6 Tips For Studying History, Even If You Hate It!

Almost everyone has one, a history course you just can’t stand to attend. Yet, to finish our degrees we slog through these classes to fulfill requirements. History can seem overwhelming with its mass of information. Courses are often loaded with reading, lectures, and tests. Yet, there are 6 simple tips to make sure the class you sit through won’t wreck your GPA because you can’t remember it’s content.

1. Take Notes

It sounds simple enough, but too often students suffer from boredom in lecture and allow themselves to lose important information to daydreaming or flash games. Don’t make this mistake! You’re already in class, so use that time to take notes, they’ll allow you to make better sense of the course readings.

2. Read the introduction!

Too often students will skip the introduction to primary source material to get to the source itself. Intros tell you who the source’s author is, where and when it was written, and most importantly WHY the document matters. If your history prof requires in-class discussion, the intro is the best thing to read to have basic knowledge of a document. This tip will help you a great deal, even if you don’t have time to finish the rest of the reading!

3. Highlight important passages

texts and documents are assigned in history classes in droves. The amount of reading can be overwhelming so save yourself the suffering of rereading the entirety of course materials by highlighting anything that looks relevant the first time. This will make it easier to produce examples for research papers and tests essays later in the course.

4. Make pre-test outlines

Many college history courses lean away from multiple-choice tests and towards in-class essays. These “blue book” tests can seem overwhelming and often require a student to produce several short essays discussing the course materials. Walking into these tests with no game plan is a terrible mistake, so take advantage on any study questions your prof gives before test day to make some short outlines. It won’t take a great deal of time, and simply writing them will give you the mental map of how to tackle these essays when you’re in class with nothing but a pen and a blank book to fill with writing in less than fifty minutes.

5. The Rule of 3

As an extension of tip number 4, remember the Rule of 3. Namely, that any claim is best supported by 3 good examples. When preparing for any history test or writing research papers, shoot for at least 3 examples to support your claims. This will give your essays good structure, demonstrating your knowledge and keeping your writing concise. Remember, history profs have to read dozens of student essays for each course they teach. They want clear concise writing, not a long ramble of vaguely informative prose.

6. Create connections

College history courses often look at diverse topics spanning great time periods. In these courses facts and dates are often less relevant than ideas and connecting themes. When listening in lecture and preparing for tests, always look for the connections that bind historical events together. It’s not enough to know what happened and when, you need to demonstrate why it happened and why it matters today.

Keep these 6 tips in mind the next time you find yourself in that history class you’re dreading. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to get by as painlessly as possible and even fool your prof and peers into thinking you know a thing or two!

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