Characteristics of High-Level Answers


Below you will find detailed descriptions of High-Level answers for various categories of responses to the types of questions you will be asked to answer for coursework, tests, and exams. These descriptions are what will be used by your teachers to evaluate your work, thus it is important for you to prepare and write accordingly. These are especially useful for you to monitor your own independent work before the assignment is due.

HIGH LEVEL (Historical Significance): The student constructs a complex narrative that combines contemporary and long-view perspectives to assess the significance of an individual, event, idea or site, demonstrating a relationship between perspectives. Makes critical use of historians’ views to make or evaluate complex claims about significance.


In other words, what distinguishes the performance of students at higher levels is not so much the ability to construct narratives of significance, but the ability to analyze the relationship between them in order to arrive at an overall judgment. A lesser, but nevertheless important emphasis will be placed on the student’s ability to make critical use of evidence from primary sources and from the views of historians about the significance of the chosen individual, event, idea or site. Abler students will acknowledge that more than one judgment is possible because, throughout the study, calculations of significance have been based on interpretations of evidence, which is by nature provisional.

HIGH LEVEL (Source Analysis – multiple sources) Students offer a sustained analysis from their own knowledge which both supports, and is integrated with, analysis of the presented source material. Knowledge will be well selected, accurate and of appropriate range and depth. The selected material directly addresses the focus of the question. Students demonstrate explicit understanding of the key issues raised by the question, evaluating arguments and – as appropriate – interpretations. The analysis will be supported by an appropriate range and depth of accurate and well-selected factual material. The answer will be cogent and lucid in exposition. Occasional syntactical and/or spelling errors may be found but they will not impede coherent deployment of the material and argument. Overall, the answer will show mastery of essay-writing skills.


The student interprets the sources with confidence and discrimination, assimilating the authors’ arguments and displaying independence of thought in the ability to assess the presented views in the light of own knowledge and reading. Treatment of argument and discussion of evidence will show that the full demands of the question have been appreciated and addressed. Presents a sustained evaluative argument and reaches fully substantiated conclusions demonstrating an understanding of the nature of historical debate.

HIGH LEVEL (Context – Multiple Sources) The answer contains a good balance between analysis of all four Sources and of independent (‘own’) knowledge, which is used appropriately and effectively in relation to the question. (This independent knowledge does not require lengthy descriptions but brief and pertinent references to support the argument.) There is a clear judgment on the question. There may be some indication about the limitations of the Sources or what may be required to add to their completeness and explanatory power. The strongest answers may offer views on the general consistency and completeness of the Sources as a set, as well as individually.

HIGH LEVEL (Passage Question – Contextual Evaluation) The responses focuses very sharply on the key issue in the question, using good and very relevant references to the Passages and contextual material. Contextual knowledge is used very appropriately and effectively in relation to the question. (This contextual knowledge does not require lengthy descriptions but brief and pertinent references to support the argument). The answer contains a very good balance between Passage and contextual evaluation in reaching a judgment about the issue. There is clear and substantial evaluation of the different historical interpretations involved by comments on the validity of the arguments in the Passages using the other Passages or own knowledge (not all the Passages need to be evaluated). The writing is fluent and uses appropriate historical vocabulary. The answer shows accuracy in spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

HIGH LEVEL (Test or Exam Question) The response is not perfect but the best that a student can be expected to achieve under the assessment conditions. The response is focused clearly on the demands of the question, even if there is some unevenness. The approach is clearly analytical rather than descriptive or narrative and, in particular, there is a clear and evident (but not necessarily totally full) evaluation of the historical debate bearing upon the topic which is carefully integrated into the overall approach. The answer is fully relevant. Most of the argument is structured coherently and supported by very appropriate factual material – the degree of that support will help to distinguish between answers higher and lower in the Level. The impression is that a good solid answer has been provided. The writing is fluent and uses appropriate historical vocabulary. The answer shows accuracy in spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

HIGH LEVEL (Historical Personalities Question) Student makes a clear evaluation of the significance of the personality within their period of national and/or international history, supported by detailed, relevant and accurate historical knowledge. Student communicates using sustained, logical and cohesive evaluation relating to the significance of the personality within their period of national and/or international history using a range of appropriate terms and concepts.

HIGH LEVEL (Historiography- Historical Debate Question) Student demonstrates extensive knowledge, clear understanding and critical insight into relevant historiographical issues raised in the source. Student demonstrates critical and sustained integration of the source and at least TWO other relevant sources. Student communicates perceptive judgment in a detailed, logical and cohesive response.

HIGH LEVEL (Research Paper and/or History Report) Shows a synoptic understanding of the discipline of history by proposing and justifying, in terms of the requirements for the study, a valid historical question; planning a systematic historical enquiry containing a range of research question based on historical sources and historians’ interpretations, adapting the objectives if necessary in light of research; and reflecting critically on progress made. Provides an outline which identifies an appropriate range of source material and comments critically upon it. Assembles a bibliography of appropriate sources.

Student demonstrates the ability to plan to make effective use the available time. Explains the research plan clearly and cogently. Constructs a complex narrative that combines contemporary and historical perspectives to assess the significance of a person, event, or site. Student demonstrates a relationship between perspectives that may or may not be complementary. Uses appropriate historical terminology accurately. Structure of argument is coherent. The effort is an example of high quality, written expression.