Test Preparation and Test Taking Strategies
In addition to organizational and memory strategies, study guides and practice questions are effective approaches to history test preparation.
Study guides summarize the key terms, concepts, people, dates, and events to be learned for an exam. The material may be organized by type of information like terms, people, and events (as below) or by chapter/topic.
East Asian History
One of the best ways to prepare for history tests is to make up and answer practice questions. Find out what types of questions will be asked, and work individually or in groups to form and respond to sample questions.
For identification questions, develop lists of significant terms, people, events, places, policies, dates, concepts. Refer to the lecture notes for key terms (they should be in the recall column if the Cornell method of notetaking is used), and look in the book for highlighted items or end-of-chapter term lists. Organize the definitions, contributions, and explanations for the key items using flash cards, running concept lists, or another organizational tool. Use visual elaboration, visual imagery, and other memory strategies to encode the information.
A number of strategies are available for essay questions. First, try turning the section headings of each chapter into questions. If the reading grid approach was used while reading, this task becomes relatively simple. Rephrase the topic heading in each cell of the grid into a question, and the answer should already be summarized in the box.
Second, look at the end of each chapter for review questions from the reading. Questions for discussion at the end of each chapter are also candidates for exams. Consider how they would be answered as well.
The third, and perhaps the most productive, approach is related the History's Way of Knowing section of this page. History students should anticipate seeing essay questions that deal with Hennings' (1993) five ways of knowing history. History instructors often ask questions related to temporal and spatial frames. Even more common are questions dealing with cause and effect relationships, generalizations, comparison of historical events or people, and interpretations. Below are summarized a number of guiding questions that may be formed into practice essay questions specific to the content of a history course (most questions are quoted from Hennings, 1993, p. 366-370).
Several general test taking strategies should be employed for history exams. For instance, information that may be forgotten or confused should be dumped immediately upon receiving the test. Be sure to carefully read directions, taking note of the number of questions to be answered and their point values. Skim the questions and develop a plan for answering them in the allotted time; don't be caught with questions to answer when time expires. Outline the answers before writing them.
When answering essay questions, be sure to demonstrate your understanding of the temporal and spatial frameworks of the events and people with plenty of examples, supporting evidence, and illustrations if appropriate. Demonstrate your understanding of cause and effect relationships, general patterns across time and space, and similarities and differences between events and people.
When specific details and examples are not recalled, try to use estimations instead. For example, if you forget the exact year of the fall of the Aztec empire, at least write that it was in the 1530's or the early 16th century. If you forget that the treaty ending the Civil War was signed in Appomattox, at least write that the event took place in Virginia.
Essays should always begin with summary sentences to introduce the main points of the answer. Hennings' discussion of historical generalizations is related to this. Examples of generalizations that serve effectively as introductory statements are: