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How do you revise?

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    Hey,

    I'm hopefully going to be a uni law student in sept, and i was hoping to know how you people revise for the exams, I heard there's a big workload in the first year and I would really like to know what methods you use to revise for law exams etc any good tips on revising law cases would be helpful

    Thanks
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    Different people have different ways of revising.
    There isn't some special way of learning the law. Good revision generally involves practicing using the law in problem questions and learning about how the law could be improved or whether its satisfactory.
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    yeah i've got a tip. organise your notes effectively. this will help you a lot in the long run. when doing stuff like dissertations its useful to use highlighters to signify various parts of texts so that you can structure the essays accordingly.
    Also be clear with your thoughts and think about 'what will make this essay look great for the marker?" "what is the marker looking for"
    another thing, for workload time management is essential. forget about the parties that people that study sociology or any other subject are going. imo law is a lot more rigorous so if you put in hard grafted work you will reap the benefits in becoming much broader with the knowledge. again, to maximise your chances of success always stay motivated even though the topic may be on the dull side.
    For cases i recommend studying it really closely and thinking systematically about how you can apply certain developments to your work...

    hope you do well, good luck.
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    I suggest you read all the cases at least 50 times and then you will tend to remember most of them by heart. That involves having no social life, no drinking, eating, or any sort of fun activity. Oh, and you are not allowed to have friends either - because they take off time from studying cases. Try locking yourself in a room, with bread and water for all the time you are not in lectures, classer or tutorials.

    p.s. - no work experience allowed, that will require having interviews and writing a personal statement which is just too time consuming.

    p.p.s. - why are you thinking about that now?!
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    (Original post by Solemn Wanderer)
    My advice is to steer clear of coffee. It may make you feel more alert in the short term, but it saps concentration like there's no tomorrow, and you feel sleepier the next day because your sleep pattern is disrupted.
    aww what about the all nighters?
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    pro plus of course.

    Memory is key for exams, then you need to understand the skills your examiner is testing you on and demonstrate them in your script. Loads of people esp my friends who are on target for first have managed it based on having prodigious memories, while this is not the only way to revise there is some truth in what they say.

    And practice, practice, practice exam papers. And look for up to date source material, it can make the difference.
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    proplus hmm haven't tried that.

    i find mindmaps really useful in the un up to the exams. maybe give them a shot for the memory stuff.
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    Here are some tips. They worked for me twenty years ago and still working for many of my students today.

    (1) Never take notes from textbooks or casebooks. Never use highlighting or underlining in them. Use them only for initial orientation on each topic and thereafter only for reference (i.e. quick lookup) purposes. Using textbooks or casebooks as your main study materials is at best a waste of time and at worst a recipe for disaster (depending on how gullible you are).

    (2) Spend your main work time with the cases and statutes as reported, preferably in the printed law reports but failing that on Lexis/Westlaw. Have a look at the headnote before working on the case, but never treat the headnote as authoritative. Always make your own note on the case, extracting your own points (including the ratio and any really important dicta) from the judgments. (Don't know what a ratio or dictum is? Just you wait ...!)

    (3) I made it my rule that no case, correctly noted, should ever take up more than two sides of a handwritten 5x3 index card. To achieve this I usually took contemporaneous notes on A4 while reading the case, them immeditaley took notes from my A4 notes onto the 5x3 card. I then threw away the A4.

    (4) The card should contain a few words on the facts (just to bring them back to mind) followed by a more careful statement of the law in the case. It should also indicate the name as you will cite it in the exam, the citation, the court, and the general topic (so that you can sort your cards into various orders for revision, and thereby test your memory in various ways).

    (5) For each (case-law dominated) exam I recommend between 40 and 50 cases/cards. This will be your main material to commit to memory in the day or two before the exam. It is unrealistic to expect to remember more and it is unrealistic to expect to remember even this much for longer than a day or two. To get it down to 40-50 cards you may need to edit out some cases. Remembering 45 is a lot better than half-remembering 90. But you need skill and judgment to decide which to ditch. In general, I held onto those that were most often cited and/or struck me as containing points that I could use for multiple purposes in the exam.

