I have now finished my Open University module for this year, as it ended with an exam at the start of June. I had my results through a couple of weeks ago and I was delighted to receive a Distinction. The time spent on revision was well worth it! I shared my 5 reasons to study with the Open University recently, as I have been really happy with them overall. This module was the third I have completed, so I am now halfway through my degree and I find myself itching to get started on the next module, a level 3 course that will begin in October. So today I wanted to share with you some guidance and tips for the A200 history course, ‘Exploring history: medieval to modern 1400-1900’, an insight for those of you interested in getting back into studying or perhaps you’ve just enrolled on this one.
This module spans 500 years, so you need to expect at the outset that it will move rapidly and cover a vast expanse. There’s plenty of reading and you’ll probably want to read more as in many cases the blocks only have time to touch on subjects. For example, there is just one unit of all 24 on the French Revolution, but you could then read books and books on that to satisfy your interest. Realistically, you do not need to do that to pass, I certainly didn’t, but I know I’ll want to return to certain periods at some point. Probably when this is all over and I have some time!
I think it’s important to bear the amount that you can reasonably read and cover in mind during this module. You only have so much time, as there are 6 blocks, with 6 TMA’s, so you typically have around 4-5 weeks per block. I’d definitely recommend sticking to the module schedule so that you don’t have it adding up and overwhelming you and so that you have a full month at the end for revision. As long as you read through all of the units and sources that they direct you to, you should have enough material for your assignments.
They start off at around 1000 words, building up over the module to a little over 2000 words. I printed them off at the start of each block, so that as I worked through the block I had the question that I needed to answer in mind.
Break the question down so that you are absolutely clear on what it is asking of you. Waffling and going off on tangents will not help you, the word counts are always quite tight. Once you are clear on what it wants, essay plan. This need not take pages, it should just be a few notes for each part of the argument, along with the evidence you will provide to back it up. Every point made should have evidence from either the units, the primary sources or secondary sources. On writing the TMA, explain in the introduction how you will answer the question, with what evidence and the course that your argument will take. Then write.
This is a personal thing as we all work differently here. For me, I wrote every assignment in one sitting, read it through, then submitted it. I’d be start to finish within 4-5 hours. I know others take a week or two to do the same thing. It’s whatever works best for you, I think, though with a clear plan and focus on answering the question, it is entirely do-able within a few hours.
Listen to your tutor’s feedback! My assignments got better each time on the strength of this, my tutor was so helpful with her feedback.
You will be sent exam notifications a few weeks prior to your exam date and will be told which blocks will be covered in each part of the paper. This is so important to use and understand as it can then shape your revision. I also attended a revision day workshop, and I’d definitely recommend going along to one of these if they are available to you. It really helped me to clarify and shape my revision. I then thoroughly revised 4 blocks, rather than the full 6, making it more manageable.
I shared my 5 revision tips for exams which are a good starting point, breaking down how I approached revision overall. I know that I retain information well when I see it, so I watched Amazing Grace, Luther and Cromwell throughout the course and again towards the end. I also watched Crash Course over on YouTube, which is a brilliant channel and covers most of the blocks quickly and succinctly.
Practice writing and get a feel for which pens you write most neatly with. Your writing has to be legible, so you don’t want messy writing to let you down after all of your revision.
For the source analysis question, you really need to choose one block to revise, to keep it manageable. I worked through every document in the block I had chosen, noting down its nature, origin, context and so forth. I read and re-read these notes, along with a thorough understanding of that block. This meant that in the exam, for the very first question I knew which one I’d be covering without hesitation and recognised the source immediately and could answer it. It’s a positive way to start the exam.
It’s worth remembering some historians arguments to include within your answers. You needn’t quote verbatim, but a reference to their key points within the context of your answer is useful.
I really enjoyed A200, though I’ve seen it have mixed reviews. The module gave me a sound grounding of British and European history, within the themes running through the course. My favourite block was probably Slavery and Serfdom, which I realise sounds strange as it was abhorrent and emotive. I think because it moved me, I engaged with it all the more, and I felt I learned a lot as it was something I knew little about.
It also helped me to think like an historian, assessing evidence and arguments made over time, to draw out conclusions. The historiography of the module was actually something I disliked during the first few weeks, yet towards the end, it was ingrained in me and I can’t imagine approaching history in any other way now.
As I mentioned, my next course is a level 3 module, Empire 1492-1975 and I am keen to get going on it. I’m expecting it to be a step up as a third year course, so I’ll see how I cope with the extra challenge and take on the new subject. Wish me luck!