I’ve found that my students in New York City, whether they’re studying for history tests in high school, for AP history exams, or just generally trying to learn new ways of holding onto information, find history to be one of the most difficult subjects to prepare for.
Studying for history tests can be intimidating just because there’s often so much information, so many dates, and so many new terms to memorize that the whole process can feel too overwhelming to even begin.
But the enterprise shouldn’t be so scary, and as an academic tutor, the following tips have helped all of the high school and college students I’ve worked with to get over these initial fears.
Make a List
Sometimes your teacher will give you a list of important vocabulary terms and dates, but even if not, it’s usually pretty straightforward to just attack your notes and texts to isolate the important concepts. Keep a list running for your study guide, and be sure to collect the best definitions and supporting information for each entry.
Now the key to remembering the entries on this list is to make them your own – one of the best ways to do this is to write your own practice essays, or even just paragraphs, trying to incorporate as many of your terms, dates, and definitions as possible in each one. This will help you in two ways: First, it’s just powerful to review the information as much as possible. But also by creating your own prose to fit the terms into you’ll be giving yourself much more memorable examples to draw on for test day.
This step is usually different for different students, but it’s crucial to remember that your brain will be much more reliable when you’re being tested if you’ve organized the information you’re studying as much as possible for easy retrieval. Some students like to use different colored highlighters or fonts to keep all the information for different events straight. Some will use relevant pictures or photos to help them group certain facts together. You’re familiar with the way in which you learn best, and the key here is to use your unique study habits to your advantage.