When I started law school, I knew it was going to be hard and require a lot from me, but I didn’t know exactly what I had to do to succeed. I was spending so much time reading and rereading, dedicating so many hours of unfocused attention hoping that it would result in good grades. Did I get good grades? No! And I was also not absorbing the material. So I did my research, asked professors for their studying tips, and started my second semester with a different approach. The list below are the steps I have been taking since then. My grades have improved immensely and I am actually learning the material. I hope this list will help you as well!
Create a Study Area
This is a fundamental part of studying. You will need a quiet area to study in your house (or the library). And the interesting part of having a specific place to study is that you will condition yourself to study mode whenever you sit on that desk.
I have mentioned before that I share an office space with my boyfriend, who is actually working and playing music in the same area as me, which means that the study room is not so quiet. My solution? Sound blocking headphones! And you can take your headphones with you if you need a change of air and decide to study outside, in a park, coffee shop, or another loud environment.
An interesting tip I learned from a psychology professor was to use a specific desk lamp only for studying. In the same way you can condition yourself to think that it’s time to study when you sit in a desk in your house, you can condition your brain to think that it’s time to study when you turn on that desk lamp. After a while, you’ll get used to the idea that you need to focus whenever that desk lamp is on.
If you decide you want to spend 5 hours studying non-stop, eventually, you will get tired and lose focus. Your reading will not be effective and your grades/learning won’t improve. So what’s the secret? Read for as long as your attention spam allows. For some people, that may be 15 minutes, 20 minutes or 30 minutes. It is ok to start with short periods of time.
When you take a break, look outside, play with your pet, talk to your family members, do something to get your mind out of the books. With time, you will notice that your attention spam will improve and you will be able to focus for longer periods of time.
Take Notes in Class – Review Your Notes After Class
That’s a difficult one to get used to because that is the last thing anyone wants to do when class is over, but it’s important! After class, review your notes and expand on keywords you jotted down or ideas that need clarification. If you get into the habit of doing this, you will notice how much more you will be able to take from your notes when you start outlining. Also, if there is something that you didn’t quite understand, you can look it up or ask your professor to clarify the issue.
Another very important thing, write down the hypos your professor uses in class. If you pay attention to those hypos and write them down, you will have a better understanding of the law you are learning. Plus, sometimes professors will expand on those hypos on their final exams.
One method to solidify information is to look away after reading something and explaining it in your own words. Another method is to explain it to someone else. Preferably someone who does not know about the law. If there is no one you can do this with, explain it to an empty chair, to your dog, or just imagine that your grandparents want to know about that particular topic. How would you break it down for them?
Get Some Sleep!
There have been plenty of studies showing that sleep allows our body to rest and restore its energies. However, that is not the only reason why sleeping is important for us. Sleeping actually allows for information that was learned to be solidified in our brains! So make sure to get those daily 8 hours of sleep!
SQ3R stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. It is a method to a better and more efficient approach to study textbooks. That was a novel idea for me, so here’s a little visual aid:
Keep in mind that this method was not necessarily made envisioning law students. We usually do not see pictures or graphs in our textbooks, which, I know, bummer. However, I still believe this is helpful! If you look at your textbook Index, you will see a preview of what you will be studying that semester and you can quickly research terms you don’t know yet. The point of this exercise is not to learn the material before the professor assigns it, but to Survey and prepare yourself for what’s to come. Also, the following steps describes an active studying method, instead of just doing the pointless reading and rereading without actually learning the material.
I hope this list will be helpful to you! Let me know in the comments section down below if there is anything else you do that’s been a great resource for you.