Top 5 Essentials for Studying History

As far as IB subjects go, IB History is as challenging as it gets – but it doesn’t have to be. This week we’re giving you a 5 step recipe for IB history success!

1. Facts, facts and more facts!

IB History is by far one of the most information dense IB subjects, as you’re not only expected to learn decades of history, but to also apply and analyse it. While in other subjects improvisation may suffice, in history you need to know your facts.

Dates, statistics and names relating to historical events should be an essential part of all the essays you write, and you can only achieve this by writing detailed notes and revising them. Make sure to use flashcards, or any other memorisation techniques that work for you!

2. Learn from experts

In addition to memorizing facts, you also need to learn how to discuss them. The best way to do this is to study what historians think about historical events. After all, they are experts in their fields, and they write the very books you study in class!
Learn from them by researching their perspectives on the topics you study. For instance, if you’re writing an essay on the causes of WW2, research what historians think the most important cause is. You’ll find that they have different opinions; one may think Germany caused it, while another disagrees. This is what makes history interesting! Pick the perspectives that align with your arguments, and weave these into your essays to reach the highest grades.

3. Planning out essays

Once you have a wide range of facts and know different perspectives, you need to plan your essays! All 3 papers require you to write at least one essay, and there’s nothing more intimidating than being in an exam and having no clue what to write. This can be stressful when you’re given as little as 45 minutes for each essay!
The good news is, you can predict what may come in an exam. For instance, for any type of war topic, make essay plans about the causes and consequences as these are always on exams. This way, you’ll be prepared no matter which of the two you’re asked about. Identify key aspects you may be asked about, and plan out potential paragraphs using bullet points. Memorizing those will help greatly! If you have trouble with writing or planning essays, take a look at our History essay-writing series on YouTube.

4. Know your strengths and take advantage of them

While you should always pay attention in class and learn from your teachers, you should also pay close attention to how you’re being taught. The history syllabus is huge, and no matter how excellent your teacher is, they will inevitably focus more on certain aspects of the syllabus than others.
For instance, your teacher may spend 2 months of course time on World War 1 and only 2 weeks on World War 2. In this case, you should likely avoid writing about WW2 on exams where you can choose, as in paper 2, and instead write about WW1.
If you have an abundance of facts on one topic, but barely know the basics about another, then you should avoid your weaknesses and utilize your strengths. It is the teacher’s responsibility to give you information, but you must be clever and choose how you use it!

5. Engage with the subject

Lastly, you should try your best to simply enjoy learning history. At first glance, the abundance of facts and essay writing may make the subject seem boring and difficult, but it can also be incredibly interesting!

Try to interact with course material in fun ways, like watching historical documentaries, series or movies about past events. This will help you to take a step back from your textbooks and put things into perspective. You’ll also fill in a lot of knowledge gaps by engaging with the material in abstract ways, which may help you to make connections with your coursework, and ultimately translate into better essays that discuss topics more fluently. While it may be difficult to find Hollywood dramas on subjects like maths, the selection for history is endless!

Even though the IB can be very challenging, if you stick by these five essentials you’ll steamroll through your history classes with ease. If you want even more information on how to excel in IB History, consider booking a course with one of your expert tutors here!

Written by Ivan Boyadzhiev

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