History deals with the experience of human life in the past. The study of history involves an investigation of the surviving evidence relating to such experience. It brings students into contact with human experiences that are often very different from their own and fosters their developing understanding of the human condition and human motivation. Through its focus on the evaluation of evidence, it contributes significantly to the development of students' skills of critical thinking. Through its focus on research, it allows students the opportunity to develop their skills of independent learning.
The syllabus framework comprises two interlinking parts as follows:
I Working with evidence
II Topics for study
I Working with evidence: (a) Introduction - history and the historian (b) The documents-based study (c) The research study
II Topics for study: Students study a topic that has been prescribed for the documents-study and three other topics. Two of the topics studied relate to Irish history and two to the history of Europe and the wider world. The topics are arranged in two discrete fields of study: Early Modern, 1492-1815; Later Modern, 1815-1993. Within each field of study, there are six topics from Irish history and six from the history of Europe and the wider world.
Differentiation - The syllabus is designed to be taught at both Ordinary and Higher levels. The levels are differentiated through the specification of learning outcomes: there are learning outcomes that are common to all and additional learning outcomes for Higher level. While student at the two levels study the same topics, for Ordinary level students a particular emphasis is placed on the key personalities and the case studies. Higher level students are expected to study topics more fully and to develop a greater level of conceptual understanding.
Leaving Certificate History is assessed at two levels - Ordinary level and Higher level. There are two assessment components:
A research study report (submitted prior to the examination) 20%
An examination paper 80%
At both levels, the examination paper features a documents-based question (linked to the documents-based study) and three general questions. All four questions are of equal value.