United States History Timeline

Jul 20, 2014 in , , , , , ,

At the end of last year (right after AS, hence the very long exam season), I took two SAT Subject Tests: U.S. History, and Literature. I chose Literature for obvious reasons, and U.S. History because I thought it would be interesting, and it was a subject I could study on my own. That particular adventure led to my expedition to Kinokuniya one early morning, and on another occasion, excited squeals when I saw the only copy of a SAT U.S. History book sitting there, waiting for me to bring it home to devour (no, not that violently - my books remained in good condition).

Anyway, I made some notes while studying, namely in the form of a timeline, and I wanted to share it with you. I didn't have much time to study, so I focused on being as concise as possible. Here's a preview of the first page:

That's the first page of my American history timeline out of eight. You may download it by clicking the above image, or by clicking here (it's a PDF file on Google Drive).

As you can see, I condensed some four hundred years of history into 8 pages, and it really helped me study. This timeline starts from 1400, and ends in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama. I didn't place too much focus on the pre-1700 exploration years because that would have made it rather long, and may have become confusing. Speaking objectively in terms of the SAT test itself, even though they may ask specific questions on exploration (such as which explorers came from which countries, etc), there won't be too many of such questions.

Since time was not on my side, what I did was follow a useful tip from one of the guidebooks, which is, in my own words, to study not so much the individual events (though I did memorize many of those, which are included here), but chunks of history. For example, I included the general eras, such as the years of the Abolitionist Movement, and it is quite easy, once one knows the characteristics of this period, to tell what events are likely to have happened during those years.

Since I'm posting the timeline, I should probably share a couple of tips on studying for the SAT U.S. History specifically at the same time. These are from various books and guides, along with some of my own. Here they are:

  • There's no need to memorize specific dates, as you probably won't be asked "on which date was the Battle of Bunker Hill fought?"; that being said, however, you may need to know the order of certain events, particularly battles. For example: Lexington and Concord --> Bunker Hill --> Saratoga --> Monmouth --> Charleston. They could just ask you to order three of them, or perhaps five, but they shouldn't ask when one occurred specifically (from my experience, anyway).
  • If you're short on study time, focus more on associations than specific facts. For example, if you know a certain president was very much concerned with social reforms or advocated a particular movement, you don't have to memorize his specific policies to remember them.
  • Use the weird, quirky things! There are some facts of U.S. history that I remember learning many years ago, simply because they were weird and interesting. The 1930s saw the Great Depression after the post-WWI boom, and it was during this time that people complained about Hoovervilles. What were they? Hoovervilles were shanty towns that were characteristic of this economic downturn - people called them that because they blamed then-President Herbert Hoover for their suffering. So, by remembering "Hoovervilles," you already know who was president when the Depression took place, and how the people felt about him, thus implying that he wasn't doing a very good job (in their opinion, anyway). This relates back to what I said about focusing on associations.
  • Again with the weird things. If you find something easy to remember, just keep it in your brain. One practice question I did asked who the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean was, and I happened to remember that, for some reason (answer: Amelia Earhart). College Board does tend to ask some seemingly random questions like that. That said, don't sweat the small stuff. Better to focus on what you can remember and is important than freak out over what you can't get into your head, and may not come out anyway.
  • Google "APUSH." Besides being easy to remember (ah-push... ay-push? hmm), it stands for AP (Advanced Placement) U.S. History. The AP is different from the SAT in terms of testing style, so don't bother with test-specific stuff, but you may be able to find useful history facts and flashcards.

Having said all that about test prep, I also have to mention that the subject itself is an interesting one, and well worth studying. It's easy to get stressed out when trying to remember every other relevant fact of an entire nation's history, but American history is actually exciting, if you can look past just the SAT scores. It was the American Revolution of the late 18th century that partially inspired the French Revolution of 1789, and it is things like the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 that shaped the American attitude towards other countries. I got rather excited when I got to write two lit essays this year that related to American history, and had very nerdy fun with it... heh.

So, if you are currently preparing for the SAT Subject Test: United States History, or if you just plain want to have a quick overview of American history, you can download my timeline here. I hope it helps! :)