ISEB Common Entrance History Exam


Common Entrance history is a single paper divided into three time periods: Medieval Realms (1066-1485), The Making of the United Kingdom (1485 – 1750), Britain and Empire (1750 – 1914).

Candidates are expected to study history through sources. Their ability to use sources is tested by an evidence question based on a prescribed topic from each of the three time periods. The evidence question aims at testing comprehension, corroboration by cross-referencing sources, the ability to evaluate sources for utility and skills of deduction and interpretation. In addition, candidates are required to demonstrate their own knowledge. For all three time periods, there are five common areas: war and rebellion, government and parliament, religion, social history and general topics, including local history. Candidates may study events, issues, people or places related to any of these areas.

The paper will be of 60 minutes’ duration. Candidates must attempt one evidence question and one essay question. It is suggested that candidates spend five minutes reading and preparing, then 20 minutes on the evidence question and 35 minutes on the essay question.
There are six assessment objectives, which are specified for students. Please find a full breakdown of CE History, as well as the requisite assessment details and objectives below

Medieval Realms (1066 – 1485)

War and rebellion: Hastings, Matilda and Stephen, Edward I, Edward II, Edward III, Henry V, Henry VI and Joan of Arc, Wars of the Roses up to Bosworth, Henry VII

Government and parliament: establishing royal control, baronial revolts, peasants’ revolt, development of parliament, struggle between king and church

Religion: role and importance of monasteries and nunneries, major church figures, crusades, struggle between king and church, role of church in secular life

Social history: Black Death, Peasants’ revolt, town and village life

General topics: women in medieval society, castles and cathedrals, medieval historical personalities, museum and site visits, art and literature, notable events from this period

The Making of the United Kingdom (1485 – 1750)

War and rebellion: Henry VII, End of the Wars of the Roses, Pilgrimage of Grace, Kett’s and Prayer Book Rebellions, Jane Grey and Wyatt’s Rebellion, Northern Revolt 1569 / Mary, Queen of Scots, War with Spain and in Ireland 1585-1603, Civil Wars, Monmouth’s Rebellion 1685 and Glorious Revolution 1688, Jacobite Risings 1715 and 1745

Government and parliament: Henry VII as ruler, Thomas Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell, William Cecil, Elizabeth and her Parliaments, Crown and Parliament 1603 – 1642, Cromwell’s rule, Crown and Parliament 1660-1688, Union with Scotland and effects, Walpole as Prime Minister, Glorious Revolution

Religion: state of Church Preformation, Henrician Reformation, Edwardian Church and Marian Reaction, Elizabethan settlement, Puritans and Catholics, Laudian Church, Puritans before and during Civil War, John Bunyan and nonconformism

Social history: enclosure and reform efforts in C16th, wool trade in C16th, overseas trade in C16th, C17th or early C18th, Life at court, Elizabethan Poor Law, urban and rural life in C16/ C17/C18, exploration and settlement
General topics: role of women in society, European events affecting England, artists and scientists, writers, notable events from this period

Britain and Empire (1750 – 1914)

War and rebellion: Seven Years’ War, American War of Independence, Napoleonic Wars, French Revolution, Crimea, Indian Mutiny, Boer War, important military leaders

Government and parliament: reform acts, political movements, political thinkers, important prime ministers, Great Power rivalries 1871-1914

Religion: attitudes towards Catholicism, Cardinal Newman, Oxford Movement, Evangelical Movement, Methodism
Social history: Agricultural Revolution, Transport Revolution, Industrial Revolution, inventors/ leading figures in the revolutions, law and order, working-class movements, social reforms and reformers, colonisation and the scramble for Africa, Ireland

General topics: Great Exhibition, development of the Empire, role of women, scientists, artists and writers, major European (non-British) events, museum and site visits (at home or abroad), notable events from this period

Assessment details

Evidence Question (20 marks)
This question will consist of three sources, one of which will be pictorial. The written sources may be primary or secondary or a combination of both. The question will begin: ‘Using ALL the sources and your own knowledge, …’ Candidates will be expected to: demonstrate their skills of comprehension, comparison and differentiation between first-hand evidence and hindsight; their understanding of provenance; their ability to present an overview, supported by their own knowledge.

Essay Question (30 marks)
There will be ten essay choices from which candidates must select one. Each question will be generic and open-ended. Up to 50% of the marks may be awarded for a good narrative essay; able candidates will be expected, however, to express opinions and use their analytical skills.

Assessment Objectives
Candidates should develop their knowledge and understanding of:

  • AO1 chronology;
  • AO2 causes and consequences of historical events;
  • AO3 differences between ways of life at different times;
  • AO4 historical interpretation.

Candidates should develop their skills of:
AO5 historical enquiry through studying a range of sources;
AO6 organising, analysing and communicating, using the appropriate historical vocabulary.