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Churchill Source Questions


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#1 Joyce_Can_Fly

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 03:56 PM

I am doing A level history (OCR exam board) , I didn't study it at GCSE and have found it increasingly difficult. The teacher i have is in her first year of teaching and isn't as helpful as she could be. She has given us 4 sources and the question 'Use your own knowledge to assess how far the sources support the view that Churchill's wartime leadership was often flawed'. I don't even know where to start and because everyone else in my class seems to know what they are doing I don't like to say I don't understand. I have asked for help before and the advice she gave me was very brief and simple. What I find even more confusing is she has given us a method that is contradicting how our text book tells us how to do it. I have to have this essay in by Friday (she's already extended the deadline twice for me). Please help :( I just can't seem to get anywhere.



#2 Mr. D. Bryant

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 07:55 PM

Welcome to the Forum.

The first thing to say is that A-Level History is not easy, even if you have done G.C.S.E. History (some of my best students didn't do G.C.S.E.).

Before I can go into detail I need to know what Unit you are doing. I suspects it is;

Unit F963 Option B: Modern 18151945: Churchill 192045

However, it may be;

Unit F983: Using Historical Evidence British History: The Impact of War on British Society and Politics since 1900

If you can let me know then I should be able to give you some pointers. If not, then we'll see what we can do.

#3 Joyce_Can_Fly

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 09:58 PM

On the back of the text book it says 'Churchill 1920 - 45 is endorsed by OCR for use with Unit F963 British Enquires of the OCR AS History A specification'

I hope that helps :)

Thank you so much, any help will be a life saver :)

#4 Mr. D. Bryant

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 10:49 PM

Thank you so much, any help will be a life saver :)


Well, let's hope so, but bear in mind that we always urge you to use your teacher as the main source of advice and information.

Right, this looks like a part 'b' question worth 70 marks. This is judged on two different 'Assessment Objectives' (AOs). AO1 could be summarised as how well can you use your historical knowledge to answer a question. Key skills include analysis, judgement and communication. AO2 is analysing and evaluating sources. I'm going to tell you what the mark scheme has to say about a mid-level and a high-level answer.

AO1: (out of 22) A Level 4 answer (9-12) has some analysis and explanation, but not always linked to the question. It will mainly be description and narrative. Some relevant evidence is used, communication is not always clear.

A Level 2 answer (17-19) is mainly focused analysis (i.e analysis which tries to answer the question) leading to a supported judgement based on the content and provenance. In other words, you use the sources to come to a conclusion based on what is in the sources (content) but also looking at their provenance (who wrote/created it, when, whose side were they on etc.) That's easy to understand, but much harder to do. For most people this technique comes with practice.

AO2: (out of 48) A Level 4 answer (21-27) usually deals with the sources one by one, often in order. Probably doesn't cross-reference the sources (i.e. "The assertion by one of his military advisors in Source A that Churchill often lost sight of the bigger picture is backed up by the view of the historian in Source D when he says..."). It may look at the limitations of some sources but doesn't go into detail. Analysis from sources and own knowledge is often not integrated i.e. there is something on the sources, followed by a section of 'own knowledge'.

A Level 2 answer (35-41) groups the sources. Firstly, it looks at all the relevant source material that supports the 'interpretation' (in this case 'Churchill's wartime leadership was often flawed). Try not to do this in source order, perhaps group similar points together. This is why careful reading and planning are so important. Use your own knowledge to back up or disagree with the material from the sources.

Secondly, it looks at the relevant source material that opposes the interpretation, again using relevant own knowledge.

Thirdly, you also need to evaluate the strengths and limitations of the sources in relation to the interpretation. In other words, what strenghts does this source have to help answer the question. Just saying, "This source is useful because the man who wrote it was one of Churchill's advisors.." isn't enough. If you then added "... who had responsibility for assisting the Prime Minister with military planning and therefore know about the strenghths and weaknesses of Churchill as a military leader" would be much better. I don't know whether O.C.R. are happy with you doing this as a separate section or not. Perhaps your teacher has already talked about this.

Finally, you have to come to a conclusion, based on what the sources and your own knowledge, have told you. So, if you feel that almost all the sources and your own knowledge are all pushing you towards saying that Churchill was a total failure as a war leader (bit controversial!) don't then declare that he was a military genius in your conclusion.

The good news is they are not looking for perfection. You are alloowed to include some things that are descriptive, not back up absolutely eveything with own knowledge and fail to evaluate every source to the last detail.

All I have done is paraphrase the mark scheme. These, and thje potentially useful Examiner's Reports are available on this page from OCR.


It's a lot to take in and it takes time to learn. That's why A-Level History is so highly regarded. Have a look and get back to me if you have further questions. Best of luck.

#5 Joyce_Can_Fly

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 11:10 PM

That is brilliant :)

Just one more question, our teacher said that we should pick a main theme throughout the comparative essay. If I were to pick out Churchill's personality as a main theme then mention his relationships with the Generals and maybe talk about his obsession over empire building whilst comparing what each source tells me about this, would that work or am I totally wrong. (I have terrible own knowledge and my teacher had to go through each source with me because I just can't figure out what they mean. Dam I sound stupid :/ )

You have given some excellent tips. My teacher has never referred us to the OCR website before, I should of thought of it sooner :) Thank you

#6 Mr. D. Bryant

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 11:20 PM

That is brilliant :)

Just one more question, our teacher said that we should pick a main theme throughout the comparative essay. If I were to pick out Churchill's personality as a main theme then mention his relationships with the Generals and maybe talk about his obsession over empire building whilst comparing what each source tells me about this, would that work or am I totally wrong. (I have terrible own knowledge and my teacher had to go through each source with me because I just can't figure out what they mean. Dam I sound stupid :/ )

You have given some excellent tips. My teacher has never referred us to the OCR website before, I should of thought of it sooner :) Thank you


If that's what your teacher said, go with it. The ideas you mention are all relevant; Churchill was often impulsive (e.g. the offer of union with France in 1940), expected his staff to work at all hours of the day and night and was always looking at the Imperial angle (e.g he didn't want the USA to replace Britain as the dominant power in S.E. Asia). Don't be too dismissive of your own knowledge; most AS students have to start from scratch. However, you will need to ensure you have enough to work with (examples are always good in essays). The OCR website is designed for teachers, not students. However, it's well worth having a look at it.

Glad it was helpful.




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