How hard is a History degree? And what does it involve?

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Gnatt27
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Hi there,

Looking to study History in September and was just wondering how difficult it is compared to the A level and also what students do in a day e.g day in a life sort of thing.
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Friffinghell
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(Original post by Gnatt27)
Hi there,

Looking to study History in September and was just wondering how difficult it is compared to the A level and also what students do in a day e.g day in a life sort of thing.
It is a tough degree but if it's where your interests lie you'll enjoy it.

As a 1st year history student my day looked like:

1 hour of history lecture (had to pick another two subjects so 3 hours of lectures in total)
1 hour tutorial once a week to discuss ideas in depth- so pre reading for this
Essay assignments due. Reading/Writing for this.

It's recommended to do around 40 hours per week reading.
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Gnatt27
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(Original post by Friffinghell)
It is a tough degree but if it's where your interests lie you'll enjoy it.

As a 1st year history student my day looked like:

1 hour of history lecture (had to pick another two subjects so 3 hours of lectures in total)
1 hour tutorial once a week to discuss ideas in depth- so pre reading for this
Essay assignments due. Reading/Writing for this.

It's recommended to do around 40 hours per week reading.
Thanks for the reply. Did you have to do any presentations to the class? And also was participation in class essential/did everyone do this? These are the two aspects that I'm weakest at.
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by Gnatt27)
Thanks for the reply. Did you have to do any presentations to the class? And also was participation in class essential/did everyone do this? These are the two aspects that I'm weakest at.
That depends on where you are studying and how they convene the course, but typically history and similar subjects have a strong emphasis on seminar style teaching where possible - which is necessarily interactive. For example at Exeter, I believe most of the history modules were split into a lecture sequence and a seminar sequence, which went hand in hand - and you had to make presentations for some of the seminars in groups (in some cases just leading a discussion) and this was assessed.

Universities on the whole are quite big on developing "transferable skills" - i.e. group working, presentation skills, writing skills, independent researching, etc. After all, these are the things you will need to do day in and out at any job - particularly for more "generalist" subjects like history where it isn't preparing for specific technical roles (as e.g. engineering). Even if you remain in academia and become a "historian" you'll still be using these skills - in teaching, for example.

There's not much you can sell about "I sat in a lecture room being talked at for three years and wrote some exams" in a job interview! It's not useful to the employers in any way conversely, discussing your experiences in group work, giving presentations etc demonstrates useful skills they can capitalise on - so you would hope to have opportunities to do so, and if there weren't formal ones you would definitely want to arrange some of your own!
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Gnatt27
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
That depends on where you are studying and how they convene the course, but typically history and similar subjects have a strong emphasis on seminar style teaching where possible - which is necessarily interactive. For example at Exeter, I believe most of the history modules were split into a lecture sequence and a seminar sequence, which went hand in hand - and you had to make presentations for some of the seminars in groups (in some cases just leading a discussion) and this was assessed.

Universities on the whole are quite big on developing "transferable skills" - i.e. group working, presentation skills, writing skills, independent researching, etc. After all, these are the things you will need to do day in and out at any job - particularly for more "generalist" subjects like history where it isn't preparing for specific technical roles (as e.g. engineering). Even if you remain in academia and become a "historian" you'll still be using these skills - in teaching, for example.

There's not much you can sell about "I sat in a lecture room being talked at for three years and wrote some exams" in a job interview! It's not useful to the employers in any way conversely, discussing your experiences in group work, giving presentations etc demonstrates useful skills they can capitalise on - so you would hope to have opportunities to do so, and if there weren't formal ones you would definitely want to arrange some of your own!
Thanks for the reply. Exeter is actually my firm ha ha. I guess I have a sort of social anxiety where I just can't seem to participate in class up to this point (A levels and GCSE) and when I have done group presentations in the past I have stuttered all the time and other members have had to help me out. I did manage to get through History fine though and got an A predicted grade.

Would you say that these skills can be developed? Or is it just that confident people will have them shy people won't?
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by Gnatt27)
Thanks for the reply. Exeter is actually my firm ha ha. I guess I have a sort of social anxiety where I just can't seem to participate in class up to this point (A levels and GCSE) and when I have done group presentations in the past I have stuttered all the time and other members have had to help me out. I did manage to get through History fine though and got an A predicted grade.

Would you say that these skills can be developed? Or is it just that confident people will have them shy people won't?
They will be developed, both by yourself and by the course. It's likely you'll find the whole experience of living away from home and bei independent will increase your personal maturit and confidence in such matters anyway. Also usually you either do group presentations in front of a larger audience or individual presentations in front of a smaller one - at least that was the case in engineering there and the one guy I knew doing history never indicated he had to do an individual presentation in front of the entire cohort.

As I understand the seminar atmosphere isn't "speaking up in an entire lecture hall" but being in small groups thought the lecture theatre that individually discuss the topic among 5-8 of you - this may then be voiced to the class as a whole by a nominated member. Either that or it's small group sessions (~20 or less) in a classroom somewhere. There is at least one LT that was built with the previous method in mind - it's actually a number of smaller "pods" of lecture seats around a table like area, arranged in the usual descending format. I forget what it's called now, they renamed them all to be called colours just before I left

Don't worry about it really - it's not going to be a major aspect at the beginning of the course as they understand people are still settling in, and you'll be given opportunities to work on it throughout. Certainly in second year and beyond this is an increasingly important method of teaching on the course tho
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kimmy6336
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(Original post by Gnatt27)
Hi there,

Looking to study History in September and was just wondering how difficult it is compared to the A level and also what students do in a day e.g day in a life sort of thing.
I'm at Birmingham doing history and my typical week consists of this

3 seminars - small groups where you have to do reading beforehand and you discuss reading in class

2 lectures - listen to lecturer talk about subject, write notes, the subject talked about is what the seminars are shaped on

3 essays a term - 2500 words
Do that in free time

That's literally it! When you get to uni it's such a massive change from sixth form, so independent, you barely get any help
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Gnatt27
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(Original post by kimmy6336)
I'm at Birmingham doing history and my typical week consists of this

3 seminars - small groups where you have to do reading beforehand and you discuss reading in class

2 lectures - listen to lecturer talk about subject, write notes, the subject talked about is what the seminars are shaped on

3 essays a term - 2500 words
Do that in free time

That's literally it! When you get to uni it's such a massive change from sixth form, so independent, you barely get any help
Thanks for the reply. Wow that doesn't sound like much at all! How long are the lectures and seminars? Also with the "discus reading in class but" does everyone have to participate?
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