History Resource Cupboard – lessons and resources for schools

History Resource Cupboard - lessons and resources for schools

Teaching Issues

Helping students to write the dreaded ‘narrative account analysing’ question


“Write a narrative account analysing…” is an EDEXCEL question stem for the (new GCSE) Paper 2  that has had many of us scratching our heads.

What’s it actually about?

Are we really getting students to analyse?

Don’t we normally teach students to deal with cause, consequence and significance as higher-order concepts? So why this strange “narrative account analysing” beast? Questions questions questions!

Worse: how do we actually teach the narrative account question?

It was a brilliant experience recently to have met up with others in the same boat on the History Resource Cupboard GCSE course.

Working on this sort of thing, especially if you’re in a small department, can start to make you feel as if it’s you who has somehow got the whole angle on higher-order concepts wrong and that the rest of the world is actually laughing at your stupidity.

It was a relief to find out that it wasn’t just me, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share my solution to wrestling with this monster.

I spent a fair amount of time arguing with the mark scheme before deciding that actually, I just needed to get on with it, find a way to teach it that made sense to me, and which also helped my students to develop and, of course, to get the answer right in the exam.

The mark scheme for these narrative account questions says for level 3, AO2, that it is looking for “A narrative… which organises material into a clear sequence of events leading to an outcome. The account of events analyses the linkage between them and is coherent and logically structured.”

So, seems to me that what they are looking for is a well explained story.

We can do that! So events are described in chronological order and show logical links.

The solution: CHRONOLINK .

This is the advice I give to students:

  • This is a CHRONOLINK question!
  • Start at the beginning and explain how one thing led to another.
  • Make sure the detail in your answer is in CHRONOLOGICAL order and that you LINK one event to the next one with explaining phrases.

By the way explaining phrases:

  • This meant that…
  • This led to…
  • This resulted in…

This also lends to something else I love doing – shading in the different skills in different colours. Peer-assessment and exemplar-answer gold (for me anyway. Any excuse to get the colours out.)

Making it Stick

I’m always in favour of giving exam questions a name which helps the students remember the skills needed for a question. Preferably in a way that glues in to the heads of those students who, with the best will in the world, you know will forget to read the advice that comes in the exam paper.

I’m sure many of you have already confronted this problem, but if not then I hope this is of some assistance. I’ll gladly receive any feedback or development.

By Jess Aitken

Jess works at Withernsea High School in East Riding





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    1. Hi Charlice

      Thanks for this. I am afraid that I don’t think a level 7 answer exists. If you look at the exam board’s mark-schemes they are divided into L1-3 responses for Edexcel and L1-4 for AQA. I would imagine that a bright student should be looking to be able to write a high level answer.

      Here is a link some Edexcel pupil responses which will show you some good answers. https://qualifications.pearson.com/en/qualifications/edexcel-gcses/history-2016.coursematerials.html#filterQuery=category:Pearson-UK:Category%2FTeaching-and-learning-materials&filterQuery=category:Pearson-UK:Document-Type%2FExemplar-student-material

      I hope that helps.

      Best Wishes


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