University of Portsmouth's History Blog

Love your history studies, and don’t remain silent

In this new post, first-year history student Touissant Maynard gives some great advice on studying history at Portsmouth, based on his own experience this year.  

When going through the academic key stages, we are always told about the increased pressure and challenges that come with it. Now despite these warnings nothing could have prepared me for A-levels especially in those gruelling last 4 -5 months, so if you’re reading this then like me you made it through it. However, like I said moving up a key stage always provides a new challenge and uni gives you various ones both in and outside your academic studies. However, in an attempt to somewhat put your mind at ease I’ll say if you have chosen to study history at Portsmouth for the right reasons (the only reason being that you enjoy history) then I’ll say that the jump between year 13 and 1st year of university isn’t as steep when compared to the gap between GCSEs and A-levels. Especially those weeks when you discuss your A-level topics giving you a confidence boost for your seminar.

Touissant (3rd from left) at Portchester Castle with other members of the University of Portsmouth History Society.

Touissant (3rd from left) at Portchester Castle with other members of the University of Portsmouth History Society.

Now hopefully by the end of the blog you would have left with some useful information on university history and have a better understanding on the new challenges you’ll face when compared to A-level.

In class the first thing you’ll notice is how different seminars are to the average high school classes we’ve been used to for 17 years. Often, we were told to remain in silence and take notes from the teacher and while that is standard procedure in a lecture, a seminar is a lot more student led. It will take confidence and preparation before-hand to master these seminars which took me a few weeks to grasp. Some of you might relish the opportunity to just sit and talk about history for two hours, especially if it’s on a topic you’re familiar with. However, coming from a stricter school in London, just talking in class like an everyday conversation was foreign to me so don’t worry if you can’t get the hand of it at first.

I mentioned before how seminars will require preparation and part of that involves the assigned reading on Moodle. As historians, the majority of your time outside university will be spent reading from primary sources to journal articles; its crucial. Short term it is a great way to help understand a particular topic and to forecast the type of discussions that will take place in your next seminar. Long – term, it will be very useful down the line when coming to assessments and make your life a lot easier when it comes to finding references.


Now for those who don’t like assessments (definitely me) you’ll be happy to hear that history at Portsmouth is 100% coursework based. Now, A-levels taught me the hard way how deadlines can creep up on you and it’s no different at university despite the constant reminders from seminar tutors. Now I’m not going to say something typical like don’t leave it till the last minute, because we all do, but I will stress getting it handed in on time because nothing will be worse than submitting a good piece of work only to be capped at 40 marks for late submission.

Ultimately, you’ll find that university is a lot shorter then you think and these 3 or 4 years will fly by especially when you notice the shorter terms. History can be quite a challenging degree and will demand a lot of attention outside the seminar room so the work you do outside arguably is more important than what you do inside. Also, try to have fun while you’re at it.




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