International School History - European Schools - S7 4hr option

S7 History Last update - 17 May 2023 Official European School History S7 Syllabus: English, French, German
Oral Bac - Revision Advice

The most important thing you need to do is learn what the questions are asking you to do.

To make life easier for you, I have used exactly the same form of question throughout each of the exam papers that you may choose. The format is derived from the Bac written exam. There will be four questions:

Questions 1 and 2: you will be asked one question about the three sources you have been given to study.  You either have to look for similarities and differences between the sources (compare and contrast) or evaluate the usefulness of the sources (value and limitations).  

Typically students seem to rush this question. Take your time and begin by summarising what the sources mean to you. This should also help to calm your nerves.

If asked to ‘compare and contrast’ make sure you identify similarities and differences. Try to refer to precise details in the sources when making your point. Similarly, if asked about value and limitations make sure you explain why the source might be good ‘useful’ and not so good or ‘limited’.

Review carefully the lessons we did on usefulness.  Students typically acclaim or dismiss a source as biased and subjective/ balanced and objective without explaining why.  Remember that usefulness means more than just reliability.

Usefulness always depends on what questions you ask of the source.  For example, a propaganda poster during the Cultural Revolution is unreliable evidence about how peasants viewed the policy but it is fantastic evidence about how the state tried to convince peasants of how wonderful the Cultural Revolution was. A newspaper cartoon is unlikely to give you a detailed objective view of event but it provides an excellent insight into how newspaper readers (public opinion) felt about an event.

This highlights the importance of when a source is produced. 

Sources produced some time after an event (typically by historians) have the advantage of hindsight. Hindsight means to be able to see events in a broader context of not only what happened before but also what happened after. By their very nature they are interpretative. Sources produced a long time after have the benefit of calm, objective reflection, the writings and research of others and access to archives of declassified documents. This last point is particularly important in the recent history of the Cold War, where since 1991 much previously sensitive secret information has become available.

In contrast, sources produced at the time of event have the benefit of first hand experience – the eyewitness, the newspaper, the declassified government policy document, the politician’s speech – and as such are what the past has left behind. This is the raw material of history and without we could not claim to know anything.  Their value can sometimes simply be expressed through their acute relevance to an event we are studying. A politician’s memoirs, a secret government memo or an interview with a war veteran provide information that might be rare or even unique. They are usually less objective and can be quite emotional, but just think about how our interpretation would change if the politician had decided not to write, if the memo had not been declassified or if no one had spoken to the war veteran.

This highlights the subjective/objective issue that often presents problems for students. Students often conclude that objective = good, subjective = bad. But once again it depends on what you’re interested in and what questions you ask of the sources. If you want to know why something happened or what the consequences were, then ask an historian or a good documentary film maker.  They should be able to give you an objective account of the event, a list of carefully weighed-up reasons, judiciously supported by facts approved by history’s professional community.

But if you want to know what it was like; what the experience of actually living in the past meant to those who lived through it – what we call empathy – then go for subjectivity.  Read the first hand accounts, the poetry and art, speak to the eye-witnesses and get emotionally involved.  This second version of understanding the past requires imagination and sensitivity, just as much as the first version requires reason and accuracy.

So if in the exam you get a source that is objective, its weakness is that it’s not subjective enough to allow us to empathize.  If you get a source that is subjective, its weakness is that it is just one person’s point of view. In preparation think about the range of different types of sources you might expect: cartoons, newspapers, documentary films, speeches etc. and consider in general why these sources maybe valuable and limited.

Final point about usefulness, don’t forget to mention the obvious things. Look out for the purpose of the source, whether it was private or public, the reliability of the author, the language of the source (emotive or rational), whether it is supported (corroborated) by other information you know etc.

The usefulness of sources

This section of the website provides a detailed examination of the usefulness of the most popular types of source found in examination.

Question 3 - You are likely to be be asked to explain something. Typically you will be asked to explain the cause or consequences of something. Look at the syllabus and the 'smaller' questions on the right side of the syllabus grid (red). e.g. Decolonisation


Decolonisation and independence since 1945

S7 4 period


15 lessons


  1. Why was there a process of decolonisation in Asia and Africa after WWII?


  1. What factors enabled the process of decolonisation?


  1. How did former colonies develop after independence?


·     What factors, both internal and external, encouraged decolonization in Asia and Africa after 1945?

·     What were the different routes to independence?

·     What similarities and differences were there in the experience of independence?

·     What factors promoted or limited the economic and social development of the newly independent countries after 1945?

·    What factors promote or limit the political stability and international independence of former colonies?


Identify four or five big points or reasons or consequences and provide some factual support for these points. A typical student weakness is an inability to actually give some factual information to support the points they made.

Question 4:

Will be based on one of the big questions from all seven sections of the syllabus. ie:

What were the major consequences of the Second World War for Europe?
How far was Europe divided by 1949?
How and why were there different conditions for social and economic development in Europe?
How were the living conditions in the states, blocs and regions of Europe different between 1949 and 1973?
How far did economic development stabilize the political situation in Europe?
How and why was there a transition to democracy in southern European states from 1974?
How and why did the communist regimes of central and eastern Europe collapse in 1989?
How successfully did the newly democratic states meet the challenges of transition?
What were the origins and stages of European construction between 1945 and 1973?
What have been the reasons for increasing European integration since 1973?
Why did the Cold War Start?
What was the Cold War?
Why did the Cold War end?
How did a new communist state emerge in Asia?
What differences were there between the Chinese and Soviet systems?
Did the opening up of China’s economy end the Communist model?
Why was there a process of decolonisation in Asia and Africa after WWII?
What factors enabled the process of decolonisation?
How did former colonies develop after independence?

I hope all this helps. e-mail me if you have any further questions.


About I Contact Richard Jones-Nerzic