    (6) Don't bother with revision notes beyond the 40-50 cards. The one exception is that you could usefully keep a few page-long notes (perhaps flow-chart diagrams) of major academic articles on really difficult topics. It is reasonable to expect that you will be able to look over these and get the gist of them comitted to memory the night before your exam. These few extra resources may make the difference between a 2.1 and a 1st.

    (7) Never photocopy anything for reading later, except in emergencies when the library is about to close and you have an essay to write. Photocopying gives you the illusion that you've made progress and in most cases that 'later' moment will never come.

    (8) Work like a dog all year, and master your subjects as you go along, so that revision matters less.
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    Thanks John; I've just saved them tips onto my PC for next year!
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    That is absolutely priceless. I need any advice I can get. Thank you so much! I'm actually saving that to my word so I can refer back to that.

    Just out of interest, what is so wrong with using the text books? Surely that's what they're there for?
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    Textbooks: They are not authority for anything. Rely on them as a lawyer and get yourself sued. Rely on them as a law student and get yourself a 2.2, so that you will never have the opportunity to get sued.

    Of course, they are fine to help you get the general picture of your topic and to help you find the cases/statutes that matter for your argument.
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    I fully endorse the point re textbooks - good way into the topic, but no more than that. Textbooks should provide an overview to get you into the subject, but they can never substitute for reading cases in the law-reports. Get a Statute book for each module, and use it. It always amazes me when my commercial or company law students still have pristine copies of their statute books at the end of the module.

    When writing essays, never cite a textbook as your authority for a point of law. Never. Ever.
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    I compltely disagree with a lot of what is written ehre. But bear in mind, different revision techniques work for different people.

    I'm a law student, and i'll tell you how i revise.

    First off, it isn't fun, and you have to spend a lot of time on it if you tuly want to remember stuff.

    I never use gimmicky cards and post-its and things, they just don't work for me. I never try to temember all the details of cases- this is USELESS. You DO NOT get marks in an exam for writing about the names of the people in the case, and giving a whole description of all of the intricacies of the caes. The examiner doesn't need you to relay everything- they have the cases themselves! With ases, read them well and write notes on them, and just remember the basics of what happened, and learn the ratio by heart. Obiter stuff can come in handy, but don't fucos too much on it. If i must be more specific, the ratio is the reasoning behind a judges decision- the legal reasoning. If you are talking about a case, simply mention it by name, give a brief description of what happened, then focus on the ratio. To remember cases, simply learn a line of each by heart, and once you've got that ine written down, everything will flow back to you.

    Use the textbooks. Where else are yo going to get the information from? As long as the book is up-to-date, with new laws, amended legislation etc, everything in it tends to be okay. I don't rely on tutors and lecture notes- lectures are often boring, and a waste of time- it all depends on the lecturer, who will only ever outline things anyway. The textbooks go into much further detail

    The first lot of your revision is the worst- write EVERYTHING down. Then next time, condense. Then condense again. Do this a few times, until you can fit notes onto two sides of A4 for each topic. Again, if you do this, when you remeber a few sentences from your notes, things click in your brain an it all flows naturally onto the oage.

    Start a few weeks before. Work in the morning, and break, then do more in the afternoon. Don't revise at night- keep evenings free for fun with friends, and you won't feel bogged down. Its not good to start revising at night, when your head is filled with the day's events. Easily distracted, good TV, tiredness, all these affect your ability to work in the evening.

    Don't read loaods the night before, because this will stick in your head the next day, and it will be harder to remember other things.

    Quite simply, reading a lot, and writing a lot,and condensing the notes is the best way to revise in my opinion. I hate cards, post-its and diagrams. But thats the way my brain works!

    Oh, and listen to classical music while you revise. Its soothing, and makes you feel intelligent, and if you feel clever, and have the optimisim, you don't feel as hopeless- its psychological. Plus having music in as you reise(with no lyrics to sing along to!) will stop you from focusing on dstracting noises, like the drips of taps, banging from your flatmates etc.
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    (Original post by cwtf)
    I fully endorse the point re textbooks - good way into the topic, but no more than that. Textbooks should provide an overview to get you into the subject, but they can never substitute for reading cases in the law-reports. Get a Statute book for each module, and use it. It always amazes me when my commercial or company law students still have pristine copies of their statute books at the end of the module.

