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How to master Chronology at GCSE!

We all know by now that the History GCSE is heavy on content, whichever examination board you are following. The highest level marks require complex explanations but, in order to do this, you have to provide detailed facts to support your argument. A sound grasp of the chronology is key to this - at the very least you need to know the order of events, even if you can't remember the exact dates of these events (although for more on this, see tip 3 below!). How can you explain cause and consequence if you don't know what happened first :)

Tip 1: Make your list -Many of the textbooks have the basic key dates included in a timeline or you may have a knowledge organiser. Start with these first and use them to create your own list, illustrated if possible to help you remember more clearly. Then consider adding other key dates to this list as you become more confident so that you can bring more detail into your answers. A teacher might be able to help you with choosing dates for this if you find the amount of information a bit overwhelming and don't know which ones to choose.

Tip 2: Make it fun - now you have your key dates, it's time to learn them. Unless you are the sort of student who is happy to sit and learn this from a list, you may find the following ideas helpful:


  • Sort cards - either using the many online resources, or creating your own on your device (PowerPoint works surprisingly well for this - you just need full slide view and rearrange them before you start testing yourself), or even good old fashioned paper and pen (after all, we are historians!).

  1. Write the events on one set of cards and the date on another.

  2. Start by seeing if you can get the order of events correct then check against your list.

  3. Now see if you can match the dates cards to the events cards.

  4. Next stage is to start with the dates and see if you can match them to the events.

  5. When you are confident, add further key dates to your sort cards.

  • Timeline games - challenge your friends and family to a timeline duel!

  1. Similar to the sort cards but write just the event on one side of the card and the date and event on the other.

  2. Put the cards in a pile with the event facing upwards then pick the first one and place it showing the date and event.

  3. Deal out three to five cards (only showing the event) to each player - they have to take turns to guess if their event goes before or after the first event. If they turn it over and it is incorrect they have to take another card from the pile.

  4. Then it is the next player's turn.

  5. The player who uses their cards up first is the winner! (and you hopefully have a completed timeline you can take a hot of to help you revise). Sounds complicated but once you get the hang of it, this game is easy to understand and good fun.

  • Ask a friend to test you. Again, using your list, they can ask you an event and you have to give the correct date, or the date and you have to give the correct event. - this helps you both learn!

  • If there are any dates that are still tricky for you to remember, then concentrate on these. You can use your original list to 'traffic light' the dates - green if you know them; orange if you are not 100% confident; red if you have got this date wrong a lot.

Tip 3: Put your new knowledge into action - Look through some past paper questions and see if you are confident that you understand the chronology. Dates are important here! For example, a history of medicine question might ask you about anaesthetics in the 18th and 19th centuries - you need to know, at least roughly, when the main changes occurred during this time. Likewise, a question on Weimar Germany might ask about economic problems at a certain time, maybe 1919 - 1923, or 1929 - 1933. Make sure you answer the correct time frame, it's an easy mistake to just read the words 'economic problems' and ignore the specific dates!

Good luck!


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