Preparing for the Social Studies 11 Final Exam


Getting Ready:


Preparing for the Provincial Examination begins on the first day of classes, in September.  This is why students were given copies of the exam’s table of specifications, along with the course outline.  The outline describes what the course is about; the table of specifications describes what the examiners are trying to test.  Paying attention to both of these and working hard during the term will ensure success in this course.  All semester long, your teacher has stressed using particular study skills – making flash cards was a particular focus.  Bring them out, dust them off, and use them again.


What to Expect:


This test is worth 20% of your mark.  This means that most of your mark was determined in class.  It means that you will have to move approximately 5% on the exam to move 1% in your overall mark.  Ensure that you go into the exam with the best mark possible.  If you are over 55% going into the exam, there is little to no chance of failing.


You were directed to start looking at the Ministry’s exam material with about a month and a half left in the course.  If you did so, great; if you did not, it is late, but not too late to do so now.


Look at the Instructional Research package for Social Studies 11, which is at:



There is also a PowerPoint introduction to the IRP, which can be found at:



The Social Studies 11 exam specifications are at:


·        Be sure to look at all of the posted documents, not just the test itself.

·        Familiarize yourself with the scoring guide – this tells the marker how to look at your test and judge it.

 This exam has two main parts:


1)      Objective questions (single mark answer) – multiple choice and sometimes some true and false or matching items.  The questions are taken from the three sections of the course: Government, History and Geography. 70% of the value of the test is from this part.

2)      Subjective (long answer) questions.  This will involve two essays.  There will not be choices.  You must answer both.  This means that one section of the course will not be covered.  Pray it is not your strongest part. 30% of the value of the test is from this part.


The essays will be selected from the four themes that the examination specification booklet describes:


·        Autonomy & International Involvement. This deals with how we became an independent country and our role in the world at large – both historically and today.

·        Politics and Government.  This deals with our constitution and how we can influence public policy.

·        Society and Identity.  This looks at the people of Canada and their background – our regional, economic and ethnic diversity and what it led to.

·        Human Geography.  This looks at Canada’s place in the world and how ecological and economic affairs affect us and what we are doing to affect them.  Global problems and economic disparity are the main focus.


Notice that these factors overlap between the three sections of the course.  They are meant to.  In most cases, one can find material in two or three sections of the course, which deal with any one of the topics above.  On the final exam, you will be asked to put things together and draw conclusions in the essay question.


Studying and Reviewing:


Plan your studying.  Be sure to spend the most time studying what you do not know, less time with things you are somewhat sure of, and the least time extending the information you have already mastered.  Your first priority must be to eliminate weaknesses.  Set aside time to study in addition to regular homework time.  Set priorities and use a calendar and sticky notes to plan your review.


It is not too late to start doing this with a week or so to go – but it is not ideal to wait until the very end.  Try the following tips to prepare:


·        Dust off the flash cards.  Take out all of the terms and names that you are sure of – it is a waste of time to study them.  Set aside regular short bursts of time to study those you do not know at all and those you have almost mastered.  If you take a few breaks to watch television, pull out your cards and use them every time a commercial break starts.  Look at the cards repeatedly.  When you master terms, pull out the cards and focus on the ones still troubling you. As you study, you isolate the most difficult items to remember – see “How to deal with impossible content” below.


·        Make cram notes.  Do not just reread textbooks; this is one of the least efficient ways of studying.  Go over your chapter questions, because they are already a summary of the most important points.  Condense these notes, read and reread them, then condense them again by writing them out in shorter form, deleting the information you are comfortable with. 


o       Identify the format of the course – looking at the teaching format and the IRP format.

o       Identify key concepts. What are the important ideas? (not just facts)

o       Predict questions – turn headings into questions by adding Who? What? When? Where? and why?


·        Create time lines.  Put graphic elements into them – pictures and diagrams – to make them more memorable.  Create time lines for particular issues. Create them for: the French/English Dispute, Aboriginal Developments, Developments in Technology, the Evolution of Canadian Independence, and the Evolution of Human Rights (including Women’s Rights), and Ecological Issues.  Put these on study cards too.



