Gobbet Essay

So, my first exam is called a gobbet paper, so it isn’t the traditional ‘answer two questions in two hours’ paper that I’ve been used to!


A gobbet paper is an exam where you are presented with extracts from primary sources that you have looked at throughout your module. You have to write an analytical commentary about four of the sources that you are presented with to demonstrate the knowledge the module has provided you with – both about the particular sources and their origins, but also about the general themes of the topic.


Given that the gobbet paper is part of a year long special subject module that all third year history students have to undertake, a lot of source material has ben dealt with in the process. It has been quite a difficult exam to prepare for due to the sheer volume of content that we have looked at, but also because of its non-conventional style.


While I have given a lot of attention to the information that we have discussed in the module, I have focused more upon the exam technique, as it is new to me. I have done a number of mock exams under timed conditions, to make sure that I am able to plan and write four commentaries in 2 hours.


I really enjoy working with primary source material, so I’m actually quite looking forward to the exam (weirdly) – but the timings definitely make me nervous.


My exam is tomorrow, so I’ll keep going with my revision and let you know how it went soon!

Posted in Exams, Revision, Stress, Studying| Tagged Exams, History, Revision, Stress, university, University of Leicester | 2 Responses

About Shannon N

Hi, I'm Shannon and I'm in my final year of a History degree. In my spare time, I travel the country (and sometimes Europe!) to watch Arsenal play. I'll be blogging about both the academic and social sides of Leicester life and will hopefully show that balancing both is possible!

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"Gobbet" Exercise Guidelines

A "gobbet" answer is a concise analytical comment on a short extract from a textual documentary source, or - in the case of this Detailed Study - a poster image. It is an exercise in de-construction, aimed at extracting the maximum historical understanding from the image in question. The answer should be brief (400-500 words) and sharply focussed on the issues arising from the source.

These guidelines are not prescriptive, but are offered as an aid in developing an effective "gobbet" answer technique. In view of the fact that the selected posters vary considerably in style and content, not all the points referred to below will be relevent in every case.


  • Ensure that you fully understand the purpose of the poster and thoroughly research the issues which it addresses in the available literature.

    Writing the "gobbet" answer:

  • Although not mandatory, maintaining a tight, three-part, paragraph structure for your answer will aid concentration on the key elements required.
    1.   Context   (approximately 20% of the answer)

  • Place the poster concerned into the context of social, political and military developments in wartime Britain. Explain the purpose of the poster - why was it issued? when? who published it? where was it displayed? at whom was the message aimed? Comment also on the style and tone of the poster and on any interesting features of graphic design.

    2.   Analysis   (approximately 60% of the answer)

  • Analyse in turn both the content and the presentation of the poster. Identify any individuals or events depicted and explain their significance in wartime Britain. Comment on the theme of the poster, explaining its significance at the time. Analyse also any underlying implications contained in the text or the image. What does the poster reveal about the social or political attitudes of these responsible for the design? Comment also on the psychological approach to the subject matter. (For example - is humour being used, and why?) Pay attention to the artistic style employed and comment on the authenticity of the image. Look for fine nuances in the illustration and compare the contents with that of other related posters.

    3.   Evaluation   (approximately 20% of the answer)

  • Evaluate the historical significance of the poster, relating it to the general theme of the Detailed Study. What does it reveal about conditions in wartime Britain? Are the issues raised by the poster typical or exceptional? Does it give rise to any particular problems for the historian? Comment also on the likely effectiveness of the poster, particularly in terms of its presentational attributes.
  • Remember:

    • You are not required to describe the poster nor to write a short essay round the subject concerned.
    • Do not exceed the word limit. Choose your words with maximum precision and economy of space in mind.
    • Above all, think critically!
    [ Index ] [ Introduction ] [ Background ] [ Posters ] [ Chronology ] [ Bibliography ] [ "Gobbets" ]

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