Studying for History Exams and in General

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My students are reaching the dreaded exam period. So here are some tips for studying history and other subjects.

Go over past exams and write the papers. You will see that they are very similar from year to year so you are doing yourself a disadvantage by not going over them.

Having issues concentrating while studying???

There are several options to help you! Try using these techniques:

  • – Write or Die is a new kind of writing productivity application that forces you to write by providing consequences for distraction and procrastination.
  • Pomodoro Technique – The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down periods of work into 25-minute intervals called ‘Pomodori’ (from the Italian word for ‘tomatoes’) separated by short breaks.
  • ASPIRE Technique –

  • Concentration music – sounds naff but it works for some people.
    • Whatever you choose make sure there are NO words to singalong to
    • Epic music is also good as long as it is purely instrumental. It eggs you on.
  • STAY OFF FACEBOOK! and Twitter, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, Reddit, Youtube, etc etc…
  • Work away from home – Often people are easily distracted at home because there are many things around them so go study in the library at the university or your local library if you need a quiet space. But do not accept lunch and coffee requests in the middle of studying. Set a time. Don’t get distracted.

Studying for essay writing

  • Go over past essays – they are on ilearn and in the library
  • Plan essays in mind map form
  • Stick points you forget to your bedroom ceiling above your bed or behind your bedroom door
  • Set times for study – make a study plan, stick to it, don’t spend all your time making the plan instead of studying! Take an example from this of what not to do!

  • STAY ON TOPIC – If you need a break from study then do something related so you are relaxing a bit but you don’t completely lose your flow. ie. History podcasts, documentaries, historical fiction. This can also help to inspire you.
  • Take the time and sit and do the essays as if you were in an exam environment

Writing Paragraphs – It is amazing how many people forget basic structure in the stress of an exam environment. So here is a simple way to remember things.

P = Point: State your point clearly and concisely.
E = Explain: Elaborate, provide more information.
E = Evidence: Use information from texts, quotes etc. to back up your point.
D = Draw conclusions

For example:
Shakespeare was a product of his era. The reigns of the Tudors and Stuarts were times of preoccupation with black magic and witchcraft. James 1 personally condemned witches to death. The fascination with the occult is particularly seen in the play ‘Macbeth’ in which the three witches put curses on innocent sailors, make evil brews and mislead Macbeth to his ultimate ruin. The snares of the occult are equally prevalent in our time. The play ‘Macbeth’ is as relevant today as the day it was written.

You can prepare yourself to succeed in your studies.
Try to develop and appreciate the following habits:

  • Take responsibility for your own study and learning! – Recognise that you only have yourself to blame for your study habits and results. Make decisions about your priorities, time and resources.
  • Don’t let your friends and acquaintances dictate what you do – everyone studies differently
  • Follow up on priorities and don’t let others or your interests distract you
  • Discover your key times and places of productivity and remove yourself from distracting environments
  • Look to continually challenge yourself – if you are content with what you know then still go the extra step and learn more, give yourself that extra edge

Most of all TAKE RESPONSIBILITY! Learning is your responsibility in the end. Ps do not make careers! If someone says to you Ps make degrees then they are not worth listening to.

Remember (especially 1st years)

  • This is not high school
  • No one cares what you got in the HSC (or equivalent)
  • This is a new opportunity – Take it
  • Analyse, compare and contrast
  • Do not narrate!
  • Read and follow instructions

Do your best and good luck!

And stick this one as your screen background.


How to Teach yourself Ancient (and Modern) Languages

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One of my main loves in ancient history and archaeology is the learning of ancient languages. This post is in response to one of my followers who is currently trying to teach herself Mayan glyphs. But I know there are many of you out there who have struggled to teach yourself languages or would like to be able to in the future. So here are a number of tips and ideas for you to help you out on that journey.

46 is the earliest (nearly) complete manuscrip...
46 is the earliest (nearly) complete manuscript of the Epistles written by Paul in the new testament.

These preliminary tips can be used for any language either ancient or modern and can be used in combination with the language resources I supply in the menu bar for certain languages. If you have looked at my ancient Greek resources as well you can use these techniques to help you remember them or languages you are learning at university or elsewhere already.

