Study tips for law exams!
This year I don’t have any January exams, but I remember worrying about some in my first year, so here are a few things that I found useful when studying for my summer exams!
Law is a very dense subject (much like our textbooks!) meaning that the amount of information to learn might seem quite daunting. But, there is time to learn everything. Last year, a second year warned me that starting early would save my sanity, and it really did! This does depend on how you learn too, though. I am incapable of cramming because I only remember things by re-reading, re-writing and re-learning lots of times which can be quite time consuming. I also find it difficult to stay efficient if I work many hours in a row, and I tend to remember things best when I work with short study sessions, but I know that some people are able to work 5+ hours without losing focus, so it depends on how you study. Starting revisions early also meant that by the time exam season rolled around, I didn’t feel worried about having to cram a lot of material, and I was able to take plenty of breaks when I needed them without feeling guilty. This helped me not get too anxious right before exams, and I felt more prepared to tackle them on the day.
2-Learn your cases early on.
English Law is very case heavy, especially in your first year when you are studying Tort, Property and Criminal Law which all have their myriads of cases, and learning them will take time. A lot of the principles you need to apply come directly from cases, so learning your cases is also what allows you to understand the material as a whole. My method last year was to quickly read over my lecture notes for a topic, then write down all of the cases I needed to know (including the facts + principles) on index cards so I could quiz myself on them. Then I would go back to the lecture notes and textbooks and see how everything fit together, before looking at controversial areas of the law. As I mentioned, I started my revisions quite early, so having these index notes also helped me make sure I wasn’t forgetting any of the material I had learned early on. You can also add on cases once you feel comfortable with the key ones. Learning cases can be quite time consuming, but the good thing is that it is easy to test yourself on them. This year for my mock exam I would take the time to write down all of the cases I remembered while I took the bus to university. Then I would just compare them to my notes and see what I had missed.
(Side note: Word plays and puns are life-savers when it comes to remembering case names!)
3-Take practice exams.
There are so many past papers available online, so do practice some of them in exam conditions and see how you do. Last year, with my friends we would motivate ourselves by doing them together. If you don’t have the time to do that many, then look at the questions and jot down the plan you would use to answer it and the cases you would include. This helps you see where there are gaps in your knowledge 🙂
4-Don’ be too hard on yourself/Don’t compare yourself to others.
People study differently, and it’s very easy to feel guilty if you aren’t working as many hours as others, or if you haven’t covered such-and-such chapter yet. Study in a way that works for you and that doesn’t exhaust you too much. Don’t feel bad for taking breaks when you need them because they will help you be more productive later on and feel less anxious.
5-Ask for help.
Law is complicated, and you’re not going to understand everything at once. So ask your coursemates or tutors or lecturers for help if you’re struggling with a concept. You might feel like your question is dumb, but it’s likely everyone else is confused too. Last year I asked so many questions that I knew were probably obvious, but I also knew that I just couldn’t get my head wrapped around them until it was explained to me again.
Asking for help also applies to non-academic things too. Exams and assignments are a stressful time and if you feel too overwhelmed there is so much support available through the Law School or the university for you to talk to someone about how you are feeling.
I hope this helps those of you with exams soon! 🙂