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VCE Exam Revision: Section B – Essay

Ancient Greece (800–454 BCE)

Students will investigate the features of life during the Archaic Period. They investigate social, political and economic features of Athens and Sparta to 454 BCE. They examine the causes and consequences of the conflict between Greece and Persia.

Key Knowledge points for the exam:

  • The social features of Ancient Greece and how these features may have influenced the development of the ancient society
  • The political features of and changes in Ancient Greece
  • The economic features of Ancient Greece and how these features may have caused social and political change
  • The causes, course and consequences of warfare and conflict
These four points form the backbone of knowledge that needs to be explored for revision for the exam.
This YouTube video gives a breakdown of the difference between the two Greek cultures, The Athenians & the Spartans and how this led to conflict.

How The Fundamental Differences Of Sparta & Athens Led To Decades Of War

Breaking down Historical Inquiry

There are 6 key concepts that make up historical inquiry according to John Whitehouse (2019, pp. 60-61) are as follows “establish historical significance, use primary source evidence, identify continuity and change, analyse cause and consequence, take historical perspectives and understand the ethical dimension of historical interpretations.”


A major aspect of historical inquiry is driven by questions about the past (Whitehouse, 2019, p.61).


When performing a historical inquiry which writing the essay at during the exam is a miniature version of, each of these aspects are needed to be considered. 

Understanding Historical Sources

You may be familiar with primary and secondary sources. These are two types of sources are forms of evidence that allow an individual to demonstrate the legitimacy of the event or timeframe they are trying to explore.

John Whitehouse (2019, p. 62) further articulates this:

“The first-order source provides the foundation of the learning and teaching sequence. The inclusion of second-order sources enables comparisons with the first-order source. They afford opportunities for corroboration of statements about the past. Such sources also enable exploration of aspects of the past that might not be addressed by the first-order source. Third-order sources are located by students when engaged in historical inquiry.”


Below are two different ways in which you can identify primary and secondary sources. It allows you to evaluate different aspects of the source to allow you to form your own opinion as to whether it should be used as a source.


Being able to evaluate a primary and secondary sources will enable you to identify which of the sources should and should not be used as evidence because it will allow you know whether they are reputable or not.


Connecting Causes & Consequences

This photo example below is a tool to use to enable you to draw distinct links between the causes and consequences of certain events. 

Having a clear representation of the causes and consequences will allow you to draw conclusions about certain events and use this as information for within you upcoming exam.

Impact of events

Understanding the causes and consequences of events in ancient Greece is the first step in building up a knowledge base for the exam. Being able to decipher the impact that these events have on the ancient society is the next step.


An Impact timeline visually demonstrates the sequence and span of related events and shows the impact of these events. 



Building up a timeline of events will allow you to form a mental map of the course of events throughout the time period. 


From this you will then be bale to place a range level of importance on each of the events and make note of which events had the greatest impact on the course of events in the local and greater region.

Writing An Essay

The essay section of the exam is marked against 4  particular criteria:

  1. Construction of a coherent and relevant historical argument that addresses the specific demands of the essay question.
  2. Demonstration of historical knowledge that is accurate and appropriate for the essay question.
  3. Use of historical concepts.
  4. Use of primary sources and historical interpretations as evidence

Historical Concepts:

Historical concepts are the ideas and thought processes used by historians and good history students as they study the past. They underpin good analysis and effective historical writing.


The most important historical concepts are “change”, “continuity”, “cause”, “effect” or “consequence”, “significance”, “evidence”, “perspectives” and “interpretations”. Framework terms like “political”, “social”, “economic” and “cultural” are also important.


Historical Interpretations and Primary Sources:

Evidence is material that historians and good history students use to support their argument. Evidence can include primary sources like documents or images, statistics, quotations and historical interpretations.


Be sure to include evidence as you write. Ideally, each paragraph should have at least one or two pieces of evidence. This evidence should be attributed to a particular person, document, source or historian.

Planning For An Essay - Study Activity

There are many different ways that you are able to prepare for writing an essay and planning out the information ahead of time is one of the best uses of your revision time.


Below you will see what is called a Lotus Diagram – it is similar to a mind map but more are more constrained in terms of the numbers of factors that can be considered and the number of substantiating details that can then be added.


Either on your computer through Microsoft Word or another word processing platform or by hand create a table like the image above.


This diagram allows you to choose 8 factors. For each of these, you will then have a different segment of the diagram where you can provide 8 pieces of evidence and analysis to develop the point further.


Creating this table will allow you to break down an essay question into multiple sections and then allow you to provide evidence to support these sections.


Create a Lotus Diagram on one of the following topics: the Ionian revolt, Persian invasions of 490 and 480/479 BCE, the Delian League. Each of these are major aspects that could be featured in the exam.

Sample Questions

Keep in mind when preparing for the exam that the whole exam is to be completed with a 2 hour timeframe.


In the process of practicing the exam section give yourself a time limit of no more than 1 hour to complete the essay. This will best prepare you in building up your time management skills and be beneficial when it comes time to sit the exam.

Here are a list of sample questions, all of which are asking different things

The one below is the previous years exam question:

  • To what extent did the actions of Sparta motivate Athens’s empire-building between the Persian invasion
    (480–479 BCE) and 454 BCE

To what extent was Pericles responsible for the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War?


‘The events of the Archidamian War contributed more to the defeat of Athens by 403 BCE than the events of
the Decelean (Ionian) War.’



How did the economic features of Ancient Greece contribute to social and political changes in the region?

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