How to Study

Section I: History Homework

Students at St. Albans may discover that history homework varies a great deal depending upon course and teacher. By and large, however, most work in this department will entail reading and writing. The sooner you learn to do both properly and with focused attention, the easier it will become to master the information and elevate your critical thinking skills. The following are a few tips that should help you manage your work and get the most from your history classes at St. Albans.


You will quickly discover that you are bombarded daily with information from a variety of sources, assigned readings, class notes, discussions, etc. It is vital that you keep your material organized. Keep a SINGLE ringed-binder dedicated to your history class. This will serve as the collection point for class notes, reading notes, handouts, maps, quizzes, and assignments and tests that have been returned to you. You will find studying for tests much easier if you have all of the material and all of the material in one organized binder.


You should always be prepared for class. This means keeping up with the website announcements and knowing what your week looks like in terms of homework assignments. Most teachers try to post assignments a full week ahead of time so you can plan your week accordingly. Assigned reading should be completed BEFORE you come to class. It is impossible to engage in meaningful discussion of material that you have not read. Do not wait until the last minute to begin your work.

Study Routine

Effective study demands some form of regular, planned routine. You should try to develop a method of study that works well for you. This should include:

  1. Finding a space and environment that is conducive to productivity. Sit at a desk if possible. Make sure you have a bright light. Try turning off the IPod or experimenting with non-vocal (classical, jazz, etc.) music. Reading and studying are activities that require your focused attention. Don’t expect to lie in your bed and accomplish much; you’re much more likely to fall asleep since that is what your body expects from a bed. If you find yourself reading the same line five times you should know something is wrong: CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT!
  2. Staying awake. The study of history requires the full application of your intellectual resources. You cannot study effectively when dazed or drowsy.
  3. Setting aside a time of day for regular reading and assignment work.
  4. Taking a few minutes to review and revise class notes FROM THAT DAY. Take 5-10 minutes when you have a free period or at home to go over the notes from class and make some sense of the day’s material. Can you write a single sentence that sums up today’s class? Go ahead and write that summary sentence at the bottom of your class notes. If you can’t then you’ve already pinpointed a problem in your note-taking or in-class attention and engagement. Organize your raw notes by reducing the material to the key points. Make a list of people, events, words, definitions, and significant issues that were addressed. Write down any questions that were addressed in class or any you may have concerning the material. Daily review of your notes is a way to ensure that the material stays with you; it will prove invaluable when it comes to studying for a comprehensive test. Waiting until the last minute to cram can lead to disaster.
  5. Reading actively and critically (see below)
  6. Using your peers for more effective study. This is especially relevant when it comes to studying for tests and final exams. You may have missed something in class while you were daydreaming about lunch or the afternoon game. Checking yourself against your classmates is a good way to make sure you have all bases covered. Also, simply vocalizing the information is yet another way to help the material sink into the deeper recesses of your brain.
  7. NOT waiting until the last minute to cram for an exam or to begin writing a paper. This only leads to exhaustion and poor grades.


Passivity is incompatible with real learning. By far the more effective students at St. Albans are the ones who actively engage with the material, class discussions, their peers, and their instructors.  History is much more than simply memorizing information. It entails analysis and interpretation and constitutes an ongoing dialogue between the past and the present.  Above all, ask questions, test ideas, engage in discussion, and make good use of your instructors by talking to them outside of class; a 5-10 minute conversation after lunch will go a long way in clearing up confusion about a reading or class.

It’s ALWAYS important to read through ALL of your assigned reading. Normally you will be taking notes when you read. For know please TAKE NOTES on the following paragraph directly into your notebook as your first notes:

This day (1 Sept) in history in 1864 Gen.W.T. Sherman took control of the city of Atlanta, Georgia and successfully held it for two month against confederate assaults. Before he set off on his famous March to the Sea on November 15, Sherman ordered that Atlanta’s military resources, including munitions factories, clothing mills and railway yards, be burned. The fire got out of control and left Atlanta in ruins. Sherman and his two armies with a total 62,000 then headed toward Savannah, Georgia, destroying everything in their path that might allow the Confederates to continue prosecuting war. They captured Savannah and completed their March to the Sea on December 23, 1864. Sherman gave the city of Savannah to President Lincoln as a Christmas gift.

Written and edited by John Campbell and Robert Shurmer for exclusive use by the St. Albans School, Washington, D.C. (2007)

One response to “How to Study

  1. Pingback: Homework for the week of 17 Sept « STA Cities and Civilization

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s