·        How to deal with impossible items – apply memorization techniques to commit that impossible data to long-term memory.


o       Change the words to a song you like, to include the information you want.  Beware, you will never forget this information!  Using poetic meter was how people memorized vast amounts of information before writing became a common skill.

o       Create a picture of the information – the crazier the better.  If you cannot remember Mackenzie-King’s political experiences, get a picture of him and paste onto it a begging bowl (to represent his governing during the Great Depression), a gun (to represent World War II), a car (to represent the economic boom after World War II) and, perhaps, a pension cheque (to represent his adopting social welfare policies).

o       For lists of information, take the first letter of each word and make a sentence with words starting with the same letters as those in your list. For example, to memorize the cardinal directions, use the sentence “Never Eat Stewed Worms – standing for North, East, South and West.

o       Create acronyms – making words out of the first letter of related terms to remember extended lists of information – like SPERM-G for Social, Political, Economic, Military and Geographical for things to consider in analyzing change in the world.


·        Predict possible essay questions. Ideally, find out past questions. Identify key issues that we have dealt with that might span two or more parts of the course.  These are the most likely suspects.  Be sure to look at the sample exam to see how topics are given.


·        Use planning systems to plot your response to essay questions.  The examiners want to see good information presented in well-organized and well-written form.  Above all, they expect you to answer the question that you were given.


o       Look carefully at the command words (get familiar with the list given in the appendix below).  It will do you no good to write a brilliant response to some other question – you will be marked on how you answer this one.  Do the wrong thing and you will be faulted for it, so understand what command words ask of you.

o       Make sure you know the components of an essay.  You must have an introduction with a thesis statement (one sentence that states what you are arguing), at least three content paragraphs (as many paragraphs as you have points to make), and a conclusion.  The first and last paragraphs are structural and don’t contain proof for your argument. Essentially, your first paragraph tells the reader what you will say, your middle paragraphs say it, and your final paragraph summarizes what you said.

o       Practice making planning charts for essays. 

§         Some essays require that you organize your work in chronological order – asking about something that happened in a particular time period.  Be sure to deal with the whole time period given.  For instance, if you were asked about Canada’s immigration policy in the period 1914 to 2000, then you should create a chart with two or more rows on it – perhaps 1914-1945 and 1946-2000.  In the box next to this heading, you would identify points.  Using this planning tool ensures that you think about the whole time span

§         Other essays ask that you assess something over a time span – as  in the question “Canada was never really an independent country in the period from 1914 to 2000.  First we were a colony of Britain; then we came under American control.  Assess the validity of this statement.”  In this case, create two columns next to the same dates that we used in the last example and label one “For” and the other “Against”.  This ensures that you look at the whole time span and that you look at both sides of the issue.

§         Another useful technique to use when you have to look at the effects of one thing on another is to use the Mnemonic (memory trick) SPERM-G.  Each of these letters stands for a significant category of effects: Social, Political, Economic, Military, and Geographical.  Not all of these will apply in a given question, but several generally will.  This helps you to not get stuck thinking about one narrow area.

§         The critical thinking tool Plus/Minus/Interesting is also a helpful way of categorizing ideas if you have to evaluate something.  Under the Plus column, place all of the positive aspects.  Under the Minus column, put all the negative things.  Other aspects that fit in neither of the first two belong in the Interesting column.  By comparing the columns and looking at the number of items in them and then thinking about the weight each factor should get will allow you to come to a logical assessment – one that might get lost if you just jumped in and started writing before balancing your ideas.


Above all, get familiar with what the Provincial Exam looks like.  Questions will not be phrased in the same way as the teacher-made tests you are used to in class.  The booklet will appear quite large – but bear in mind that there are not many questions on each page, so the test requires a great deal of space.  Make sure that you are careful on the bubble sheet!  Have several pencils and erasers when you go to the exam.  Erase any corrections completely, so the scanner does not pick up two responses.


This is a chance to show what you know and compare yourself with all the other Social Studies 11 students in the province.  Be confident.  Don’t worry, we have covered all the main points.  As for the trivial pursuit questions that may appear in the multiple choice section – well that is just luck of the draw and students will win some and lose some on these.  They don’t have much effect on the over-all mark because their values are too low.


At the Exam – Getting Comfortable:


Get a good night’s sleep before the test.  Watch a comedy show to relax and go to bed early.  Being restful will enable you to perform better than if you try an all night study session.


