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THH: Tackle Tips to Studying History
Last year in 8th grade, I had the grand notion that, hey, I might as well take AP World History in freshman year of high school (I mean, why not?). Boy. That got interesting the moment I stepped into the classroom the first day of school.
The rigor swept me away—I’d usually been pretty good in social studies classes before, and I even liked my new teacher as well. But it was not to be—I nearly drowned after the summer review test, stunned by the diversity and complexity of topics, analysis, and outright memorization that was expected of me. Geez, I had a B for the first few months. And I wasn’t the only one.
But, luckily, I was excited by the challenge. And as the semester has progressed, I’ve compiled a few key ‘tackle tips’ to studying right in history—and that can go for any real social studies class, really. Hopefully, you’ll find them as groundbreaking and helpful as I did.
1. Where the heck is this place anyway?
There’s a map, and—no! Don’t skip it! Believe it or not, location and geography play big when it comes to Cause & Effect. Figure out where the place is; explore the climate and basic landscape. Keep in mind big names, and their neighbors. Is that region rocky? Dry? Because it’s on the Khyber Pass, what will that mean for trade? And finally, you won’t be the loudest one groaning when there is a map pop quiz.
2. That’s a big sentence…I’ll just write it down.
Another big mistake too easy to make—although the sentence is super long (and doesn’t make any sense), that doesn’t mean you should just skip it or write it down without a second thought. Chances are all those words sum up to a concept you need to know—so why not ace it now? If you don’t understand it, search it up. Question. Piece them together by part of speech if you must—and you will be pleasantly surprised by the rewards.
3. Do I really care who the heck Chandragupta II is?
Yes! Yes, you actually do! Although going into excessive detail is…well, excessive, you need to get used to knowing big names in history. Big rulers often have big contributions, and history is nothing if not the study of contributions.
And how do I determine this person is important, you ask? Look at the big picture. If this person reformed the government from republic to empire, it’s going to be important. If this person finally let Christianity into the region, you bet it’s important. Look for a monumental change in the period that is attached to a specific ruler.
4. Eek! Vocab!
I know—and even though I’m a wordy person myself, it gets tedious when there are fifteen different terms for our unit on the Roman Principate and half are not obvious English. Not only should you familiarize yourself with the word/term, what it actually means (not just the copy/paste definition you plucked out of the book), but know its significance as well, its effects. Vocabulary can be a fearsome foe when underestimated.
5. What’s actually important here?
It’s late, the edges of my paper are starting to blur, and I’m daydreaming about Hetalia fanart. Naturally, you’re going to end up not caring whatever it is you write down, as long as it gets you credit when you turn in your notes tomorrow. And that’s where it gets tricky—does that really help anything? You need to get smart about the few crunched hours you have saved for homework—and that means crunching those paragraphs as well. If you don’t really need to know the eight different rituals of ascetic monks wandering the forests, nor the eighteen different ways cotton can be produced in the region of Atlanta, Georgia in 1867, then don’t write it down. Keep it lean and mean, and life gets simpler as well.
6. Compare. Ooh, and contrast.
Books often put sections together in chapters for a reason—surprising as it is, it helps to look at that one chart of “Contrasts of the Period.” Yes, that annoying one in size 8 font. These days, assessments are more interested to see if students can analyze with the information they know, versus binge up two hundred pages of textbook they memorized—and so, think the comparisons and contrasts of religions, roles of women, children, technology! Reform! Government styles! You name it, and it can be clashed and compared. Trust me on this, it helps to keep that in mind when you encounter two regions identified in the same time period.