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Top Study Techniques that Work Best for Law Students

I am one thousand per cent guilty of being on TikTok for longer than I needed to whilst I had a few unwatched lectures in my back pocket waiting for me. Sometimes I find the algorithm will expose me and start dropping not-so-subtle hints about how to study effectively or show pages of dark academia content from Cambridge or USYD. Yes, I'd love to be able to study in buildings dripping with history and pay for an overpriced kombucha lasagne. (Just kidding)


But I am curious, what study techniques actually work for law students? We are chronically time-poor, needing rest and still trying to achieve the best grades we've ever had. But how do we achieve that? Does one study method work for all of us? We road-tested and rated the most popular ones to help expose the best ones for you. Our reviews highlighted the pros and cons, and our ratings suggest how applicable the original study method is for law students.



The SQ3R method

The SQ3R method is a study technique that is designed to help students read and retain information from textbooks more effectively. SQ3R stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review, which are the five steps of the method.

  1. Survey: In the survey step, you quickly skim through the chapter or section you are going to read, looking at headings, subheadings, and any visual aids, such as charts or graphs. This helps you get an overview of what the material is about.

  2. Question: After surveying the material, you should come up with questions about what you are going to read. This can help you focus your attention and give you a purpose for reading.

  3. Read: Read the material actively, taking notes and looking for answers to your questions. Trying to understand the material is more important rather than simply memorising it.

  4. Recite: After reading a section, close the book and try to recall the information. This can help you identify what you do and don't understand, and reinforce your memory.

  5. Review: Finally, review the material periodically to reinforce your memory and to help you remember the key concepts.

The SQ3R method is a popular and effective way to study, and it can be used with any reading material, not just textbooks.


Review

The pros of this study method include the willingness to challenge your existing knowledge and learn through questions and answers.


The cons are that it's way too time-consuming to try and find questions yourself. We suggest using AI software to help generate questions for you (a huge time saver) and/or reading your tutorial questions and answering them first.


Rating

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The PQ4R method

The PQR4 method is a study technique that can help students improve their comprehension and retention of information while reading. PQR4 stands for Preview, Question, Read, Reflect, and Review, which are the five steps of the method.

  1. Preview: In the preview step, you quickly skim through the material, looking at headings, subheadings, and any visual aids, such as charts or graphs. This helps you get an overview of what the material is about.

  2. Question: After previewing the material, you should generate questions about what you are going to read. This can help you focus your attention and give you a purpose for reading.

  3. Read: Read the material actively, taking notes and looking for answers to your questions. Trying to understand the material is more important rather than simply memorising it.

  4. Reflect: After reading a section, reflect on what you've read for a few moments. This can help you identify what you do and don't understand, and reinforce your memory.

  5. Review: Finally, review the material periodically to reinforce your memory and to help you remember the key concepts.

The PQR4 method is similar to the SQ3R method, but it adds the step of reflection, which encourages students to think more deeply about the material they are reading. This can help students make connections between different concepts and improve their understanding of the material.


Review

The pros of this study method include skimming through the material, although this is not always applicable depending on the density of your readings.


The cons are assuming that I have time to reflect. The audacity. #injustice


Rating

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Retrieval practice

Retrieval practice, also known as the testing effect, is a learning technique that involves actively recalling information from memory rather than simply rereading or reviewing it. It involves practising the process of recalling information from memory, which has been shown to improve long-term retention and retrieval of that information.


In retrieval practice, learners actively retrieve information from their memory, whether it be through testing, quizzing, or self-assessment. The process of retrieval strengthens the neural pathways in the brain that are associated with that information, making it easier to recall that information in the future.


Retrieval practice can be used in a variety of learning contexts, including classrooms, online learning, and self-study. It has been shown to be a highly effective learning strategy, especially when combined with other techniques such as spaced repetition and interleaving.


Overall, retrieval practice is a powerful tool for improving long-term memory retention and recall and is an essential component of any effective study or learning strategy.


Review

The pros of this study method are that it can show you what you know, and what you don't know.


The cons are that you find out what you don't know. You can expect an increase in anxiety and the need for another coffee.


Rating

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Spaced practice

Spaced practice, also known as distributed practice or spaced repetition, is a learning technique that involves spreading out study or practice sessions over time, rather than cramming all of the material into a single session. This approach allows learners to space out their learning and practice sessions over time, with the goal of promoting better long-term retention and retrieval of the material.


The basic idea behind spaced practice is that by spacing out study or practice sessions, learners can improve the strength and durability of the neural connections in their brain that are associated with that material. By regularly revisiting the material, learners are more likely to remember it in the long term.


There are several different ways to incorporate spaced practice into your learning or study routine. One approach is to schedule multiple study or practice sessions over time, with each session building on the material from the previous session. Another approach is to use spaced repetition software, which schedules review sessions based on a learner's performance and progress.


Spaced practice has been shown to be an effective learning strategy for a wide range of topics and subject areas. By spacing out learning and practice sessions over time, learners can increase their retention and recall of material, leading to better academic performance and a deeper understanding of the material.


Review

The pros of this study method are that it can help you be more consistent since it's easier to recall your information if you maintain the same spaced practice schedule each week.


