Exam Prep 101: English and The Humanities

6 months ago

Exam Prep 101: English and The Humanities

As the final exam season quickly approaches, the sheer volume of content you’ve learned over the last year can seem incredibly daunting. Whether it’s a 400-page novel you still haven’t read, the chronology of the Russian revolution or 50 pieces of legal legislation, there’s always a lot to remember.

With the right study techniques, you’ll be on your way to smashing those exams. Here are some tips that will hopefully make the lead up to your exams a little less intimidating!

Tip 1: Know your texts inside out

Most humanities subjects rely upon a key selection of texts and source materials, like plays for drama, novels for English and paintings for Visual Arts.

While some of us won’t have read all your texts cover-to-cover(although it is definitely recommended), the best way to ensure exam success is by knowing them inside out.
Your text is your holy grail…think about it – any question you get has to come from the texts you’ve studied, so knowing them well covers all your bases.

Brush up on any sections you’re still a little confused about and don’t be afraid to ask us for clarification. It’s what we’re there for!

Tip 2: Organise your quotes and evidence

There’s no way to escape having to memorise quotes to back-up your analysis (sorry to burst your bubble). An essay question in the exam can never stray too far from the themes you’ve learnt in class, so make sure you have evidence to back up any of your analysis.

There’s no need to remember every single word of your text – a good handful of versatile quotes that can be used across themes will do the trick. You’re better off remembering a couple quotes that’ll work in answering any question than rote learning whole essays!

Your teachers will no doubt look at your texts most central themes and go through any key sections that explore them. Top tip: create a table with three columns; one for your quotes, a brief analysis and what themes it could apply into – these make easy to read notes to flick through when revising content and help the quotes to stick in your mind.

Tip 3: Create timelines and flashcards

If you’re a visual learner like many of us are, using visual tools can be a great way to enhance your study. For subjects like History and Legal studies, it is super important to remember the timeline of events, whether that’s the lead up to the Irish Civil War or reforms made to the Crimes Act!

Map out a timeline with any key elements or dates that you need to remember - print it out and stick it up all around your house – the toilet door, your mirror, the fridge. That way, the image of your timeline will be burned into your mind!

Flashcards are another super useful study tool and an awesome way to quiz yourself in the lead up to exams. Pop on any key terms, questions, themes or people that you need to remember. On the other side, write down your answers – whether that be theses, dates or descriptions.

That way, you can test your knowledge, and have the answer right at your fingertips when you get stuck!


Tip 4: Do timed practice exams

In the lead up to the exam, one of the best things you can do is practice responding to essay questions in a timed scenario. Typing up essays on your laptop is one thing but writing out what is often more than 1000 words on paper in a whole different ball game.

Use past papers and practice essay questions from class, lock yourself in your room and try to complete the question in the recommended amount of time – this will help you figure out how long your essay writing currently takes you and work towards
refining your writing.

This is also a great way to put your quotes to the test – figure out which ones are working great across a range of practice essay questions and weed out and replace the ones that don’t seem to be all that useful.

Tip 5: Make use of online resources.

We all like to make fun of SparkNotes and Shmoop, but they can honestly be lifesavers when you’re in a pinch. They break down the info from tonnes of texts –themes, characters analysis and important quotes. Although it’s probably not the best idea to depend on them completely, they definitely make for an excellent study support. Our RESN Wiki and Quizzes will also be a massive help to perfect your exam prep.

Also, don’t be afraid to venture into the world of academia. Articles and essays on sites like JStor and Google Scholar can introduce to themes and ideas that you might have never come across. They’re also great things to mention in writing for subjects like English Extension that require a bit more of a wider analysis.

We know what a stressful and crazy year it’s been. Even though it might feel like all you should be doing is study, it’s also crucial that you take a break when you feel you need it and look after yourself!.

No matter what happens, you have so much to be proud of already. Study hard, try your best, and everything else will fall into place. Good luck!

Words by Lucy Waterson

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