    When writing essays, never cite a textbook as your authority for a point of law. Never. Ever.
    So always cite the case or the statute directly?

    When is it appropriate to cite text books then?

    How much of a text book is actually worth reading? Surely text books are referenced on the reading lists? Should you bother reading entire chapters on specific subjects?
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    (Original post by cwtf)
    I fully endorse the point re textbooks - good way into the topic, but no more than that. Textbooks should provide an overview to get you into the subject, but they can never substitute for reading cases in the law-reports. Get a Statute book for each module, and use it. It always amazes me when my commercial or company law students still have pristine copies of their statute books at the end of the module.

    When writing essays, never cite a textbook as your authority for a point of law. Never. Ever.
    Indeed, its not good to cite textbook references! I learned the hard way on this, when got a 2:2 because of it.

    If i'm being honest, i have never opened my statute book for constitutional law. Its still in its wrapper, and i'm nearly finished my second term....sometimes, they are useless.
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    (Original post by John Gardner)

    (3) I made it my rule that no case, correctly noted, should ever take up more than two sides of a handwritten 5x3 index card. To achieve this I usually took contemporaneous notes on A4 while reading the case, them immeditaley took notes from my A4 notes onto the 5x3 card. I then threw away the A4.
    That is quite hard, just throwing something away I have 5x3 index cards but I struggle to keep them to just that.

    What about philosophy of law subjects? Then you rely on people's theories to formulate your own opinion and debate, how should one deal with such commentary in terms of writing revision notes. My friends photocopy every article and write on it and highlight it. I started by making my own notes from the articles.
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    Thanks for the advice John. I'll definitely take some of your advice on board. Especially, with the cards i find that its quite a good idea.

    I have a question, for the people who got firsts what did you include in your work to add that extra spark that sets it apart from a 2:1. thanks.
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    (Original post by John Gardner)
    Textbooks: They are not authority for anything. Rely on them as a lawyer and get yourself sued.
    Sorry John, but I'm going to have to take issue with this! If I was to practise by relying solely on caselaw and no texts then it would take me years to do anything and clients would never pay my bills!

    For example, if I get a matter which has a contractual element to it, I reach (or used to when in the UK) for my copy of Chitty. I review the relevant areas of principle and work out how that will apply to the facts of my client's case. From there, I may go to the authorities - especially if I need to distinguish my client's case from accepted principle. I'll also run an electronic search to see whether there have been any recent legal developments.

    Clearly I wouldn't cite a text as authority - although I have often seen Counsel quote a paragraph from a well-regarded text as a way of providing a useful summary of the relevant aspect of the law. I do, however, use practitioners texts, in conjunction with electronic search tools, as being an accurate summary of the current law. I don't see that as being negligent and would hope that my practising cert is safe for now!

    Where I do agree with John and cwtf is that there is absolutely NO substitute for looking at legislation itself. I would never rely on a text's summary of statutory provisions on its own - rather I'd review the legislation myself and use the text as a useful intro/explanation and a reference source for case law which had examined the relevant provisions.
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    I'm sort of amazed at how few notes I have actually made. I made copious amounts in the first few weeks of the degree... masses. I wrote up each lecture in "essay format" - then the seminar work started to pile up, as did the coursework (oh, and the mooting) - soon I wasn't doing anything other than reading the text books and reading cases.

    I've barely touched the contract casebook I bought. And for contitutional law - I haven't touched the cases and materials - nor have I really referred to the textbook since Christmas. All my Consti and Legal System reading comes from Journal Articles.

    I have used my contract textbooks extensively. I seem never to have one out of my hand. I do find them extremely useful. Of the 3 that I have (Ansons, Poole, Stone) I seem to use Poole most often. Very impressed with that book - readable, simple and also detailed.

    I am slightly concerned by the fact that I have made so few notes, however I am heartened when I talk about "stuff", mention the cases and principle without having to think and my peers look at me mystified as to how I can recall all this information... And the truth is I don't altogehter know! I tell them it's because I have no life outside of the gym, work and studying law - and that's probably the answer. Other than when I am at the gym I suppose I am totally immersed in law. I'm scared to death that this "knowledge" will vanish from memory when I walk into the exam room!

    Definitely going to opt for the 5x3 card system. Thanks for the tips in this thread!

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