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How to Study History Terms

By Clumping Them Into Practice Paragraphs


When studying any topic, the goal is to make the information "stick." But the best methods for doing this will differ from topic to topic.

When you study terms (definitions) for a history exam, the best way to make the information stick is to understand the term in context, or understand how it relates to other terms and facts.

In history classes, especially as you get closer to college, you are usually expected to know why an event is important. This is why history tests contain so many essay or long-answer questions.

Clumping History Terms

Sometimes a teacher will give students a study guide that contains a list of possible terms for the test. More often than not, the list will be long and intimidating. Some of the words may seem brand new to you!

If the teacher doesn't provide a list, you should come up with one yourself. Go through your notes and the chapter(s) to come up with a comprehensive list.

Don't be overwhelmed by a long list of terms. You'll see that they quickly seem familiar once you start to review your notes. The list will seem shorter and shorter as you study.

  • First, you'll need to locate the terms in your class notes. Underline them or circle them, but don't use a colored highlighter just yet.

  • Review your notes and see which terms appeared in the same lecture. Find relationships between the terms.

  • Write a paragraph that contains three or four terms. Your paragraph should contain a date and the names of any important person who might be related to the significance of the events or terms (like a president).

  • Keep writing paragraphs until you use up your terms. Remember that you can re-use a term if one term fits well with two or more clumps. This is a good thing! The more you repeat a term, the more you'll understand its significance.

Once you have finished making and reading over your paragraphs, you should find a way to utilize your best learning style.


Visual: Go back to your notes and use a highlighter to connect your terms. For example, highlight each term in one paragraph green and highlight terms from another paragraph yellow, etc.

Auditory: Find a recording device to record yourself as you read over each paragraph slowly. Listen to your recording several times.

Tactile: Make flashcards by putting all the terms on one side of a card and the entire paragraph on the flip side.

Repeat your process until every term seems completely familiar to you. You'll be ready to answer individual definitions, long and short answer questions, and essay questions!

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