Answering Source-Based Questions
The Cambridge International Examinations Pakistan Studies O-Level examination is now divided into Section A and Section B questions.
Section A is compulsory and contains 4 questions worth a total of 25 marks. These questions are linked by a common theme and the first two questions (a) and (b) are source-based questions.
Let us look at four questions which follow this pattern and are based around theme of the War of Independence in 1857.
Full accounts of the earlier scenes of the recent revolt in the Bengal army have now reached us. Several regiments have broken out into open mutiny, murdered their officers and entered into direct rebellion against the British government. At present revolt seems to be confined to the army of Bengal, the largest and most important of the three presidencies, and only about 8000 men have taken part. Everywhere else, according to reports received, all is quiet and the native army is true to its duty.
An account of the events of 1857, written in an English newspaper in June 1857.
(a) According to Source A how widespread was the ‘revolt’? (3)
Source B The public hanging of Indians who took part in the War of Independence.
(b) What does the Source B tells is about British attitudes towards the uprising? (5)
(c) Why did the war break out in 1857? (7)
(d) How successful was Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in restoring the reputation of the Muslims in the eyes of the British in the years after the war? (10)
As you will see, Question (c) is exactly like part (b) questions that have been set for many years. Question (d) is also very similar to the part (c) questions in previous papers. However Question (a) and Question (b) are new types of question. How do we answer them?
(a) According to Source A how widespread was the ‘revolt’? (3)
This question is designed to test your understanding of what a source tells us. To help understand what we have to do, it might be helpful to call it the ‘comprehension question’. You have to read it, comprehend it – and quote information from it. There are 3 marks for this question and you will get one mark for each correct statement. So a good answer to Question (a) above would be.
Source A tells is that the revolt is confined to several regiments. It says that 8000 soldiers from the Bengal army are involved and that everywhere else the soldiers are quiet and doing their duty.
If you wrote this, you would have written three correct statements.
This question is a little more demanding. This time you have to look at the picture and work something out from it. We call this making an ‘inference’ because you infer something that you have been told or shown. So in answering Question (b) if you said ‘It tells us that they thought they should hang the Indians who fought against them’, you would just be describing what you see and would get a low mark.
A good answer would be.
This source tells us that the British had no sympathy for the Indian people who fought against them and that they should be used to make an example of so that the rest of Indian people knew not to resist the British. I can tell this because these Indians are just being hanged, they are being hanged in public.
This is a very good answer because the student has not only worked something out (made an inference), but also supported it with detail from the source.
Let’s look now at same source work-type questions similar to those in Section A of the examination for the Section of the syllabus called ‘The Emergence of Pakistan 1906-1947’
Question (a) (Remember, this is the ‘comprehension question.’)
If you will work in co-operation, forgetting the past, buring the hatchet, you are bound ot succeed. If you change your part and work together in a spirirt that every one of you – no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations you have had in past, no matter is his color, caste or creed … there will be no end to the progress you will make.
Part of Jinnah’s address to the Constituent Assembly in August 1947.
According to Source A what was Jinnah adviding the Constituent Assembly to do in August 1947?
This question carries three marks. You are required to find three statements in the source which tells us what Jinnah was advising. Each correct statement would receive one mark. In this case we could say:
Jinnah was advising the members of the Assembly to work in co-orporation. (One thing) Also they should stop worrying about the past (‘bury the hatchet’) (two things) and ignore their differences in colour, caste or creed (three things)
This should be enough to score full marks.
Question (b) (Remember this is the ‘inference question’)
Source B A Library being divided at the time of partition in 1947.
What does the source tells us about India and Pakistan in 1947?
You could answer ‘It tells us that they divided library books between them’ However that would not be a very good answer, because it is just describing what the source shows and would get very few marks.
You could answer ‘It tells us that India and Pakistan were not getting on very well.’ That would be a better answer, because you have worked something out from the source. You have made an inference. But to score higher marks, you need to explain why the source makes you think that. So a good answer would be:
‘It tells us that India and Pakistan were not getting on very well. It does this because we can see that they even felt the need to go through their libraries and divide up all the books between the two countries. If they had been on good terms, they would have found a better way to do this.
Now you would have written a very good answer with an inference supported with detail from the source.
Now let’s move onto some examples for Picture Bases (Inference Questions). 🙂
Examples of Picture (Source) Based Questions:
Calcutta 1946 riots
Q: According to the source, what can be noticed about the 1946-7 violence in India? 
A painting of a British official of the British East India Company riding in an Indian procession in 1825.
Q: What does the source tell us about the British East India Company in 1825?
A painting of a Mughal emperor, representing the Mughal Rule in India.
Q: What does this source tell us about the Mughal rule in India? 
A Library being divided at the time of partition in 1947.
What does the source tells us about India and Pakistan in 1947? 
The public hanging of Indians who took part in the War of Independence.
Q: What does the Source tells us about British attitudes towards the uprising? 
Children in East Pakistan surrounded by spent artillery shells.
Q: What does the Source B tell us about the situation in East Pakistan in 1971?
Refugees on their way to their new homeland.
Q: What does the Source tells us about the refugee problem in 1947? 
Muslim refugees leaving India for Pakistan in 1947.
Q: What does Source B tell us about Muslim refugees in 1947? 
A cartoon representing one of the problems between India and Pakistan.
Q: According to source, what thing about the Kashmir issue is shown? 
General Dyer’s troops firing on the crowd at Amritsar in 1919.
Q: What according to source is shown about the Amritsar Massacre in 1919? 
Jinnah meeting the poverty stricken Muslims.
Q: According to the source, what kind of man was Jinnah? 
Cartoon showing the wars between India and Pakistan after 1947.
Q: What does this cartoon animation tells us about Indian attempts to resist Pakistan prosper? 
Refugees leaving for Pakistan in 1947.
Q: What does this source tell about the movement of refugees in 1947?
Rioting during the Quit India Movement in 1942.
Q: What does the source tells about the rioting during ‘Quit India Movement’? 
A painting demonstrating the situation of India during Quit India Movement.
Q: How does this painting demonstrate the situation of India at that time?