Make sure you leave for school early, make a trip to the toilet when you arrive (just in case), go to the right room, follow instructions, and settle in for the whole time you have to write.  Although you may leave after an hour, only a fool does so.  Once you leave, your test is over, and all of the things that come to mind in the next hour and a half are of no help whatsoever.


Dress in layers.  If too hot, you can always take off a layer.  If it is cold, you will still be comfortable.  Worry about the test in front of you, not your physical discomfort.


Make sure you have all the necessary tools with you – pens, pencils, erasers, a watch, and glasses – if you need them.  If you have more than enough equipment, things will not go wrong.  If you have only one of an item, Murphy’s Law clearly states that “what can go wrong will, and at the worst possible time.”


Keep an eye on the clock, this is especially important in writing the two essays.  You need to leave enough time to work on both.  It is better to write two mediocre scoring papers than it is to write one good one and not get to the other.


At the Exam – Dealing With Nerves:


Expect to feel nervous.  This is normal – and good, so long as your anxiety is just helping you focus and concentrate.  Being too relaxed may be fine on a beach when sunbathing, but is not helpful at test time.  However, if your anxiety is too great, it affects your thinking.  Great anxiety produces shallow breathing and restricts oxygen flow to the brain.  A little of this causes the “blanking out” feeling that some people get, when they know the answer but can’t seem to access the memory.  At the extreme, it causes people to pass out.  For moderate anxiety, forcing yourself to breathe deeply solves the problem.  For great nervousness (which you can identify by a tightness across the neck and shoulders) try deep breathing and passive relaxation (imagine yourself in your most comfortable place – lying in bed or on a beach, then consciously relax muscles, starting in your hands and feet and moving to your shoulders and neck).


Of course studying for the test is a really good way to reduce anxiety.


Tips for Exam Writing:


Multiple Choice:


·        Read the essay questions, but do not start with them.  Keep the long answer questions in mind as you answer the objective material.  You can mine the test for useful information by looking out for data in the stem of multiple point questions.

·        Look for clue words.  Absolutes, using words like “all,” “every’”, “never,” often indicate a wrong answer as the world is rarely black and white.

·        Do these first.  They give the most marks for the least effort.

·        Always choose the best answer, not the first right answer you see.

·        Read the question carefully!

·        Do not leave blanks on your bubble sheet.  Answer all questions, guessing if need be, but flag questions to come back to later if there is time.

·        Check regularly for frame shifts, where you bubble in the wrong # answer spot.

·        Don’t change answers unless 100% sure that your first guess was wrong. 

·        If you have time at the end of the test, check answers then.  Be sure that the whole test is completed before doing so.


True or False Questions:


·        Look for clue words. 

·        Don’t expect hidden meanings or tricks.  Choose the obvious answer.

·        Don’t change your initial answer unless 100% sure that it is wrong.


Matching Questions:


·        Read directions carefully.  Can answers be used more than once?

·        Read the column with the longest phrase first. 

·        Answer the easiest questions first – especially if answers can only be used once.


Essay Questions:


·        Read the questions very carefully.

·        Look at the command words.

·        Make sure you answer all parts of the question.

·        Be aware of the time you have for each question and ensure you answer both.

·        Organize your answer before you write.

·        Write clearly and ensure that you have a good thesis statement.

·        Use proper essay format, with an introduction, body and conclusion.

·        Proofread and edit neatly and carefully – if you have time at the end of the test.


Good Luck!



Appendix  – Command Terms


Explain.  Give reasons for something.


Support. Give points in favour of something.  You are given the thesis.  You must argue in favour of it.


Analyze.  Consider as many sides of the problem as possible.


Compare.  Give similarities.  Generally this will also involve indicating differences.


Contrast.  This always means to indicate differences.


To What Extent?  The question is telling you that there are at least two positions that are possible. You should look at the strengths of each and draw a conclusion as to which position is strongest.


Evaluate.  Again, there are at least two possible positions.  Weigh them and draw a conclusion.  This is the same as “To What Extent?”


Assess.  This requires that you estimate a value of something.  Judge and use facts, evidence and details to support your judgment.


Discuss.  Present a variety of points of views on a particular topic. Do not limit yourself to one point of view only.


Describe.  Present detailed information about an event, situation, or topic.





British Columbia Goverment Crest



 Exam Preparation Workshop Documents:


Practice e-exams (have your PEN number available to access this).