourself. Let’s look at a couple of examples using the 2015 HSC Germany questions:

Question: How effective was the Nazi party up to 1939 in dealing with the political, economic and social issues arising from the Weimar Republic?

Bad:
There were many political, economic, and social issues caused by the Weimar Republic which the Nazi party was effective in solving. This essay will explore how the Nazi party was able to effectively solve these political, economic and social issues.

Good:
Whilst the Nazi Party may appear to have solved the kind of political, economic and social instability which characterised the short lived Weimar Republic, many of these supposed gains were chimerical or simply the result of misleading claims. In fact, the true efficacy of the Nazi Party came in its ability to convince the populace that positive change had occurred while social divisions and economic polarity were actually exacerbated by German structural change

The reader at this stage may complain that the biggest difference between the ‘bad’ and ‘good’ examples is that the latter pushes back against the question whilst the former simply accepts it. In part this is because simply by refusing to accept the question’s implication adds a critical element which instantly differentiates from weaker essays. The key to a sophisticated essay however is not simply whether the thesis agrees or disagrees with the question. The good essay can do either, but whichever it does, it needs to be nuanced. For example, I could easily flip the theses in the examples:

Bad:

Though there were many political, economic, and social issues caused by the Weimar Republic, the Nazi Party was unable to solve any of these issues. This is because the Nazis were unable to influence the economy or society due to their programme of racial hatred.

Good:
Though the Nazi Party produced by its own accord new social, economic and political problems based in racial divisions, economic polarity and political confusion, it was generally very effective in replacing the mob rule of the Weimar Republic with a strictly centralised government with effective decision-making capabilities.

The reader might see emerging here the necessity for detailed and specific and detailed knowledge. It is theoretically possible to write sophisticated theses without the knowledge to back it up, but it is far more difficult to pluck correct social, economic and political factors out of the air than it is to simply know about them already.

Don’t memorise your essays
Just don’t. Don’t even bother, it’s a waste of time. I’ve seen it suggested that students can format their notes as essays specific to each dot point which is certainly novel in concept, however the danger with this is that students can very easily be drawn into simply memorising those essays and thinking they’ll be fine. Specifically regarding recent trends in HSC question writing, not only are questions beginning to transcend specific dot points by including other parts of the syllabus, but they are beginning to move outside the syllabus itself. You simply have to read the 2015 National Study questions to realise that it is no longer possible (if it ever was) to gain from memorised essays.

As such, there are three key factors to succeeding in HSC Modern History:
Having a specific, detailed knowledge of the events on which the syllabus is based, including a comprehensive conception of the timeline of events
Being able to precisely form unique and interesting theses in response to questions, the likes of which will immediately catch the marker’s eye
Knowing how to structure your essays and back up 2. with 1. - this comes from practice and from reading other people’s essays.

This is a pretty cursory look at how to succeed in the Modern History course, and I'll probably get around to updating this further in the future. I kind of just wanted to give at least something back to the forum which has occasionally provided me with valuable information and motivation. Feel free to chuck me any quick questions you have.

I hope the mods won’t mind a little bit of shameless self-promotion here at the end: I will soon be giving Modern History lectures for http://stateranklectures.com.au/ for HSC students. These lectures are created with the intention of imparting the knowledge which allowed me to state rank to future HSC students with specific focus on exam technique and skills to improve your performance in Modern history. Should you wish to hear a more comprehensive perspective on how to succeed in Modern History than I’ve been able to convey in this guide, feel free to put your name down for the next lecture!

I’ll also be available to tutor for Modern History, as well as any of the other subjects in my sig bar 4u maths if you’d like to hit me up in PM.
 

MBTMaster

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Good advice on essays but you certainly are arrogant. On what basis do you say you know more about the Weimar Republic than anyone in NSW? I'd say if 1&2 have a better claim than you assuming they did germany, but even that leaves out the dozens of years of former modern history students, oh and I must have forgotten, the academic community. Sheer self delusion.
 