Finding sources

  • Use social media and friends to discover the best books and sources to use
  • It is worth while finding them to save you time and to teach you better
  • Research the texts and their reviews
  • Avoid generic internet programs – they generally use methods that are more in touch with teaching basics to children rather than adults. Remember that the adult brain learns differently to a child’s
  • The best sources are usually in book or cd form from reputable suppliers
  • It is a good idea to see what universities use to teach language  basics – this information can usually be found in course descriptions and handbooks which are generally available online

Using sources

  • You generally want to learn as quickly as possible and often get over enthusiastic
  • Try and avoid this and slow yourself down and don’t skip ahead
  • This way you will learn properly and take in more
  • Take to doing one lesson or hour a day
  • Stick with one source book so you are following a program

Remembering material

  • Before each lesson review the day before and any exercises the sources set
  • Without looking at the answers from the previous day’s exercises, do all or some of them again and some from previous lessons even further back so you keep them in mind
  • Run through the whole lesson for the day before you undertake new exercises so you have the complete context for what you have to do
  • Literally do it every day, if you miss a lesson then at least take 15 minutes to go over an exercise from a previous day

Tips for memorising information

  • Write out the stuff you find difficult and stick it around the house where you are going to see it regularly or at work, for example:
    • Behind the bathroom door
    • Above the sink
    • In the kitchen
    • On the ceiling above your bed
    • Beside your computer
  • Another little used technique which works ridiculously especially for grammatical concepts well is a walk about memory exercise:
    • Make a list of what you want to remember
    • Pick a room in your house
    • Start at one corner of the room and move around the room allocating an object in the room to each thing on your list
    • Then find a link between each object and each idea
    • Ie. A participle – a chair – a chair is used for sitting – sitting is a participle
    • No matter how abstract the connection is the memory of it will help you remember concepts through physical associations
  • For vocab literally stick labels on things in your house
  • Or make up songs or rhymes – it is amazing how your mind works

Tips for if you can’t find one particular source for a language

  • Look at sources for another language. Ie. Latin
  • Make a note of how the lessons are set out and how grammar is taught
  • Then use what sources you do have and apply the information into that format
  • Grammar is the basis for all language and stays the same in ideas throughout the majority
  • By applying an accepted and working format from another language you can help yourself learn another.
  • If lesson one is on the alphabet and then verbs, then look up the alphabet and common verbs in your array of sources for the language you want to learn, ie. Mayan glyphs.
  • Sometimes this will take longer because there are varying lengths of alphabet for instance but readjust the time you spend on it to suit.
  • If you have the sense and desire to teach yourself a language then you should be able to work it out

Remember to be patient with yourself and the material

These things are not learnt over night

Macquarie Ancient Languages School – Winter Session

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Hello Followers, The Macquarie Ancient Languages School Winter Session is now enrolling for 1-5 July 2013. These intensive courses are open to anyone and everyone, public and students, of all ages and backgrounds. I usually teach the Greek courses but will be in Turkey this year. They are still running though in other capable hands while I am away. 🙂

For the Winter school program you can download it here. Along with the application details. Travel subsidies are available for those coming from further away, we help cater for both national and international attendees.

The bible written in Aramaic.
The bible written in Aramaic. (Photo credit: Arnasia)

For all enquiries you can contact:

Jon Dalrymple
Ancient Cultures Research Centre
Department of Ancient History
Macquarie University NSW 2109
Telephone: (02) 9850 9962
Fax: (02) 9850 9001

The Macquarie Ancient Languages School, an initiative of the Ancient History Documentary Research Centre, has been running since 1981, offering courses in a wide variety of languages associated with Ancient History and Biblical Studies. Held over two weeks in January and one week in July, the School has branched out from its beginnings in Classical Greek to include classes in Koine Greek, Latin, Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Classical Hebrew, Coptic, Akkadian, Sanskrit and a range of other ancient languages. Some are offered at each school, others on a rotational basis, for example, Aramaic,  Hieratic and Old Norse.

