With exams coming up, now is a good idea to start thinking about revision. There is no one way to study, every person has their own style. The tricky part is knowing what best works for you. While you may not have started studying yet, having a plan and a timeframe worked out about what to study and when is a great place to start. There are multiple ways you can study and what works for some people, may not work for others. All however require a bit of effort and time. A study guide helps you to build on skills you have learned throughout the year and retain important information you may need in the exam. They help with reading comprehension and content knowledge with the end goal of preparing you for your end of year NCEA history exams.

Doing history revision
NCEA history exams are about being prepared. | Unsplash - Green Chameleon
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Organising your time for your exams

As the first year of NCEA is coming to a close, time to up your level in revision. A study guide is about organising the way in which you need to revise. If it is your first year, a good place to start is to organise the notes you have taken throughout the year. You will have studied particular topics or events for the exams. These are the events you want to concentrate on. If you are sitting level 2 and level 3 NCEA history exams, you will be more familiar with the layout of the exam timetable. As soon as you get your timetable, you should arrange your revision sessions accordingly. Depending on when your exams are, you may have a week or two between different subjects, or unfortunately, two within the same day. By arranging your timetable ahead of time, you can figure out when to start more concentrated studying for each subject. A week before is a good place to start for level 1, add on a few more days for level 2 and level 3. If you are doing NCEA history scholarship exam, it is best to start a few months before, and heavily studying a few weeks beforehand at least.

The next step is to find a good place to study, somewhere quiet, with low distractions, and not your bed. As comfortable as it is, in your mind, your bed is associated with sleep. If you start studying there, it can mess up your ability to sleep and/or make it harder to concentrate. Not to mention blankets can block the fan in your computer so a hard surface to place it is best. If you are unable to find a place to study where you live, head to your local library. Not only do they have revision guides, free internet, and comfortable chairs, they also have dedicated quiet and collaborative spaces. Arrange times to meet up with other students or friends who are studying the same thing. It also provides the opportunity to practice your reading comprehension. For NCEA history level 1 and level 2, you will be given sources to examine. You can discuss whether or not a source is reliable, what information it provides, and how you know if it is a primary or secondary source.

Mindmap history
Mindmaps are a great tool to help you revise for NCEA history exams. Photo credit: iMaturestudent on Visualhunt.com

Mindmaps and highlighting history

Once you have found a good place to study, now it is time to organise the information you will need. Highlighters are great helpers in the art of organisation. Think of highlighting as painting, too much paint and it becomes hard to figure out the image. Be picky with your highlighters, find the most relevant information and the key ideas. There is no need to highlight all of the sentences if not all of them are relevant. If you highlight too much, they lose their ability to help as their purpose is to draw your eye to specific details. The tricky part is to assign a job for the different colours you have, at a minimum, two is a good place to start. For example, one colour is for causes and the other for consequences. It also helps you to gauge the difference in the level of detail used between describing what happened and explaining the consequences of this event.

When it comes to the finer details, there are lots of different applications that can help with creating flashcards of dates, important people, causes and consequences, etc. The main concept around flashcards is that they are for small bits of information and learning facts directly. Creating them by hand is also an advantage as some people find when they write by hand, they retain the information better. For critical thinking skills, you are going to need something else. The mind map is a great place to work on these skills. The aim of a mindmap is to create, in essence, a spiderweb of events and consequences. You link events together through the causes.

These can be as colourful as you like, but try to be as precise as possible. You want to be as detailed but at the same time write as little as possible. Bullet points are effective in these situations. A mindmap does take some time to build and you want to make sure you have all the information you need and double-check names and dates. For some people mindmaps are a bit overwhelming, if this relates to you, create a timeline of events. Ideally with an A3 size piece of paper. That way you can follow the direction of left to right in a format you may find easier to read. When creating timelines, make sure you are also adding the consequences to the events. Timelines can be a little tricky to organise when one event has multiple and simultaneous consequences, so a draft version is a good idea.

Highlighters are handy for self-study
Highlighters are great tools for history revision.

NCEA history past papers

Now you have your information sorted, time to put it to the test. A good way to do this is to use past papers and exemplars. They will have a similar format to the NCEA history exams at the end of the year. If you are feeling a bit lost on what an exam essay looks like, have a look at the excellence and merit exemplars for your level. When you are reading through, use your handy dandy highlighters to highlight when they write about causes, and when they write about consequences. If you have a third colour or a pen, highlight or underline the sections where they use evidence to support their main points. This way, you can see how the paragraphs were structured and see how much space the topic sentence, explanation, evidence, and point of view took up within them. 

When using the evidence you want it to be integrated into the sentence, have you explained it or just thrown it in? Look at how the writer has integrated evidence, you will often see “for example.. This supports, this demonstrates…”. If you are tempted to look at the level above for guidance, I would advise against it. While the exams have similarities, the skills and level of detail are not the same. It would not be the best revision tool to use. Past papers are great resources to use, have a read through NCEA history past papers guide for more detailed tips on how to use them.

Need a bit more NCEA history help?

Revisions skills get better the more they use them, as they say, practice makes perfect. Leaving things to the last minute, however, is not the best idea. While there are some people who advocate for this study method, it puts a lot of stress on yourself that with some time management, can be avoided. If some of these revision tips are new to you, it is a good idea to find someone to help you practice. Superprof has a wide range of tutors online, and you can meet in person. With reviews from other learners, you can choose with confidence a tutor that suits your requirements. Whether it is for a short or long period of time, Superprof has the tutor for you.

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