The cons are you might be too time-pressed to have a consistent schedule. Although, the results are cumulative so, perhaps even half an hour per day could make a difference.


Rating

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The Feynman technique

The Feynman Technique is a learning method named after the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. It is a four-step process that helps you understand and retain a concept in your memory. The four steps are:

  1. Choose a concept: Select a concept or idea that you want to learn or understand.

  2. Teach the concept: Imagine you are explaining the concept to someone who has no prior knowledge of the subject. Use simple language and examples to convey the concept.

  3. Identify gaps: As you explain the concept, identify any gaps in your understanding or areas where you struggle to explain the concept clearly.

  4. Review and simplify: Go back to your sources and review the concept to fill in any gaps in your understanding. Then, simplify the concept using analogies or examples until you can explain it clearly and concisely.

The Feynman Technique is a powerful tool for learning and understanding complex ideas. It can be applied to a wide range of subjects, from science and mathematics to literature and history.


Review

The pros of this study method include that it builds your confidence in what you know and what you don't know. Also, you can double-check what you're teaching yourself by posting on your student discussion forum.


The cons are pretty negligible. The Feynman technique reminds me of Einstein's famous quote- "If you can't explain it, then you don't understand it well enough."


Rating

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The Leitner system

The Leitner system is a study method designed to improve long-term memory retention. It involves using flashcards and a spaced repetition schedule to help you review information at increasing intervals of time.

Here is how the Leitner System works:

  1. Create flashcards: Create a set of flashcards with questions or prompts on one side and answers on the other.

  2. Divide the flashcards into boxes: Divide the flashcards into several boxes, with Box 1 being the easiest and Box 4 is the most difficult.

  3. Start studying: Begin studying with Box 1. Review each flashcard, and if you answer the question correctly, move the card to the next box. If you answer incorrectly, return the card to Box 1.

  4. Adjust the schedule: As you progress, review the cards in each box at increasing intervals. For example, review the cards in Box 1 every day, Box 2 every two days, Box 3 every five days, and Box 4 every 10 days. If you answer a card incorrectly during a review, move it back to Box 1.

The Leitner System is based on the idea that the more you review information at spaced intervals, the better you will remember it in the long term. By gradually increasing the intervals between reviews, you can improve your retention of the material and avoid forgetting it over time.


Review

The pros of this study method are that it allows you to recognise which areas of law you struggle to understand and why - especially since you can rank your questions from easiest to hardest.


The cons are that this method can bring out your inner perfectionist. One of the problems I've encountered with creating my flashcards is that it diverted my study from understanding the law to classical art theory. I got way too invested in having good notes rather than an in-depth understanding of why certain legal concepts were so important. However, we do offer digital study notes for law students on our Instagram.


Rating

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Colour-coded notes

Colour-coded notes can have several study benefits, including:

  1. Improved organization: You can quickly and easily identify the information you need by assigning different colours to different topics or categories.

  2. Enhanced memory retention: Associating different colours with specific pieces of information can help you remember and recall them more easily.

  3. Increased engagement: Using colourful notes can make studying more visually appealing and engaging, which can help you stay focused and motivated.

  4. Faster information processing: Color-coding can help you quickly process information and identify key points, allowing you to study more efficiently.

  5. Reduced stress: By keeping your notes organized and easy to read, you can reduce the stress and anxiety that can come with disorganized study materials.

Overall, colour-coded notes can be a powerful tool for improving your study habits and achieving academic success.


Review

The pros of this study method are that once you pick a particular colour for a subject, it's a lot easier to remember key cases or bits of information from those colour-coded subjects.


The cons include the presumption that sticky notes work for everyone. You can highlight your notes on your iPad too. That's still a massive win.


Rating

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Mind mapping

Mind mapping is a technique used to organize information visually, and it has several benefits, including:

  1. Improved creativity: Mind mapping can help stimulate the brain's creative thinking, encouraging brainstorming and generating new ideas.

  2. Better organization: Mind mapping can help organize information in a more logical and structured way, making it easier to understand and remember.

  3. Enhanced memory retention: The use of visual cues and imagery in mind mapping can help improve memory retention and recall.

  4. Increased productivity: Mind mapping can help break down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable components, making planning and prioritising tasks easier.

  5. Better communication: Mind maps can be used to communicate complex ideas and concepts clearly, concisely and visually.

  6. Greater clarity: Mind mapping can help you see relationships and connections between different ideas or pieces of information that may not be immediately obvious.

Mind mapping is a powerful tool for improving creativity, organization, memory retention, productivity, communication, and clarity. It can be used in a wide range of settings, including education, business, and personal development.


Review

The pros of this study method are that it could help you visualise relationships in your hypothetical questions for property, family or contract law.


The cons are that it's not particularly helpful in getting a deeper understanding of the legal principles that arise from the common law.


Rating

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If you've read this far, we know you're a law student who can speed read like nobody's business. I hope you enjoyed reading this article. There's so much "self-help" advice out there for law students, but not all of it is relevant to us. The top study methods that I've found most helpful include the Feynman technique, colour-coded notes, writing case summaries and having a system in place for how to answer legal hypotheticals. What methods do you like to use when you study?





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