Revising Classics: a quick guide
With the dust only just settling from the last of our essays, thinking about exam season is almost unbearable. However, it’s a great idea to start getting ahead and working out a plan of action for revising for exams. I’m feeling a little off-kilter this year, as it is the first time I have ever experienced open-book exams for Classics! However, after three years in our department (and one abroad) I have managed to gain some useful skills in revising for Classics that should only need minor tweaking for the new exam structure. So, here’s my short guide on how to revise for Classics exams!
1: Topic Lists
My first step to any form of revision is creating a topic list. You can read more about this in my last post on how to create an exam revision timetable. A topic list is a great way of laying everything out in front of you so you know exactly what it is you need to revise. It’s worth starring topics that you feel you haven’t remembered particularly well, as these may need extra attention when it comes to revision. Don’t forget to create a separate topic list for seminars, as these are extremely important when it comes to revision and should never be missed! Once you’ve created your lists for each module and drawn up a neat timetable, it’s time to get stuck in.
2: Language exams
Anyone in first year, on the study abroad programme, or continuing their languages studies further into their degree will be expected to sit written language papers. These exams can seem daunting, but are often the easiest to revise for. Make sure to have a clear list of all the grammar you need to revise. I usually group smaller topics together so that I can revise multiple ones in one longer sitting. Use practise sentences from your textbook, or ask your teacher to send over some extra ones. In terms of vocab, most lecturers will have a list that they can send you. If not, it’s a long job to make your own but it’s a good idea to work with classmates to create one. Compiling all the vocab into physical or electronic flashcards is the quickest and easiest way to learn it all. Get your housemates or family members to test you, or simply test yourself. The vital thing about languages exams is to NEVER cram. You won’t remember your grammar or vocab if you try and learn it all the day before your exam. Do short bursts of revision every day to keep it fresh in your mind.
3: Essay exams
In my experience, essay exams are a lot harder to revise for than languages ones, as there are a lot more variables to consider. I usually use my topic sheets to create mind maps for each aspect of the course. For some people, flashcards or prose notes work better. Whatever works best for you. Make sure you use a lot of colour coding, particularly highlighting buzzwords like names and dates. My advice is to put the bare minimum of information that you need to understand each topic. A lot of what you write will be based around primary evidence, and if you try and remember every little detail you will really struggle. Sticking to the main points will make your revision much more effective as it will be easier to remember and you’re less likely to risk using up precious time in the exam by writing long-winded descriptions of events.
4: How to revise sources
Sources are an integral part of Classics exams, since you will use them both in essays and in gobbet questions. To revise material culture, make flashcards with a picture of the archaeology on one side and details about it on the other. Don’t forget dates! For open book exams, the gobbet captions will be much less detailed, so you’ll be relying on image recognition to help you. The same applies to textual evidence, so it’s a good idea to have some buzzwords from each text memorised to help you recognise writing that turns up in gobbets. For essay revision, put a one-line reference to the sources when they are relevant to your notes. For example, next to your notes on ‘portraits of Augustus’ you might write ‘Prima Porta’. Make sure to write these references in a different colour to your notes so they stand out.
5: Past papers
Most modules will have past papers available on their webpage. If not, don’t hesitate to email your lecturer and ask for some. Past papers are the best way to prepare yourself for the exam. Even if you don’t write an answer for each question, it’s a good idea to at least plan them so you have an idea of whether you’re on the right track with your revision. Past papers are a great way of making sure that there are no gaps in your knowledge, and they are very helpful for guessing what kind of questions you might be asked in the real thing. Don’t forget to time yourself in any answers you write, and if you’re only writing a plan then set a timer to make sure you don’t spend too much time on creating a structure.
Apologies for a long post, but hopefully these tips help anyone studying Classics to maximise their revision and achieve their full potential this exam season.
Good luck, and happy revising!