This blog was written by David M. Smith – Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School

History is a challenging subject to study.  On the one hand, you need to master several skills like essay writing and source analysis.  To use these skills, however, you need to have a strong base in content… the people, places and events of history.

So here is a step by method for studying history:

Build a study schedule

Walk backwards from the exam date to the current date, mapping out when and for how long you will study.  Be realistic and consider other aspects of your life that must be accommodated including other exams and assessments that you might have. Find some free resources on the OSC website.

Develop a learning inventory

This is a list of the learner outcomes that will be assessed on the exam.  If you don’t have these, ask your teacher for a list.  Take each outcome and judge your mastery of it according to a simple scale “Got it”; “Sort of Understand It”; “No Idea.”

Divide the content material into manageable chunks

Divide the content into sections according to the schedule you built and the inventory you created.  Allot more time to those areas your inventory identified as needing more study – “No Idea.”

Collect information and make study notes

When you sit down to study a section, gather all the information you have on it.  This may include class notes, textbook readings, assignments, and class handouts.  Condense these into a single set of bullet point notes in your own words.  Once you have done this, you can set aside all the sources of information and just study from the study notes.  Some studies suggest that this is best done by hand and not on a computer.

Read, write, repeat

Read over your study notes a few times.  Set them aside and try to write the points from memory.  Check what you wrote against the study notes.  Repeat procedure until you are comfortable with the amount of content you are remembering.


Once you have studied all the material for the exam, you can attempt mock exams to gauge your mastery and highlight areas you need to revisit and practice the skills required for the test.  For essay exams it can help to build sample outlines to anticipated questions.  Building a timeline can help put everything you studied into context.

There are other memory techniques that can help in studying.  One is the “memory palace” technique.  An overview can be seen in the entertaining TED Talk below.

[ted id=1443]

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