This course is designed to help teachers of AQA GCSE History help their students to reach their full potential and show what is required to attain the top grades.

The course will focus on what is required to gain top levels in examination questions and how you can effectively teach this in the classroom. There will be guidance on how to get students to analyse sources and interpretations effectively and how to use that technique, combined with their knowledge, to reach level 4. The course will also look at ways to enable students to write effective essays in the time allowed.


  • Increased understanding of classroom strategies to help students boost their exam performance and achieve grades 7-9.
  • Practical ideas on how to structure answers, particularly the ones students find tricky
  • Materials and ideas to use in the classroom to improve feedback and revision
DATES & LOCATION Online | Friday 02 July 2021
  • Heads of Humanities
  • Head of History
  • Teachers of GCSE History
  • Anyone new to AQA GCSE
IN-SCHOOL You can also book this as an In-School Course
  • A specially prepared folder of detailed notes, practical advice and guidance
  • Notes prepared by the educational experts leading the course
  • Expert produced PowerPoint presentations
  • CPD Certificate of attendance


10:00 -10.45am What are the qualities of the grade 7-9 student?  

  • Identifying what students need to have to come into this category
  • Grade 9 – these are the exceptional students – what makes the difference and how can you support this in the classroom?
  • How do you stretch those students effectively whilst teaching mixed ability classes?
  • What can stop an able student achieving top grades?

10.45-11.00am Coffee break 

11:00-11.30am Sources at GCSE – what makes them difficult and how to overcome those difficulties. 

Students find reading sources tricky – so there will be practical ideas of how to approach this in a classroom and find the balance between strategies that help the students remember the components of a good answer and avoid the dreaded generic answers, particularly on provenance.

  • Practical ideas for helping students read/analyse a source effectively
  • What key things do students need to look for in sources?
  • Tips for dealing with provenance – helping students to make specific and valid comments and avoiding the generic
  • How to help students to apply their knowledge in a relevant way that actually addresses the question set
  • Examples of Level 4 answers to source questions and ideas on how to use these with your students

11.30-12.00 Interpretations at GCSE – what are the examiners really looking for and how can you help the students answer these questions effectively?

Students often use completely the wrong technique on interpretations questions on both Papers 1 and 2. Learn from an examiner what response the question requires and how you can approach that in a classroom setting.

  • Looking at the common errors students make – and tips on how to avoid this
  • Practical ideas for teaching interpretations for both papers.
  • Examples of level 4 answers

12:00 -1.00 What does COMPLEX mean – how to get students thinking in this way – with a focus on explanation, significance, and how to avoid a narrative answer.

Many of the 8 mark questions (and essays) involve students explaining historical events – often these answers lapse into the narrative. Here we will look at ways of avoiding the lapse into the narrative or simply regurgitating facts. You will see examples of answers that reach level 4 – complex explanation and see how this type of thinking can be encouraged in the classroom.

  • How to encourage students to write more nuanced answers which show an in depth understanding of events – e.g. In what ways were the lives of women affected by Nazi policies – what would constitute a complex explanation of this type of question.
  • How can students write an account of events without simply telling the story – practical approaches for the classroom
  • Teaching significance on the thematic option
  • Guidance on effective planning to help the students

1.00 – 2.00pm LUNCH 

2.00 – 2.45pm Essays – how to challenge able students to reach level 4 on the essay questions 

This will cover how to approach the essay questions – some areas require specific technique and this will be explained. Looking at what makes a sustained argument and how this is most effectively structured. Practical ideas on how to prepare the students for writing essays and how to take them beyond the textbook.

  • How to approach the 12 mark bullet point questions – e.g. What was the main reason Hitler became dictator of Germany: political weaknesses of Weimar or economic problems?
  • 16 mark essay on thematic studies – what must be included to reach top level and how the students can cover this without running out of time
  • How the 16 mark essays require a common approach

2.45-2.50pm Afternoon tea 

2.50-3.30pm Historic environment – with a particular focus on Kenilworth Castle and the White Tower 

This is an area that many history teachers seem to worry about but it’s a fantastic opportunity for students to gain high marks if they are prepared properly. Guidance will be given on how to teach it without taking too much time; how to use the resource park provided by AQA effectively and without having to reinvent the wheel. An exploration of likely questions and key points on each site will be covered with ideas to take into the classroom.

3.30-3.45 Revision techniques – Ideas for making the content stick

History is a content-heavy GCSE so we will finish with practical, fun and effective revision activities for the classroom and for the students to use at home. How to use retrieval practice throughout the course.

Helena Clarke

Helena has over a decade of teaching and examining experience. She has taught for 14 years in Cheshire at one of the largest comprehensive schools in in the country, and has extensive experience with students of all abilities.  Results in History are consistently  above 80% 4-9, over 18% gained grade 9s.  She is an experienced national presenter and author of GCSE History textbooks for the current specification, as well as being an Assistant Principal Examiner with a leading awarding body. She is also a publisher of History books and one of her recent books, Normans GCSE book, has sold  over 10,000 copies.  She  also presents courses for awarding bodies and to other schools.