5 Tips On Preparing For A Humanities Exam

Does the idea of sitting an exam make you anxious? Do you stay up all night preceding every exam cramming? Do you forget your name the moment you sit in front of an exam paper? You are not the only one.

Many humanities students are especially dumbfounded by exam season as so much of their major is geared towards longer research projects and lengthier essays done outside the classroom. When exam season ticks along, many humanities students declare that they have forgotten how exams work.

While it is true that the course is weighted more towards essays, this does not make exams any less important. Some tips are universally useful for those of you about to sit exams but every course tests its students slightly differently.

Don’t panic – instead, read these 5 Helpful Tips for Surviving Your Humanities Exams!


Be prepared

Exams may seem like torment at the time but it is important to remember that they are not testing anything that you have not already covered.

The first and most important tip for acing exams is to keep up to date with your assignments throughout the year. It is impossible to learn everything in the month leading up to the exam if you have not laid that foundation for yourself during the term. If you have gone along to your lectures and completed assignments along the way, revision time should simply be rereading what you have already done.

A little preparation can help you avoid common exam mistakes.

Time yourself

One of the most stressful parts of any exam is watching that clock tick down the minutes. Even the most analytical mind can shut down when the timer begins to run out.

Writing is like physical exercise. Just like you need to train yourself in order to run faster, you need to train up your writing skills in order to write faster. One of the crucial parts of an exam is effectively using the time given. You need to know how long it takes you to write an essay and the only way to do that is to time yourself.

Start slowly and set realistic targets. Give yourself time for thinking about the question and mapping out your answer. That way when you come to the real exam you will know exactly how much time you need to think and then write that first class answer.

Practice questions

Practice makes perfect.

We are not saying you should attempt to guess the question and pre-write your answer. This is a common strategy amongst school and college age kids but it will not see you through your university exams. Firstly, you may guess incorrectly and end up wasting time on questions that will not come up and secondly it is difficult to memorise the longer more complex answers needed at Higher Education level.

What you can do is practise writing past questions to give you an idea of what you may come up against. You can practise framing your introduction, analysis, and conclusion. The more you practise, the more likely it will be that you will turn over that exam paper and realise you have answered a similar question before.

Ask for help

Misery loves company. Although you may be alone when it comes to completing your exam in the exam room, you are not alone in suffering exam anxiety. Exams are not a competition so do not be afraid to help each other.

Forming a study group can be the encouragement you need to get through your revision. Getting someone to test you on key points from your notes can help you remember them. Discussing your way around a topic can give you a fresh perspective.

Everyone is in the same boat and would welcome a study buddy to get them through their exams.


A little stress can be motivational but too much can be a disaster.

You can only revise so much. Make sure you do not sacrifice all other needs for the sake of revision. You still need to cook proper meals, go outside in the sunshine and get enough sleep in order to be fresh for your exam. Make sure you take a mindful moment.

Most people will only go to university once so make the most of your time there. Yes, that means spend plenty of time in the library revising but it also means not skipping out on the summer BBQ because you are worried about exams.

Your exams are important but remember that they are only a percentage of your overall grade. University is a marathon, not a sprint.


Cat Dennis is a history graduate living and writing in Canterbury. For more, visit Cat’s blog.

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