Turning-point questions turn up frequently on A-level history exam papers. A turning point is an event located in a ‘long’ period of time (usually at least 100 years) that leads to measurable change. The challenge for you is in deciding which of two approaches to answering such questions is the most effective. The first approach involves dealing with a range of possible turning points in a linear fashion, with one written paragraph devoted to each. Every point is evaluated and a conclusion drawn about its relative merits as a candidate for generating the greatest degree of change. An alternative approach is to structure your answer around themes, with turning points compared and contrasted within these themes.
Examiners and teachers often liken the first approach to travelling on a long train journey that has many stops. Each stop might be seen as a point which could affect the course and nature of the journey. The second approach is more like a helicopter trip that involves hovering over sections of land mass, whereby it is easier to get a ‘whole’ picture of what is going on. It becomes more apparent that some parts of the whole stick out as being different, whereas others are linked and show similarity.
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