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 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.

The syllabus framework comprises two interlinking parts as follows:

(a) Working with evidence (40% of terminal exam)

(b) Topics for study (60% of terminal exam)

Working with evidence:

Introduction – history and the historian

The documents-based study – 20% of terminal exam

The research study – 20% of terminal exam (completed in Fifth year)

Topics for study:

Students study a topic that has been prescribed by the DES for the documents-based 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.