Study Tips for History Students


Before class, READ or at least SKIM related readings. Review your notes from last class. Now is the time to formulate QUESTIONS to ask in class

WRITE DOWN as much of the lecture as you can, both main points and examples. Group your notes according to subject, using the outline for guidance.

ORGANIZE your notes as you write them. Either take notes in outline form, or write each new topic in the margin and begin each new point on a new line.

After class, REVIEW your notes. This improves your retention and understanding.


SKIM over the reading assignment first.

THROW AWAY YOUR HIGHLIGHTER! Do not highlight or underline the text. TAKE NOTES in a notebook. The more active mental activities (reading, writing, discussing, etc.) you involve in studying, the more you will remember and understand. Taking notes also allows you to group and organize the material concisely and memorably.

Study the CHRONOLOGIES in each text chapter. They bring out each chapter's main points in proper sequence.


RE-READ your lecture and text notes. But you must do more than that. The more ACTIVELY you study, the more you will recall and understand.

Construct TIMELINES according to course themes. Typical themes include economic, political, diplomatic, cultural, etc.

Ask yourself QUESTIONS of the sort you might expect on an exam, and answer them fully.

Your study time is spent more effectively when you ACTIVELY RECALL AND APPLY course material. Do more than just review.


If you are excessively tense or nervous, try to RELAX a bit by doing such things as closing your eyes, taking a deep breath, shaking the tension from your hands, etc.

READ THE QUESTIONS CAREFULLY to make sure that you are answering the question being asked. Haste and nervousness can lead to foolish mistakes.

WARM UP with the easier questions. If a question seems difficult, skip it and return to it later.


FOCUS on exactly what is being asked—the time period, the subject, the points you will have to cover, etc. UNDERLINE KEY WORDS in the test question.

THINK BEFORE YOU WRITE. Sketch a brief outline of your answer. Quickly note points or examples you will want to include. Use the margin to write down any ideas that come to you while answering another part of the question.

Make sure your ORGANIZATION is CLEAR to the reader. Clearly state your thesis, your supporting points and examples, and your conclusion.

Make sure the RELEVANCE of each point and example is CLEAR to the reader. Do not assume any knowledge on the reader's part. Everything must be EXPLICIT, not IMPLICIT.

If you run out of time but still have more to say, OUTLINE what you had intended to discuss. You might get partial credit.

If your mind goes BLANK, try to relax and think of something else for a moment; then try to recall through association. Alternatively, leave some space and move on to another part of the question or another question. Return later and try to fill in the missing information.

RE-READ. Check for clarity, completeness, grammar, spelling, and punctuation.


READ ALL COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS. Be sure you understand the T.A.’s criticisms and expectations. See T.A.s about any questions or problems. Visit them in their office.

DETERMINE WHERE YOUR WEAKNESSES LIE. Did you understand the material? Did you have problems taking the test itself? Did anxiety interfere with your test?

REORGANIZE YOUR STUDY APPROACH. Develop a study plan to overcome the weaknesses you identified.

GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT. Talk with your T.A. or professor, form or join a study group, or visit the PASS Center in West Hall.