Guide for Students and Teachers: Source Comparison Questions

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This video explains source comparison questions and the best technique for answering them by providing commentary and analysis on points of agreement or disagreement.


Simon Wood

Comparison questions will again always have the same stem to the question.  They will always be started with the words “To what extent do sources B and C agree ...” about a particular issue.  The way the marks are allocated is also extremely important because again it affects the way you should answer the question.  Up to two marks are available for an overall comparison between the sources.  Four more marks are available for specific points of comparison between the two sources.  The overall comparison I think is particularly important because it’s where you make a judgement in terms of the question as to the extent to which the sources agree or disagree with each other.  This must be backed up with some sort of overall judgement of the content between the two sources.  For example, say you have two sources on the Act of Union.  Again, the sources largely agree.  Make that statement, “The sources largely agree about the Act of Union,” and why they do that.

There are then four points of individual comparison.  This is intended for you to draw our specific points of difference between the two sources, or specific points of similarity. Again you may have two sources on the impact of the First World War on the Scottish economy; again you may have two sources that refer to the fact that Scottish shipbuilding did very well at this time.  You must therefore make that point.

Some sort of additional comment is also extremely useful when making that comparison as to the degree, the extent to which they agree or disagree with each other.  Up to four points, specific points of difference between the sources are also available.  Therefore again there are six marks on the mark scheme, but five marks will be applied depending upon how you structure your answer.

The biggest problem that we have is people who are not answering the question.  Therefore if you get the first part right, develop it, you have dealt with that issue.  The other problem is what we call “ghost comparisons,” you must compare specific points in the sources.  Do not say “Source B says this” but that’s not mentioned in the other source.  That will not get you any credit.  It must be a specific point of difference or similarity between the two sources.

Again, good practice but not compulsory, a finishing sentence is a good idea.


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