Expert Tips to Ace American History!
By Sean D'Mello
I found U.S. History to be the most interesting and surprisingly eye-opening course I have taken in high school; it’s definitely been my favourite. Not only is it comprised of lessons all history lovers will enjoy studying, such as slavery, colonialism, the American Revolution, and of course, war, but I was surprised to find myself more and more engaged in the course themes一recurring ideas you can’t help but draw connections to that really make you think about the state of historical, present, and future societies. This course has a lot to offer, and if you follow this guide, you will come out with more general knowledge and an open-mind, plus a nice grade.
Neither the AP nor academic courses require an overly substantial amount of studying. I walked into the class prepared to spend my nights studying dates, names, definitions, but that is not what you will be doing. This course is a highly understanding and context-based. For example, rather than testing your ability to memorize the dates, people, and details of the events leading up to the Revolution, the tests will test you on questions like “Using evidence, argue the average colonist’s view towards British taxation”, a difficult question to back up if you don’t have a sufficient understanding of the unit.
Use your unit reviews. There will be some information you will have to study based on the unit reviews given, and you must memorize the names, events, and definitions given to you in the test outline. Make study notes based on the outline a few days early and memorize them fully, but don’t bother memorizing things out of the review unless you need to. While you will need to have a very solid grasp of the entire unit, your time is better spent watching YouTube videos on the topics and timelines than memorizing other definitions and minute details.
Crash Course videos are a Godsend. While they should be treated as a supplementary studying tool, the Crash Course videos are incredibly informative and make an effort to make connections to central themes. I would definitely review the relevant ones before a test, and I and a couple of close friends in the class even watched the entire US History series a few times over to prepare for the exam. It was fun.
You can also watch timepiece movies relevant to the period you are studying. I’d suggest The Patriot, Lee Daniel’s The Butler, To Kill a Mockingbird, Forrest Gump, and any of the tons of Cold War movies. These, too, stress major themes relevant to the write-ups you will see on tests.
Interestingly enough, the course is very revisionist heavy and allows you to see new perspectives on topics you likely have only seen one side to. Most teachers like to entertain discussions that allow students to play the Devil’s advocate for topics like slavery, isolationism, democracy and manifest destiny. When given an essay topic, I’d suggest arguing the side that doesn’t seem so obvious, as there will often be much more to it than what meets the eye. You’ll likely have to do dig deep and read more scholarly sources, but your thesis will be much more interesting, leading to a higher mark in the end.
When studying for the Who Am I sections, where you are given a quick tidbit from a biography and must answer with a name, memorize the names and have a general idea of the biography, not vice versa. It took me a couple of forgotten names and painful marks off tests for this one to really hit.
And finally, make the course what you want it to be. The course is sooo open and you can explore any aspect of American history. You’ll write and make creative presentations where you are given full reign to choose anything to write about. Some of my classmates would consistently write about warfare, others the development of civil rights, and others about politics, democracy, and economy. Writing about what fascinates you will engage you more fully in your work, and you will find it much easier to form an argument and research your thesis.
In conclusion, I would recommend this course for anyone who wants to expand their general knowledge about the history of the United States, Canada, and the world. Every era explored is captivating, well-paced, and meticulously structured. If you have even a small, general interest in history, I would wholeheartedly suggest you sign-up for this course, follow this guide, and take as much as you can from US History.