One of the subjects that my daughter has chosen as a GCSE exam subject is Ancient History. It is not what I would call one of the main subjects, so you don’t tend to find many resources available for it. And that right there made me a bit nervous. I like having lots of resources to chose from, I like being able to compare and pick what I think is best but with Ancient History you really just get the two Ancient History books, there really is no other option.
So when our books arrived I was a bit apprehensive, were we going to like them, would they contain enough information, practice questions and guidance on how to answer the questions? I felt like a lot was riding on these books.
Well the answer is YES. They ticked all of my boxes. We are only starting to use them in September but I am busy doing prep work so I have been scanning through, reading sections, looking at the questions, deciding for myself if we are going to manage doing Ancient History with just these two books. And I am satisfied we are, in fact I am actually a bit excited about it, yes I did just say I am a bit excited about a GCSE subject. I think it is going to be fascinating.
At a first look the books would be what some would consider heavy on the reading, there is a lot to read, but then again if you think you are only going to be using these two books for an entire subject and you start breaking down what you actually need to cover it is not that bad. For the exam you need to study both period studies and choose one depth study. Each book contains one period study and three depth studies so once you have chosen your depth study there is quite a lot of content that you could ignore if you choose to or simple read through for interest sake. So really on closer inspection it is actually not as bad. (We find History fascinating so I have a strong suspicion that we are going to reading through the extra depth studies purely for our interest.)
Okay so when you get to a section that you are looking at what do you get?
A brief introduction followed by four chapters. Not too bad.
Throughout the chapters you get little blocks on the side of the pages which highlight key places and people, ideas on how to explore further and some study questions. Then at the end of each chapter they have a quick timespan review and practice questions on that chapter. Now I must point out that as far as I can see there are no answers for the study questions or the practice questions, these are intended to be more discussion type questions where you should be able to find the answers for yourself in the text (when I write our more detailed review after using them for a few months I will give our thoughts on this).
Also I must add that they have include quite a few pictures and diagrams where they can, which does help to break the text up.
Then at the end of each section you get a few pages called “what to expect in the exam”. This includes general explanations about the exam, what they are testing, and then some actual examples of exam questions together with suggestions on how to answer them. If you look at these “what to expect in the exam” pages and read them carefully you pick up a lot of good advice and tips on how to structure your answers. I think these pages are going to be key for us.
It does look like a lot when you are faced with these two books and you could panic a bit but before you do think it through – what sections do you need to cover? Look and see how much that really is. Then read through the “what to expect in exam” pages carefully and I think the panicking will ease up and you will realise, just like I did that this is totally manageable and actually if you have a kid you finds history fascinating this is going to be an interesting and even fun subject to work through.
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