BlogAncient HistoryWhat to Expect in the HSC Ancient History Trials Paper

What to Expect in the HSC Ancient History Trials Paper

Wondering what to expect in the HSC Trials Paper for Ancient History?

You’ve come to the right place!

In this article, we’ll give you the breakdown of the HSC Ancient History Trials paper and what to expect in each of the four sections it’ll be comprised of.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s jump in!

General Overview
Section I – Core: Cities of Vesuvius – Pompeii and Herculaneum
Section II – Ancient Societies
Section III – Personalities in Their Times
Section IV – Historical Periods

General Overview

The Ancient History paper is divided into four sections, each of which is worth 25 marks and have a recommended time allocation of approximately 45 minutes, coming to a total of three hours.

Each of the four sections are Section I: Core: Cities of Vesuvius – Pompeii and Herculaneum, Section II: Ancient Societies, Section III: Personalities in Their Times and Section IV: Historical Periods.

Considering that each section is weighted equally, we advise you to keep watch of the time and try not to spend more than 45 minutes on a single section unless you have the time to spare.

You will have 5 minutes reading time.

Below is a detailed breakdown of each individual section, complete with tips for how best to tackle them!

Section I – Core: Cities of Vesuvius – Pompeii and Herculaneum

Section I of the Ancient History paper is comprised of multiple choice, short answer and extended response questions. Questions in this section are accompanied by sources that need to be referenced in each answer. There are two Parts in Section I. Part A consists of multiple choice and short answer while Part B consists of a single extended response.

Part A features a number of multiple choice and short answer questions totaling 15 marks. These questions are accompanied by sources and can be related to any aspect of the syllabus. As such, general knowledge here is key; the more you know about Pompeii and Herculaneum in general, the better.

Section I - Part A

Section I – Part A (2010 CSSA Trials)


Part B features one extended-response question worth 10 marks. Unlike the others, knowledge from this question is drawn directly from the third part of the Core syllabus: Investigating, Reconstructing and Preserving the Past. This is the ‘essay’ question of Section I, requiring you to draw on both your own sources as well as the ones provided.

Section I - Part B

Section I – Part B (2010 CSSA Trials)


Tips for Section I:
  • Don’t spend more than 20 minutes on either part unless you’re confident you can complete the section in a good amount of time
  • Stick to the time recommendation of 45 minutes
  • Always refer to and mention any sources provided
 Not sure how to integrate sources into your response? Here’s the quick and easy way to do it! What are the best sources to use? We’ve got you covered for those too!

Section II – Ancient Societies

Section II is comprised of four or five questions totaling 25 marks. The weighting of each question differs between each paper, but they usually increase in weighting, with the first two worth an average of 2 or 3 marks and the last two worth anywhere from 5 to 12 marks. All of the knowledge in these questions can be drawn from any part of the Ancient Society syllabus.

Questions a) and b) generally require short answers, testing small details such as “Name TWO significant burial sites in this period” (2009 – Egypt).

Questions c) and d) require much more detail in order to achieve the highest amount of available marks. These questions feature key words like ‘describe’ and ‘outline’. The level of detail required here is midway between a short answer question and an essay question. The subjects of these questions are focused on broad concepts like economy, agriculture, military, politics etc.

Question e) requires an essay-like answer, and is worth either 12 or 15 marks, depending on whether you have five or four questions, respectively. This question is the extended response question for Section II, and will require you to plan out a structured and deep response exploring multiple aspects of the question in order to achieve full marks. This question often features the keyword: ‘explain’.

Section II (2010 CSSA Trials)

Section II (2010 CSSA Trials)


Tips for Section II:
  • Ensure you have a strong knowledge of historical facts, terms and concepts relating to your society
  • Give yourself time to plan an answer for the extended response question – think of it like an essay and prepare accordingly
  • Leave yourself a large chunk of the 45 minutes to answer the final question
  • Stick to the time recommendation of 45 minutes
  • Always refer to and mention any sources provided
Need help with writing short responses? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

Section III – Personalities in Their Times

Section III is comprised of two extended response questions totaling 25 marks. Part A  is worth 10 marks, and Part B is worth 15. Knowledge from this section is drawn from any of the dot points in the Personality syllabus.

Part A usually requires you to ‘describe’ an aspect of your Personality’s life and is worth 10 marks. This could be a description of a period of the Personality’s life or even a description of the role they played during their time.

Part B usually requires you to ‘assess‘ or ‘evaluate‘ an aspect of your Personality’s life and is worth 15 marks. This is often an evaluation of their impact, representation, or career. This answer often requires a discussion of historical debate surrounding your Personality, so references to modern and classical historians are a must for a Band 6 response. It is also important to address any conflicting opinions, receptions or interpretations of your Personality to achieve the highest Band.

Section III (2010 CSSA Trials)

Section III (2010 CSSA Trials)


Tips for Section III:
  • Reference modern and classical historians
  • Reference archaeological sources
  • Divide your time according to the difficulty of the questions – it’s generally best to give Part B a bit more time
  • Stick to the time recommendation of 45 minutes

Can’t figure out how to master the extended response? We’ve figured out how you can ace yours right here! Need some questions to practice your extended responses? Here’s 15+ Personality practice questions all in the one place!

Section IV – Historical Periods

Section IV is comprised of two essay questions worth 25 marks each. You are only required to answer ONE question, so pick the one you feel most confident with.

As a full 25 mark essay, this question requires the most detail of any question in the whole paper, requiring you to draw knowledge from multiple areas of the syllabus and synthesise it with primary and secondary sources.

These questions require you to make a judgement, and feature key words like ‘assess’ ‘evaluate’ and ‘to what extent’. The subject of these questions can be drawn from any of the key dot points in the Historical Period syllabus, so make sure you study widely and deeply in preparation for this Section.

This is a full essay question, so make sure you create an essay plan before you begin: define your structure, outline your main themes/points, and ensure your argument flows well and tackles many aspects of the question.

Section IV (2016 Singleton High Trials)

Tips for Section IV:
  • Create an essay plan before you begin, detailing your structure and themes
  • Include a multitude of sources (classical and modern historians, archaeological sources, primary and secondary sources)
  • Begin thinking about this question, including the structure and content of your answer, during the reading time
  • Study widely and deeply for your Historical Period

That’s it! The Ancient History exam is a very large and very demanding one, so make sure you’ve covered all your bases when you sit down to write.

If your’e looking for some past papers to practice your writing skills, check out our master list of past HSC Ancient papers here!

And that wraps up what to expect in your HSC Ancient History Trial Paper! Good luck!

Looking for some extra help with HSC Ancient History?

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When he’s not devouring every book, film and television show he can get his hands on, Jack Theodoulou studies a double degree of Education/Arts majoring in English at the University of Sydney. Previously an instructor of classical guitar, Jack began coaching at Art of Smart in 2015. In his spare time, Jack often finds himself entangled in a love-hate relationship with creative writing and an occasional obsession with video games.


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