The most important thing for students to do is to choose a straightforward, answerable question on a suitable topic.

The Subject

Avoid ‘well worn paths’.  There is little new that you could add to our understanding of Hitler, Nazi Germany, Stalin’s five-year plans or the causes of World War I.

Do not waste your time with conspiracy theories.  There are lots of them floating around the internet.  If government inquiries and hundreds of books cannot discover the name of JFK’s assassin, you won’t do it in 2,200 words.

Investigations into popular culture, sport, media etc. are possible but rarely successful.

The ever-popular comparison of a movie with an historical theme with the historical record often works well but comparing two movies does not.

Why not look at something nearer home?  Examiners welcome IAs based on your own region.

Remember the 10-year rule: avoid topics that cover events that have happened in the last 10 years.

The Question

The title has to be a question.  Titles that begin with ‘Assess’ or ‘Evaluate’ are not questions.  The question must be limited in scope.  The question must be simple.  If you can’t get the question on one line, it’s probably not a good one.


Do not start your IA unless you are sure you have a suitable array of sources.  Avoid complete dependence on internet sources.  Examiners are generally not impressed with references to Wikipedia, encyclopaedias, school text books – especially from grade 10 or below!


Language should be formal.  Avoid slang.  Define key terms.  Define terms not in English.  Do not assume that the examiner speaks your language if it is not English!


Write in paragraphs.  It’s good for you as it helps you organise your thoughts better, and it’s good for the examiner who find unbroken texts more difficult to follow.

Answer the question

If you can’t tell what the question was from the final paragraph of section B, the chances are that you haven’t answered it.

Keep the examiner on your side

Double space your work and choose a decent size font – 12 at least.  Maps, photographs, cartoons and other pictorial material can be used.  Examiners have a very sound understanding of many areas of History – but not all areas.  Do not assume your examiner knows everything about your particular topic.  Make sure you define and explain parts of your subject which are outside.


A recognised referencing system should be consistently used.  Some expect page numbers which examiners would prefer although there is no penalty for using a system that doesn’t.  There is no ideal number of references per IA.  This will depend on the subject.  But there should be a reference for each significant point being made.  IAs with fewer than say 15–20 references rarely score well.

Do not use movies, works of fiction or TV shows as references.  Examiners are not impressed with references to Wikipedia and encyclopaedias, nor are they impressed by a series of references from the same source on the same page.


Don’t do it.  Every year students get caught out trying to pass off carefully rewritten material from the internet.