History Extension is a very unique subject – the topics you’ll be studying are unlike any other in HSC History, or really the HSC overall. However, it is because of its unique nature that History Extension students often feel very left in the dark, and unsure of what it takes to really nail the subject! I know that I was very confused during my HSC, but after making it through in 2016 (with a mark of 48 and an HTA award for my Major Work), and working with students for the past couple of years, here are my four big tips to smashing History Extension, if you’re aiming for that sweet E4 mark!
Consistency is one of the most important things if you want to get an E4 in History Extension. It is NOT a subject that facilitates instant gratification, and if you want to do well, you have to be consistently chipping away at your major work, class study and your readings (more on that later). The major work especially is not something that you can complete overnight – I don’t care that your imaginary friends sisters best friends cousins mother did her whole major work the night before and got full marks – one you are not your imaginary friends sisters best friends cousins mother, and also, they do not exist.
The depth and detail required to succeed takes more than a couple hours work, so it is important to be goal orientated. Remember what you are working towards, and let that motivate you to keep chugging along!
Flexibility is also super important in a subject like History Extension. The Major Work (and really the entire project!) should be treated like a PROCESS. No one is naturally gifted at historiography, and as you progress further in the subject, you’ll discover new ideas, have your old beliefs challenged, and develop new analytical skills. Your work from your first term, and the work you produce at the end of your studies will be worlds apart!
With that in mind, don’t be afraid to shift and adapt your ideas, question or even topic, depending on new research, new information, or even new interests. Just because you said you would do something in your proposal, does not mean you have to stick super rigidly to it, and it is very likely that you will write multiple drafts and read multiple sources, only to completely scrap them a week (or even a few days!) later! This is totally normal, and is all part of the learning experience in a subject like history extension. As students we should be constantly revaluating what we know, and the more you do this, the greater your final response will be!
Your essays need to have an angle or an opinion – just agreeing with historians is boring! Now, I understand how big of an ask that is – how can we seriously expect a bunch of 17-year-olds who have been studying this stuff for less than a year (maybe even less than a term!), to have a well thought out opinion on stuff that even some seasoned professional academics aren’t even certain about! However, it is important that you develop your voice if you want to do well in this subject.
Do you think history can be objective? Do you think history should be objective? What is your opinion on popular history? Or historical fiction?
These (and many more) are the types of questions you should be asking yourself, AND asking your peers! The best way to form an opinion is discussion – talking to other people in your position, working out what they think (and why they think things) is a great way to work out your own opinion, or may reveal a new angle that you hadn’t previously considered.
If you can’t find anyone to chat to about this, consider joining our history extension debating thread on the atarnotes forums! We regularly post questions on there for you guys to think about, and challenge your ideas.
Reading is a massive part of History Extension, and if you want to do well, you have to read regularly, and widely. However, that doesn’t mean you have to read the entirety of history texts, or every book on historiography under the sun. I think it is a very good idea to have a few solid historiographical texts under your belt, however if you don’t have the time, you can maximise your study time by reading prefaces and introductions. Typically these will summarise the important parts of the history/historiography work, along with outlining the authors thesis. Some of the best quotes I found, and regularly used during my HSC were from the first few pages of books I had picked up!
And that’s it! My four top tips to an E4 in History Extension! If you have any other questions, make sure to direct them to the History Extension Forum!