Higher History Essay Questions

Higher History

History National 3National 4National 5HigherAdv Higher 

The Higher History Course allows learners to develop their knowledge and understanding of the past through the study of Scottish, British, European and world contexts in a variety of time periods. Options cover topics from the medieval, early modern and later modern periods, and include elements of political, social, economic and cultural history.

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The following document provides an overview of the changes to assessment in Higher History from session 2018-19.


Note for teachers and lecturers: The following guidance was published in August 2016 and details temporary measures that were put in place to reduce the volume of assessment in session 2016-17. The unit thresholds detailed in this document can continue to be applied to both units in National Courses and freestanding SCQF level 5 units from session 2017-18 onwards. However, the information on course assessment is no longer valid. Please refer instead to the most up-to-date course specification document for information on course assessment.

Details of changes to Understanding Standards packs can be found here.

Mandatory information

This explains the overall structure of the Course, including its purpose and aims and information on the skills, knowledge and understanding that will be developed.

This explains the structure of the Course assessment; including the type and method of assessment. It also includes information on Course coverage.

These provide an outline of what each Unit will cover within the Course and detail the Outcomes and Assessment Standards.

Advice and guidance

Assessment support

These illustrate the standard, structure and requirements of the question papers learners will sit. These also include marking instructions.

Provides information on marking instructions and/or the coursework assessment task(s). It includes information that centres need to administer coursework and must be read in conjunction with the course specification.

Information on the production and submission of SQA-assessed coursework for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher.

These documents contain details of Unit assessment task(s), show approaches to gathering evidence and how the evidence can be judged against the Outcomes and Assessment Standards. Teachers/lecturers can arrange access to these confidential documents through their SQA Co-ordinator.

There was no round 2 verification activity at this level in 2017.
There was no round 2 verification activity at this level in 2016.

These provide advice and guidance for teachers/lecturers on learning, teaching and assessment within the Course and its Units.

The following document contains the Course Support Notes and the Unit Support Notes for this Course. They can be printed together or separately.

Where can you take this course?

The essay writing criteria

First things first! Let us have a look at the criteria that the examiners will use to determine the mark out of 20 that your essay will receive. The 20 marks available are broken down into three components:

  1. 4 marks for structure
  2. 10 marks for argument
  3. 6 marks for knowledge

1. The structure of the essay

The marks for structure are awarded for the way you have introduced, developed and concluded your essay. To attain full marks for structure your introduction, development and conclusion must include a number of things.

The introduction should:

  • Set the question in its wider context by giving background information on the event, issue or development and/or explain some of the terms of the question.
  • Indicate the relevant factors or the main ideas that you are going to use to explain the event, issue or development.
  • Have a clear line of argument. This means that even at this stage you should be indicating what you believe to be the most important factors in explaining the event development or issue.

The development should be clearly focused on the question and should not just be a story or narrative of what happened.

The conclusion should:

  • Summarise the argument (the points you have made to explain the event, development or issue)
  • Have balance by showing that some things are more important than others and that there may be differing views.
  • Come to an overall judgment directly related to the question

2. Argument within the essay

The marks for argument are given for the way you have used the evidence you present to explain an event, development or cause. When you create an argument you have to be careful that you are not telling a story of what happened in the past.

You must make the argument that you believe X happened in some part because of Y. Present the evidence that shows Y was important. Then explain why you believe the evidence you have presented in relation to Y explains X. This will ensure that you are using the evidence to support an argument and not just to tell a ripping historical yarn!

The argument should be:

  • Focused directly on the question
  • Supported by evidence
  • Constant and balanced throughout the essay
  • Aware of alternative interpretations and debate (views of historians)

3. Knowledge

The marks available for knowledge are for evidence that you present that is both relevant to the argument and accurate. These marks are given for points of evidence and points which are developed further.

Before we go any further we are going to introduce a question that should be familiar to most people who have studied Standard Grade History. You will have had practice writing this as an 8 mark essay and now we are going to show how you would plan and write this as a 20 mark Higher History.


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