There are also opportunities to participate in hands-on courses, working with papyri, inscriptions and coins from the collections in the Museum of Ancient Cultures. New courses are incorporated into the programme on a regular basis. Recent additions include the Linear B Tablets, Latin Inscriptions, the Vindolanda Tablets, and Latin Vulgate Psalms.  There are also introductory courses on various topics  – for example, Etruscan, Cuneiform and Celtic Languages.

  • Are you looking for a challenge in 2013?
  • Perhaps you are considering enrolling in a degree programme and would like to include an ancient language?
  • Taking part in a Macquarie Ancient Languages School is a great way to ‘test the water’, prior to enrolling in an accredited unit.

Classes in Classical Greek, Koine/New Testament Greek, Classical Hebrew and Egyptian Hieroglyphs are offered at three levels, ranging from Beginners (requiring no prior knowledge) to Advanced level, reading from selected texts.

Classes in other ancient languages are conducted at the Beginners level in January, with follow-on classes in July, subject to student demand.  Examples of languages offered in the past include Coptic, Akkadian, Aramaic, Sanskrit, Syriac, Hittite and Sumerian, and more recently, Demotic and Hieratic.

Classes are open to people of all ages (from 16 years) and are suitable for:

  • intending students of Greek and other ancient languages in tertiary institutions and theological colleges, and those interested in learning to read the New Testament in Greek
  • secondary teachers and students of Ancient History
  • those interested in learning more about their heritage, for example, those with Celtic, Greek or Italian ancestry
  • those with a general interest in language
  • those interested in English literature, in European civilisation, in drama, philosophy, theology, in the ancient world generally, and in the many fields in which ancient literature and thought have been for centuries a powerful influence.

Teaching is in small tutorial groups meeting either in the mornings or afternoons. The timetable is planned to allow students to enrol in more than one subject – for example, a morning class in Classical Hebrew might be followed by a practical session on Greek Papyri in the afternoon. The timing of both Summer and Winter Schools is designed around the Macquarie University calendar, making it possible for currently enrolled students to attend.  For those considering an ancient language as part of their degree, such a course is an ideal introduction to the subject, prior to enrolling in an accredited unit.  Similarly, both Schools take place in NSW school holidays, so that secondary school students and teachers may attend.

Many of our students come back year after year, not only to enjoy the contact with other like-minded students, but also to brush up on their Greek or other ancient languages, and to continue their fascination with the worlds opened up by the language and literature of these ancient cultures.  Their continued attendance is testimony to the enthusiasm generated by the Macquarie Ancient Languages School over the past three decades.

Society for the Study of Early Christianity

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The Society for the Study of Early Christianity (SSEC) was established at Macquarie University within the Ancient Cultures Research Centre (ACRC). This assists SSEC to fulfill its aims through the study of the New Testament in its times, including its Jewish and Graeco/Roman context, and the development of early Christianity.

The Society was launched by the Vice-Chancellor on 8 May 1987, and a Constitution for the Society was approved by the Council of Macquarie University in December 1987.

The study of Christianity poses important historical questions and intense interest has surrounded the investigation of its origins in the first century and the early phases of its growth. Fresh information on this period continues to become available in astonishing quantities, ripe for research. Macquarie University is also committed to undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in these areas.

The Society has no ecclesiastical ties but may collaborate on academic occasions with theological colleges of all denominations and with the Jewish community.

Aims of the Society

  • To encourage the study of the New Testament in its times and related topics.
  • To build up resources for this study (for example, books, papyri, coins).
  • To organise conferences, public lectures, seminars and other activities to which the Society’s members are invited.
  • To circulate three Newsletters a year outlining forthcoming activities.


Membership is open to the public by payment of the annual subscription. Donations above this amount may be claimable as a tax deduction. See our web page calledMembership.

  • A Visiting Fellow of high academic standing is invited to be the key speaker at the annual Conference each May.
  • If you wish the register for our next annual Conference; then phone us on (02) 9850 7512 or see our web page called Conference.
  • Or if you would like details of our upcoming events then see our web page calledCalendar of Events.


See our web page called Newsletters. Please let us know if you want to receive your future SSEC Newsletters electronically. This will significantly lower our printing & postage costs, email: