History Resource Cupboard – lessons and resources for schools

History Resource Cupboard - lessons and resources for schools

Teaching Issues

A key gap analysis tool for the GCSE history classroom

HistoryHomework.com has been designed to help you raise standards in your GCSE classes, dramatically cut your workload and provide you with crucial information about your individual students’ progress.

Much thought and planning have gone into creating an assessment for learning tool that works for the GCSE history teacher.

Unlike some teachers and bloggers, we believe that ‘heritage is not history’,  as David Lowenthal neatly put it.

Instead of only learning the agreed content knowledge of a course, we value other forms of disciplinary knowledge too. Students should be taught to apply their content knowledge in ways that allow them to think historically through the lens of different second-order concepts such as cause and consequence, similarity and difference, change and continuity and significance.  After all, these makeup Assessment Objective 2 for GCSE history.

We also believe that students should be able to grapple with contemporary sources (AO3) and make sense of historical interpretations (AO4).

HistoryHomework.com’s varied quizzes are designed to test all of the unique skills that make up what Sam Wineburg described as the ‘unnatural act’ of historical thinking. They have also been designed to give you, the teacher, fingertip gap analysis data to help inform your future planning and teaching.

How HistoryHomework.com tests your students’ content knowledge

If your students are going to succeed at GCSE history they need to be able to recall the content of each unit they study. This is vitally important. As a teacher, you will aim to develop this content knowledge in an engaging and interesting way, as making it memorable will help it stick in your students’ minds. Without possessing this content knowledge your students cannot succeed.

You also will need to assess how much your students know and can remember. That is why many of the questions on HistoryHomework.com are designed at testing this content knowledge.

Some questions ask your student’s to drag keywords to the gaps in paragraphs, others are classic multiple choice style questions.



Some questions ask students to identify whether different statements are true or false.

Other questions ask students to underline the errors in certain statements.

Key terminology

We know that the language used in the history classroom can seem foreign to many students. Key terms that are common to those who hold a university degree are often alien to the high school student. Yet to make progress in history students need to develop a detailed vocabulary which will allow them to make meaning of the topics they study.

How can a student make sense of the Cold War without knowing what the terms ‘capitalism’,  ‘communism’ and ‘containment’ mean?  How can anyone really get the American West without knowing what ‘Manifest Destiny’ means? Who can really understand Anglo Saxon and Norman England without grasping what ‘feudalism’ is?

Therefore a core function of HistoryHomework is to develop, test and re-visit these key terms again and again.

Our connect boxes questions have been designed to allow students to match key terms with their definitions:

Other questions ask students to highlight words to make sentences describing and defining key terms makes sense:

How HistoryHomework.com tests and develops your students’ chronological understanding

Without having a big picture framework of historical time in general and a chronological grasp of each particular unit of work, your students may well be lost in time and space. This will stop them from being able to slot their content knowledge into place and could mean that they remain, in Christine Counsell’s words, ‘chronological lost’.

Without knowing what happened and when your students will struggle to make sense of their GCSE history course. They will get muddled an use the wrong content to answer certain exam questions.

Some questions on HistoryHomework.com have been created to develop your student’s chronological understanding.

Simply date and event matches feature heavily and are repeated to check and test their knowledge.



Questions also test basic knowledge of chronology:


How HistoryHomework.com tests and develops your students’ ability to think historically

Without content knowledge students cannot succeed at GCSE history, yet much scholarship tells us that learning works best when it is conceptual. Thinking about causes and consequences, change and continuity and similarity and difference are therefore vital for success in history.

Many of our questions focus on testing and developing this type of thinking:

Some questions ask students to identify and explain causes:

How HistoryHomework.com tests and develops skills of contemporary source analysis

The 9-1 GCSE history Assessment Objective 3 rightly assesses student ability at handling and making sense of contemporary evidence. After all John Fines once described evidence as ‘the basis of the discipline’. Fines argued that tackling evidence was a right for all students.

Unfortunately GCSE exams have long asked distorting questions (how useful is source X to an historian studying Y?) aimed at testing students ability to evaluate sources which have led many students to consider sources as worthless because of bias.

As we know to really evaluate and use historical evidence our students should be able to place a source in context of the time it was produced…


…as well as consider its content, origin and purpose.


Other questions ask students to work out the message of a source.

How HistoryHomework.com tests and develops your students ability to make sense of historical interpertations

As you may already know, here at historyresourcecupboard we are strong believers in helping students understand historical interpretations. After all the past is gone, history is the  reconstruction of the past so our subject is all about interpretation.

Assessment Objective 4 recognises this and asks students to:

  • Analyse, evaluate and make substantiated judgements about interpretations (including how and why interpretations may differ) in the context of historical events studied.

Therefore we have designed questions that help your students develop this kind of analysis.

For example some questions ask them to work out what an interpretation means, or interpret what it says. This is the first step into helping decide how interpretations differ.

Other questions ask them to decide decide whether evidence supports different interpretations:


How HistoryHomework.com tests and develops your students ability to unlock and make sense of exam questions

Ever since the publication of Dale Banham’s  and Chris Culpin’s Essential Germany textbook way back when, I have been a firm advocate of helping students really make sense of the wording of exam questions. Dale’s work is excellent on this.

Without focusing on the specific content in the exam question, students might select the wrong examples to support their answers.

Without knowing the mark allocation they may not know how long to spend on a question and miss crucial marks.

Without the chance to assess other’s answers they may not know what they themselves should include:

How HistoryHomework.com gives you, the teacher instant gap analysis data to help you improve your planning

Historyhomework.com’s tests are all instantly marked. They have been designed to save you hours of planning time as you don’t have to write the tests yourself and you don’t have to mark them. Once you have closed a test you will get detailed data showing you what individual questions students struggled with.

The data will also show you how well they did in each area of the assessment focus.


All of this data can be exported immediately to excel so you use it at department level or in line management meetings with your SLT link.

Much more importantly, the data can inform your future planning to address any gaps in content and disciplinary knowledge your students may have. You can use it to pinpoint these gaps and plan with real knowledge of your individual strengths and weaknesses.

You can then set the same test, again and again, to see if your subsequent teaching has helped to close the gaps.

To find out more visit: www.historyhomework.com

To sign up as Historyresourcecupboard premium member and gain access to both sites, you could  look at the premium membership option.

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About the author
Richard McFahn
Founder of History Resource Cupboard, Richard has worked for 20 years as a history teacher, subject and senior leader, Advanced Skills Teacher, local authority adviser and history ITE tutor.

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