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Sparky's Quill: The Dreaded Exams

An accurate representation of Holly taking a history exam.
An accurate representation of Holly taking a history exam.

My heart is pumping. My hand is cramping. My eyes are flitting around the room from student to teacher and back to my paper,

An accurate representation of Holly taking a history exam. An accurate representation of Holly taking a history exam.

hoping that I'm not the only one who thinks the room is suddenly really hot. I took a test in my history class on Tuesday and no matter how prepared I am, I always feel like I never test very well. But I both love and loathe a history test. History tests are an entirely different animal from multiple choice or English tests (which are usually an essay, I think). History tests are a lot of writing. A lot. The study guide usually has a list of between 25 and 50 terms that you have to memorize. But, unlike many people think, you don't just remember the term itself or the date and time it took place. You have to know exactly why it's important to the study of history as a whole. For every term. But not all fifty terms are going to be on the test, oh no. Only about five to 10 of them will be. Then you get to pick three to five of the terms from that list, narrowing it down further. You'll have to write a paragraph for each stating what the term is, when it took place/lived/died, where it took place/lived/died, and why it's important to the context of the class and to history as a whole. Phew. That's a lot already. But wait, there's more! After you've written a mini-essay with the IDs, the study guides give you a list of 10 to 12 essay questions that might be on the test. And I'm not talking a little longer answer than a short answer question. I'm talking about 5 paragraph, intro-body-conclusion, six lines per paragraph, essays. And you have to write two of them — two. Not to mention that this is all in a regular class period, an hour and fifteen minutes.

I hope I didn't scare you away from any history classes! Not every professor has exams like this and most don't even have exams but instead assign a research paper you work on throughout the class. Although difficult, these exams have really helped me retain a lot of facts that I wouldn't have before. Most importantly, studying for this kind of test teaches you analytical skills that are indispensable in any job market.

So here's to the history exams and their relevant and skill-building purpose!

Want to talk about testing? Have a burning historical question? Drop us a line at or find us on twitter @sparkysquill!

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