First, regarding the history of the Middle East, I just remembered this great NPR feature that my brother pointed out to me a couple of months back: The Mideast : A Century of Conflict. I hope to go through the series soon and then have a clue about the history behind current events there.
I took a practice prelim today, and it went fairly well; I'm definitely glad I did it. I think deeper understanding of principles is the key goal of my studying up until next Tuesday. I can memorize a lot of stuff, but eventually I'll be asked a question that I don't immediately know the answer to, and that's when the understanding is key I think. The exam is going to be high-stress, though; looking forward to having it over with (and hopefully passing).