Oxford's history course is structured as a three year degree, with work during the first year described as the Preliminary Examination and work undertaken in the final two years as Final Examinations. Students must pass the Preliminary Examination in order to proceed to study for Finals.
The Preliminary Examination (First Year)
The core of the first university curriculum in the middle ages was Grammar, Dialectic and Rhetoric, or reading, thinking and talking/writing. These are still the essential skills you will learn doing an Arts degree at Oxford, for which you spend much of your week reading and thinking, and then some of it writing and discussing. Through the three years you will develop these general abilities, alongside the skills specific to the study of History, through preparing frequent essays or presentations and discussing them, and receiving regular feedback in a cumulative loop. The centrality of tutorials in first-year History allows tutors to respond individually to the needs of students, who will each find different challenges amongst the wide range of required skills and exercises.
Students choose four papers to study, each of which includes an examination at the end of the first year. To give you a broader overview, you are required to pick papers that cover a number of periods and geographic areas.
The two years of Finals enable you to use the skills acquired in the first year to study in much greater depth and breadth, both drilling down much more fully into societies and their surviving sources, and ranging more widely round the world to make bigger connections between the various parts of your accumulating knowledge.
In these two years of study for Finals, students take a mixture of outline courses and more specialist ones, with the encouragement to develop interests and approaches fostered during their first year.