Just how difficult is a history degree and what is the course like?

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SamW24
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Hi everyone, I just wondered if anyone can tell me just how difficult a history degree is?

Ever since I decided to apply for next year I've had a lot of people (who know nothing about the course) tell me how hard it is but I'd love to hear from someone who has done it or is doing it.

Does each year get more difficult than the first? Just how much work does it involve? How many contact hours do you have at your uni and how much work do you do yourself?
How difficult are the lectures/assignments?

I worry because I'm bright but not extremely academic so I want to make sure I'll cope with the workload.

Thanks.
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ANB1993
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(Original post by SamW24)
Hi everyone, I just wondered if anyone can tell me just how difficult a history degree is?

Ever since I decided to apply for next year I've had a lot of people (who know nothing about the course) tell me how hard it is but I'd love to hear from someone who has done it or is doing it.

Does each year get more difficult than the first? Just how much work does it involve? How many contact hours do you have at your uni and how much work do you do yourself?
How difficult are the lectures/assignments?

I worry because I'm bright but not extremely academic so I want to make sure I'll cope with the workload.

Thanks.
Where are you thinking of going?
Yes, it is a difficult degree, but then it would not be a good degree if it was not.
I am currently in my first year at uni and I am really enjoying it. I go out a few times a week, play three different sports and do a lot of socialising whilst getting high 2:1's and the occasional First. I would say I am quite academic but there are far more academic people than I am! Some of my friends do a lot more work than myself and some do a lot less and they are all passing!
I have 10 hours a week (took a bit of getting used too!) but the assignments are different to school. You have to do specific reading for the assignments but they are not the most difficult. I have been told that the work load increases a lot in second year and a lot more in third year. However I would say it is no more different to any other good degree!
You will be fine do not worry!
Just make sure you make your friends and do decent in first year! Above all have a good time in first year! Good luck in your exams!
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masonburger
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It's not that it's necessarily really difficult it's just a massive change from A-Levels because the responsibility is all on you, so you have to prepare for that. I'm a first year history student at Warwick and I have 9 hours a week. This basically means that because I have so little contact time I have to motivate myself to do all the reading and all the work, which I found difficult at first but am used to now. You also have to really enjoy history to be able to motivate yourself to read and do well, because you can get away with not doing the work, no-one will punish you if you don't read for a seminar, but your own learning will suffer.
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returnmigrant
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History degrees are run differently at different Unis - so exactly what class/lecture time you'll have, how many essays you'll write etc etc will be different.

History as a subject involves reading - there arent any short cuts to this. Yes, there will usually be practical stuff as well (archive visits, field trips etc) but as outlined above, you'll spend lots of time in the Library tracking down books etc and reading them.

A really good book that gives you an idea of what studying History at Uni is all about and helpful hints about work load etc : http://www.amazon.co.uk/Studying-His.../dp/1403987343 Well worth buying/reading.
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dmc66
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Noone asked but just for anyone thinking about doing a history degree in the near future,
I've just finished the 3rd and final year of my history degree at Newcastle University. It was brilliant and i would honestly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the world today more comprehensively through analysing the stories of the past. A few pointers though. It is a very difficult degree. I would say more suited to the student who is good at/enjoys essay writing as in my experience this was the core skill which was required in all assessments throughout my degree. Do the reading for your seminars. It feels like such a pain (especially in first and second year when you wanna enjoy messing around and making memories) to open the books and make notes, but honestly even reading a couple of key texts on the topic your lecturers are covering makes the world of difference and you will develop an understanding more easily than it seems. You can then bolster this base of understanding by reading extra texts in the build up to essays/exams. The contact hours are minimal (i only had 6 hours a week in 3rd year) so make the most of them. Its okay to miss a few classes for a module as on the essays/exams you will only have to cover a few topics so understanding a few of the lecture/seminar topics in good detail is adequate. However, the seminars (small group classes of about 15 in my experience with the lecturer-expert on the particular period) are the most important part of the degree and they really help you understand what you have read properly. The really great thing about history at uni is having the opportunity to leave your mark on a particular historical debate. By analysing an area of history debated by historians and providing fresh interpretations of historical evidence and new arguments in your essays/ exams and especially your dissertation, you really are put on the same level as professional historians. If you're interpretations and arguments are self-critical but analytic, original and well backed up by primary evidence, you really cannot go wrong and your views are as valid as any other published historian making a tonne of money from a University! History degrees are very difficult as they involve looking into the past by reading texts and thinking tirelessly, trying to piece bits of historical data together to form an original interesting idea often contradicting the existing literature on a subject. However this is what makes it so rewarding to complete and so worthwhile to study. If you end up doing a history degree, good luck, it's very hard but totally worth it.
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dyal16
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n

thank you for this amazing advice
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NikiAnn
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Hi, I have just finished my history degree, and waiting my classification, although most of my grades have returned at a solid high 2:1. I have to say it is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I’m a mature student, who is ex-military and ex-prison service so I have accomplished many challenges in life. I would recommend buying A-Level history books so you grasp the context in which you need to write as a historian. There is a lot of reading, and a lot of research, although once you get into it it and the topics you are studying it is fascinating. Lectures vary with contact time reduced with each consecutive year. Hope this helps with your decision. Niki
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Uni of Hull Students
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(Original post by SamW24)
Hi everyone, I just wondered if anyone can tell me just how difficult a history degree is?

Ever since I decided to apply for next year I've had a lot of people (who know nothing about the course) tell me how hard it is but I'd love to hear from someone who has done it or is doing it.

Does each year get more difficult than the first? Just how much work does it involve? How many contact hours do you have at your uni and how much work do you do yourself?
How difficult are the lectures/assignments?

I worry because I'm bright but not extremely academic so I want to make sure I'll cope with the workload.

Thanks.
Hi @SamW24

I'm a History PhD Candidate at the University of Hull.

As with Alevels, there is a slight increase in the difficulty as you go from Level 4- Level 5- Level 6.

In terms of how much work is involved, contact hours, and how much work you do yourself, part of that depends on the modules which you take, whether these are lectures, seminars/ tutorials, and the forms of assessment. I varied from 9+ contact hours in my first year a week to approximately 5-6 hours in my third year and masters year
If the module is more seminar-based, then there is more reading which accompanies it in regards to preparation for the seminar - although usually, the lecture leading the seminar will provide you with the details of the compulsory/ recommended reading and may also include questions as guidance for discussions to take place within the seminar itself.
Lectures, unless stated, there isn't usually preparation but there can sometimes be recommended readings on the final slides which allow you to broaden your understanding - particularly if you decide to complete an essay on that topic.
Many of my friends on my course were parts of societies and sports teams alongside completing their course. Having the scheduled times for activities whether it was training or socials alongside their academic timetable then meant that they were able to plan their week and their workload around these timings
The times where workload increases are around exam period which is usually either December/January (university dependent) and May when completing the final assessments of the modules which you take. You also have assignments during term time too but if you are aware of the deadlines for the assignments early on, and have an idea what topic within the module you're interested in if say its an essay then you can plan ahead and start doing little bits of work on it whether its readings ahead of the deadline.
But my main advice would be not to leave it to the last minute because then the workload increases drastically.

If you have any other questions about studying history we have an Ask a Student available on our website where you are able to speak directly to one of our History students.
Information on our history course can also be found on our website.

Hope this helps

Emily
PhD History Students/Candidate
University of Hull Representative
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