How to Complete the Compare and Contrast Question for IB History Paper 1

By Jonathan Wilson

(History, English Literature, English Language, TOEFL, IELTS, English Builder, ESOL at The Edge Learning Center)

Hi everyone! This is Jon again, and I’m here to share with you some more tips for the upcoming IB History exam!

In my last blog, we looked at the OPCVL question from Paper 1. That one asked us to look at one historical source provided by the IB, and then assess its values and limitations in light of its origin, purpose, and content. As that was question 2, it seems fitting that we go on to the next question (3), which is the compare and contrast question.

The question will state which of the five sources provided we will have to compare and contrast. From there, we’ll have to identify a minimum of one similarity and one difference between the information provided in these sources. Let’s look at two sources as an example.

2. Compare and contrast the views on collectivisation expressed by Stalin in Sources A and B.

SOURCE A: An extract from an article in Pravda on 2 March 1930, in which Stalin appears to condemn forcible collectivisation.

But what really happens sometimes? Can it be said that the voluntary principle and the principle of allowing for local differences are not broken in a number of districts? No, unfortunately, that cannot be said. We know that in a number of Northern districts of the grain importing belt, where there are fewer favourable conditions for the immediate organisation of collective farms than in grain growing districts, the preparatory work in organising collective work is ignored and instead forms are filled in boasting of collective farms where none exist.

Or, take certain districts in Turkestan, where conditions are even more unfavourable for collective farms. We know that attempts have been made to “overtake and outstrip” the advanced districts of the USSR by methods of threatening to resort to military force, and deprive the peasants who do not want to join collective farms of water and manufactured goods. The party’s policy rests on the voluntary principle, not force.

SOURCE B: An extract from The Hinge of Fate, by Winston Churchill, London 1950, in which Churchill records his conversation with Stalin in 1943.

[Stalin said]

“It was fearful. Four years it lasted. It was absolutely necessary for Russia if we were to avoid the periodic famines, to plough the land with tractors. We must mechanise our agriculture. We gave tractors to the peasants, they were all spoiled in a few months. Only collective farms with workshops could handle tractors. We took the greatest trouble to explain it to the peasants. It was no use arguing with them. They always argue that they do not want the collective farms and would rather do without the tractors.”

[Churchill asked]

“These were what you call kulaks?”

“Yes”, he said, but he did not repeat the word. “It was bad, but necessary.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Oh well,” he said, “many of them agreed to come in with us. Some of them were given land of their own to cultivate in the province of Tomsk, but most of them were very unpopular, and were wiped out by their labourers.”

After a pause he added: “We increased the food supply, and the quality of the grain.”

So, at a glance we see that these two sources are about the same topic, but comparing and contrasting what they say is not necessarily easy. The way that I like to handle it is that I keep track of the information proposed in one source by annotating the text and taking notes. For instance, I might highlight and take the following notes on Source A:

SOURCE A: An extract from an article in Pravda on 2 March 1930, in which Stalin appears to condemn forcible collectivisation.

But what really happens sometimes? Can it be said that the voluntary principle and the principle of allowing for local differences are not broken in a number of districts? No, unfortunately, that cannot be said. We know that in a number of Northern districts of the grain importing belt, where there are fewer favourable conditions for the immediate organisation of collective farms than in grain growing districts, the preparatory work in organising collective work is ignored and instead forms are filled in boasting of collective farms where none exist.
Or, take certain districts in Turkestan, where conditions are even more unfavourable for collective farms. We know that attempts have been made to “overtake and outstrip” the advanced districts of the USSR by methods of threatening to resort to military force, and deprive the peasants who do not want to join collective farms of water and manufactured goods. The party’s policy rests on the voluntary principle, not force.

Notes:

____Collectivization is voluntary according to the Communist party.

____The landscape provides challenges for collectivization.

____Threats of military force exist.

____Many peasants do not want to collectivize.

Now we have some idea what to look for in Source B: We will keep an eye out for information that confirms or contradicts our points from Source A, and we will also be sure to note anything of significance that is not mentioned in Source A.

SOURCE B: An extract from The Hinge of Fate, by Winston Churchill, London 1950, in which Churchill records his conversation with Stalin in 1943.

[Stalin said]

“It was fearful. Four years it lasted. It was absolutely necessary for Russia if we were to avoid the periodic famines, to plough the land with tractors. We must mechanise our agriculture. We gave tractors to the peasants, they were all spoiled in a few months. Only collective farms with workshops could handle tractors. We took the greatest trouble to explain it to the peasants. It was no use arguing with them. They always argue that they do not want the collective farms and would rather do without the tractors.

[Churchill asked]

“These were what you call kulaks?”

“Yes”, he said, but he did not repeat the word. “It was bad, but necessary.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Oh well,” he said, “many of them agreed to come in with us. Some of them were given land of their own to cultivate in the province of Tomsk, but most of them were very unpopular, and were wiped out by their labourers.

After a pause he added: “We increased the food supply, and the quality of the grain.”

One of the chief difficulties of this task is to make connections where it is not obvious to do so. Take, for instance, the points highlighted in the same colors we used before, which designate that we will be comparing these points:

____The peasants relied on tractors, but these proved difficult to use (we can pair this one off with the statements about unfavorable farming conditions).

____The peasants did not want to collectivize or use tractors (this connection with Source A is relatively explicit).

____The kulaks were unpopular with the peasants and were killed (we can connect this one with the mention of military force in Source A).

And we see that one of the points from before was not addressed and one from Source B was also not addressed:

____Collectivization increased the supply of food and quality of grain.

To complete a response, we should write one short paragraph just stating the similarities shared by these two texts and then write another paragraph stating the differences.

For full marks (6), the response must provide “clear and valid points of comparison and of contrast,” as stated in the markscheme. While this does not technically mean that we need a particular number of points to get full marks, I always tell my students to aim for at least two points of comparison and two points of contrast. Lastly, keep in mind that the IB examiners are told to “award credit wherever it is possible to do so.”

 

Thank you for joining me and see you next time!


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