Advice Centre > For Parents & Students > Learning Resources > Exam Papers > Subjects > Junior Cycle exam papers: History

The Junior Cycle education curriculum encourages students to make a greater connection with their learning and begin to understand how they work best as learners, preparing them for continued academic studies and future prospects.

The study of History is vital within the goals of the Junior Cycle, which aims to situate Secondary School students within their national and international community. The curriculum is tailored to encourage a dialogue about human actions and motivations, and how these have impacted others over time. To support this, the curriculum is divided into three strands: the nature of history, the history of Ireland and the history of Europe and the wider world.

The History course is assessed through two Classroom-Based Assessments, an Assessment Task and a Final Examination. This article will cover what the Junior Cycle History final examination includes and tips for revising this subject to achieve top marks.

The Junior Cycle History exam

The Junior Cycle History examination is studied at the Common level for all students and is two hours in duration. Set and marked by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), the final examination accounts for 90% of students’ final grades for their History Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA, formally known as the Junior Certificate).

There is only one final examination for History and it takes place in the third year of the Junior Cycle. Mark schemes are based on the learning outcomes that are being assessed. These include:

  • To develop a sense of historical consciousness and empathy by considering people, issues and events from more than one perspective and in their respective contexts.

  • To demonstrate an awareness of historical concepts and be able to debate the usefulness and limitations of historical evidence.

  • To demonstrate a chronological awareness through timelines and be able to make connections between events, people and issues.

  • To work with evidence to apply historical thinking and debate the advantages and disadvantages of different types of historical evidence.

  • To evaluate the impact of specific historical events, including the Great Famine, war, patterns of human settlement, political shifts and the Northern Ireland Troubles.

  • To explore the role of scientific, technological and artistic advancements on local, national and global society.

  • To illustrate the patterns of change across different time periods in a chosen theme relating to life and society (such as Crime and Punishment, Food and Drink, Work and Leisure, Fashion and Appearance, or Health and Medicine).

What to expect in Junior Cycle History exam papers

The History final examination is a total of 360 marks (approximately three marks every minute). There are 10 questions in the paper, all of which need to be answered. Each of these questions will have one or several sub-questions, some of which will require an answer of a single word or sentence, whereas others will require more detail.

Questions can take a variety of formats but will generally include photographs, screenshots, letters, journal entries, articles, or segments of information to analyse, examine and comment on. This could include questions about different historical sources and evidence, investigation processes, the archaeological process (including excavation and dating), medieval life and death, analysing and taking information from written accounts and text, Irish history and how events are still commemorated today or impacting modern life.

Much of the exam asks students to pick information directly out of the provided stimulus materials. Sometimes this will involve closer analysis or drawing reasonable conclusions from the given information. For example, in a past paper, a short extract was given from Tomi Reichental’s I Was a Boy in Belsen. The first question asked students to work out how old the author was when he describes an event in the text by using year numbers given.

How to revise for Junior Cycle History exams

While there are endless ways to revise for the History examinations, there are several methods recommended by teachers and subject experts for their success:

  • Using sample papers and past exam papers to become familiar with the format of the examination and the timing required for answers.

  • Practising the interpretation of images and texts with news articles, archaeological discoveries, non-fiction excerpts and photographs.

  • Engaging with a range of documents to identify biased and unbiased comments, the difference between fact and opinion, and the difference between primary and secondary sources.

  • Preparing timelines of studied events, people and issues—experimenting with visual cues to improve memory and recall.

  • Writing short factual answers or long essay answers, depending on which format the student needs to develop the most.

Edco History exam papers

Edco New Junior Cycle History Common Level examination sample papers include nine exam papers. This collection is made up of eight Edco sample papers and one SEC final examination paper. There are also guides to achieving better grades, access to an online study hub and resources to map progress.

Doing sample exam papers is one of the most effective ways of revising for the History examination because it helps students become familiar with the layout and demands of the paper while also testing their knowledge and identifying topics in need of further revision.

Other resources for revising Junior Cycle History

Also available from schoolbooks.ie is the Shortcuts to Success textbook for Junior Cycle History. Crammed full of exam success tips, illustrations and straightforward language, this book is written by experienced teachers and carefully but thoroughly covers the entire History course. It is designed to help students improve their answers and achieve top marks.

The ACE (Assessment, CBA Preparation & Exam Revision) History textbook is a comprehensive revision resource informed by the examination specification and past SEC sample papers. It comes with useful definitions, a wide range of stimulus material including photographs and newspaper articles, clearly-marked revision topics, helpful hints and practice exam questions. It also includes a Study and Wellbeing section to help students balance their revision and wellbeing.

Finally, there is the Revise Wise Junior Certificate History revision book aimed at providing invaluable revision study plan resources. It is written by subject experts and features a section by section analysis of exam questions, highlighted key terms and an in-depth explanation of the exam paper format.