By Amy Ng (13A01E)
For those potential historians out there, H3 History provides students with opportunities to explore historical issues and events in greater depth. You will first be taught a theoretical understanding of the historian’s craft and how the knowledge of the past is acquired. According to Uday Duggal (12A01B), this is “not much in the way of theoretical lessons, just one or two briefings on how to write the essay [and] fairly mundane stuff about submission formats.”
The “submission format” mentioned is for the 3000–3500 word research essay on which you will be assessed. This essay is to be based on an individual investigation of a historical question or issue which can be about anything, as long as it is approved by Cambridge International Examinations. Some examples of the wacky issues that past year students have come up with include gloriously obscure topics such as “The Folklore of the Inuit: Who was the Sun-god?”, racially provocative topics such as an analysis of the relationship between Indira Gandhi and Richard Nixon (whose private discourse were full of expletives), and even the more common topics such as how old government policies affect Singapore today. Although these topics may sound very interesting, we should also bear in mind the research we would have to do. A good idea might be to learn from Uday who wrote about the partition of India. His research included an interview with his grandma who lived through it.
Now for some of us, just hearing about the topics may have already put us off H3 History. However, for those who are still undecided or would like some extra information, Raffles Press has turned to our Year 6 seniors for some helpful advice. As an undecided History student myself, I started off with one of the most commonly asked questions – Does taking H3 History help in university or scholarship applications? Uday relates that “The teachers all insist that it makes little difference,” but admissions officers can be subjective, so a H3 might just “be [the] attractive cherry on top that differentiates one cake from another.” This may sound all fine and dandy, but taking a Higher 3 subject may also not be such a good idea. History teacher-mentor Mr Edmund Kwok advises students not to take a H3 subject lightly as it requires “perseverance, momentum, stamina and such related traits”. Furthermore, H3 History also requires a lot of independent research “with minimal guidance from the teacher-mentors” as only 2 official consults are allowed by Cambridge. Uday hence cautions that “if you aren’t gifted with an ability to see clear lines of argument, or if you’re not able to disregard distracting minor points, [you might end up having] a torrid time!” Nevertheless, as Theophilus Kwek (12AO1B) puts it, H3 History does give you an excuse for “taking legitimate time off studying for the A-Levels to read about stuff you’re interested in”, as long as it’s related to history, that is.
Does this then translate to a large commitment? Well, according to Theophilus, “Not if you start early, and work smart”. In fact, as Lim Xiao Tong (12A01C) says, “it really just boils down to how well you manage your time”. That may not sound very reassuring, but if you really love History it’s probably going to work out just fine. Theophilus reveals that most of the work actually comes after the busy part of the J2 year, during the June holidays, by which time the sports/arts seasons are over and the CCAs have been passed on to the Year 5s. However, it would also be good to note, that CTs actually comes after the June holidays. So for those who want to take H3 History, make sure to keep your June holidays free and be prepared for some major mugging.
All in all, taking a Higher 3 subject is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Nevertheless, as Xiao Tong says, if you really love history, it will certainly be a fulfilling commitment and a tremendously enriching experience.