RecklessRick

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Good advice on essays but you certainly are arrogant. On what basis do you say you know more about the Weimar Republic than anyone in NSW? I'd say if 1&2 have a better claim than you assuming they did germany, but even that leaves out the dozens of years of former modern history students, oh and I must have forgotten, the academic community. Sheer self delusion.
Hey mate, thanks for the (slightly vitriolic) feedback. If you'll refer to what I wrote in my post I certainly did not claim to be the most knowledgeable about the options I studied even in my HSC cohort, let alone the state in its entirety. In fact, what I wrote was:

As arrogant as it sounds, my success (particularly in the German national study and Speer personality study) largely stemmed from my borderline unhealthy amounts of knowledge about the options I studied. That being said, knowing more than anyone else in NSW about the Weimar Republic is not enough to guarantee you 25/25, or indeed to gain you any marks at the HSC. I doubt that even Richard Evans would score a 25 just by virtue of not being adjusted to 45 minute hand written essays.
Whilst I can see vaguely how you could draw the implication that I'm suggesting that I know more than anyone else in NSW about the Weimar Republic, that is obviously not the case. The point I am attempting to illustrate is that even the person who is the most knowledgeable about Weimar in the entirety of the world, arguably Richard Evans, would not necessarily score the top marks at the HSC. The reason I say that is, as I went on to say, it's important to be able to structure your essays well in order to impress the markers and attain the best marks.

I'll re-iterate by saying that the implication was not at all that I am the best and the brightest and beyond compare in the entirety of NSW, indeed I would be far from it, but that essay technique is an incredibly important factor in succeeding at the HSC.

That being said, I wouldn't have been terrible at the Germany national study or the Speer personality study given that I received 25/25 raw in both of those, the (equal) top mark in the HSC cohort. Again however, even though I prided myself on (as I actually did say in my post) the reading which attained me significant quantities of knowledge about the subject, I'd imagine much of my success in these areas came from my essay writing technique, the tenets of which I am attempting to share with readers in this post.

Sheer self delusion
Again, whilst I do appreciate the feedback, I would ask you to be a touch more civil in order to retain the constructive integrity of this forum. Good luck in your future modern history endeavours, and I would recommend you brush up on the critical reading skills on display here in order to improve your chances for the WWI document study.

Cheers!
 

Nailgun

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Nah but seriously, solid advice
Quick question how do you approach the exam in terms of order?
For me typically I pick the easiest essay to write first (based off question), because usually if I'm vibing with a question I can hash out a plan for my argument pretty easily
and go through each essay in ascending difficulty, and then do WWI last, but it doesn't seem the most efficient tbh
 

RecklessRick

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Nah but seriously, solid advice
Quick question how do you approach the exam in terms of order?
For me typically I pick the easiest essay to write first (based off question), because usually if I'm vibing with a question I can hash out a plan for my argument pretty easily
and go through each essay in ascending difficulty, and then do WWI last, but it doesn't seem the most efficient tbh
I always did WWI first because you can complete it to full mark standard in far less than 45 minutes which saves you time on other questions. The advantage of doing it earlier is that you can then adjust the length of the rest of your essays with knowledge of how much time you've saved. I typically just did the paper in the order that it's written as I find Germany always gives good background for the Speer essays, however it wouldn't matter too much if I had swapped around the conflict study and the national study. I would recommend against doing personality last as it's very easy to misjudge the timings of the two sections and end up losing marks you simply can't recover in other sections.
 

MBTMaster

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Actually I'm coming first in Modern at the moment, after the first Core Study examination.
 

RecklessRick

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Actually I'm coming first in Modern at the moment, after the first Core Study examination.
That's great to hear mate, keep it up! As I've been trying to illustrate in my post, read as widely as you can, practice your essay technique, and maybe ease off the boredofstudies one-man witch hunts and you should do well at the hsc.
 

JT145

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Whilst the Nazi Party may appear to have solved the kind of political, economic and social instability which characterised the short lived Weimar Republic, many of these supposed gains were chimerical or simply the result of misleading claims. In fact, the true efficacy of the Nazi Party
sheesh what do these words mean :p
 

RecklessRick

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sheesh what do these words mean :p
Hahaha, to be honest vocab isn't actually that important. I always liked to use chimerical because Evans talks about Nazi propaganda with that term and it's a pretty good way to describe it really. I could easily rewrite that sentence and have it work just as well though:

Whilst the Nazi Party may appear to have solved the kind of political, economic and social instability which characterised the short lived Weimar Republic, many of these supposed gains were superficial or simply the result of misleading claims. In fact, much of the Nazi Party's strength came in its effectiveness in convincing the populace that positive change had occurred while, in reality, social divisions and economic polarity were actually increased by German structural change.

In fact, you're better off actually writing it as plainly as possible. There's no point trying to impress the marker with your vocabulary if you have no idea what you mean.
 

charmingman

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Hi RecklessRick :wavey:,

If you were in the position of an average student, averaging 70% in his assessments task's in modern history including trials, what changes will you make.
 

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