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What's the best way to study?

Posted: Sat Jan 07, 2006 1:17 pm
by dag35
The obvious answer is whatever works best for you, but i'm curious as to how everyone else does it.

I just got my first semester grades and I did not do as well as I had hoped. While not horrible, I got all B's. I was right around the mean in every class so all my final number scores were very close. Obviously I would like to get
A's and I believe I am capable of it. With all my grades being clumped together (4 point difference between highest and lowest, as opposed to some friends of mine who had as much as a 20 point difference), I feel that my problem is not a lack of understanding of the material but rather a preparation issue. Thus, I am looking for a better way to study.

Last semester I briefed every case and made my outlines at the end of the semester. I did not join a study group b/c I prefer to study alone and I did not use much in the way of study aids.

This semester, I feel that I need to try something different in order to improve. I thought I would try book-briefing and making my outlines as I go along, while constantly reviewing with study aids. I also think I am going to join a study group, not so much to make an outline with other people, but rather to just talk about practice problems.

I am curious to find out what other people did and how it worked. Since the semester just started, I want to get into a solid routine without experimenting too much. Any input would be greatly appreciated.


Best way to study for law school

Posted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 2:24 am
by Ken
Hi David,

First and foremost, thank you for all of your great posts over the last three months. I know I speak for everyone in stating that you have been a great addition to this forum.

Like you, I had good but not great grades my first year in law school.
A study tip that really turned things around for me, so that I was in the top 10% in my final two years, was to create flow charts for the exams.

Every law student prepares outlines or utilizes professional outlines. These outlines contain everything, case summaries, black letter law, notes, etc. As a result, outlines can become monolithic mini books of around 50-80 pages.

At my law school, exams were open book but lengthy, so the true constraint was time. When my 2nd year roommate (who graduated with High Honors) shared with his flow charts, a secret was passed on. Flow charts, which contain only the essentials, go from the main rule of law down to all of the exceptions and applications. Thus, by going down one's flow chart you hit all the required black letter law, a case name, and then can move on to further detail in the next set of arrows.

A flow chart is an effective executive summary, allowing you access to all of the essential information in a concise manner. While you may still create a supplemental outline for greater detail, you should really rely upon 4-8 pages of flow charts for all of the course material. Flow charts allowed me to quickly find all the information I needed and then write powerful essay answers that addressed everything that was needed, without getting lost in the minutia.

Unfortunately, my friend was able to provide me with samples of his flowcharts that I could model mine off of. I believe I have thrown mine away along with my law school textbooks a few years ago. However, I think you get the idea.

In the end, I found that the outlines were too much of a crutch and hindered me during the exams as I lost time flipping through all of the pages. Conversely, the flow charts allowed me to, excuse the pun, flow much more smoothly and provide much better answers.

Another tip I have for you, which only applies in your 2nd and 3rd year, is to take classes that have exams that play to your strengths. In your 2nd and 3rd year, where you can choose almost all of your classes (instead of the required classes your 1st year), take classes that have exams that you know you do well on.

For example, I do well with time constraints and that is why I do well on the LSAT and 3 hour exams. I do not test as well with take home exams. Thus, I only took classes in my last 2 years that had timed exams and avoided take home exams, of which I was always stuck in the middle.

Exam your strengths and when you can choose your classes, play to your strengths.

Note that I too avoided study groups, which I feel usually regress to just friendly chatter with little serious studying going on. Do not get lost in reading and rereading cases, which are really just about illustrating one rule of law. If any past exams by the professor are available, be sure to review and take all of those for preparation.

Best of luck, I really appreciate all of your help on the forum and want you to succeed.

While there is no uniform best way to study for law school, hopefully this advice is helpful.



Typical US law school exam?

Posted: Mon Jan 09, 2006 2:42 pm
by Bob
Hello all,

Ken mentioned that his law school's exams were either open book or take home exams. Is this typical for US law schools? What format are the exams usually, i.e. are they multiple choice tests or does one have to solve a case or perhaps write an essay?

In Germany, exams are closed book (excepting the codes) and are almost always cases which the student has to solve.

Best way to study for law school

Posted: Mon Jan 09, 2006 4:19 pm
by dag35
For the semester that I completed already, I had 3 of 4 exams that were open book. I think for most law schools the majority are open book, but there are some professors who still do closed book exam.

For the most part, exams consist of issue spotters. The professor will give you a fact set which you have to analyze from as many ways as possible and determine what the outcome will be. The emphasis is not on your final determination, but rather on the analysis applied.

best way to study

Posted: Mon Jan 16, 2006 3:35 pm
by Bob
The emphasis is not on your final determination, but rather on the analysis applied.
I guess that is the same in law schools around the world. :)

Still, we do have some professors that prefer a certain outcome and that won't hesitate to tell you that their opinion is the correct one. If a student chooses to follow a different one, more and better argumentation is needed to get the same amount of points as if one had followed the "correct" opinion.

Best way to study for law school

Posted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 12:36 pm
by Bob
A study tip that really turned things around for me, so that I was in the top 10% in my final two years, was to create flow charts for the exams.
For those who like to study using mind maps, I just stumbled across a freeware mind-mapping program that looks good:

The webpage also has links to other similar software.

Open Book v. Closed Book Exams

Posted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 11:24 pm
by EAS
I am currently a 1L at a Tier 2 Law school. Approximately 270 students were in my entering class. Obviously that number has decreased a bit, as it does at all law schools. The reason for my posting is that some of you referred to open book exams at your respective law schools. I have a big problem with my law school regarding this issue. The 270 students that entered as 1Ls this past year were split up into 2 sections of 5 classes each. The students in one section had 4/5 open book exams, while most of the students in the other section (including myself) had all closed book exams. I wonder if the decision to put students in a particular section was random or calculated based on certain factors such as undergraduate GPAs and Lsat scores. Regardless of how we all ended up in our respective sections, it is truly unfair that certain students are forced to memorize the UCC for Ks and Restatements for each class (that's right, memorize each one learned during the semester) while other students who will be ranked against us were able to bring whatever they desired to their exam. The only appreciation I have for the closed book exams is that it made me work harder than I could have ever imagined and this is how the Bar Exam in NY will be. However, prospective employers will not pat me on the shoulder for having taken all closed book exams if my grades are not high enough for them to even take the time to interview me. Sorry for ranting, but just wanted to let you all know that the quality of life my law school, especially for closed book exam takers, is certainly not top tier.

Lastly, for my two cents on studying habits, work your tail off no matter what. Furthermore, study on your own during the week, meaning, not only read, reread and going over the outline that you should have already started making; on the weekends, maybe once every two weeks, meet up with a group of no more than 4 students and go over the material that you have learned in the preceeding weeks. However, don't go over every class that Sunday you meet up. Instead, rotate the meetings to focus on a different class each time. Then buckle down 5 weeks before finals. I studied in a group of 4 during most of my last 2 1/2 weeks before finals. Although there was plenty of social chatter, we managed to go over everything. We all took our outlines that we had made throughout the semester and then chopped them down to a small fraction of what they were. Drank a lot of coffee, and survived it all to tell about it. Good Luck.


Study Groups

Posted: Tue Feb 14, 2006 12:52 am
by sarahm1226
Hi David,
I am also a 1L. Unlike other posters, I have had great luck with study groups. Not only has it been a forum to bounce ideas off one another, but also, it has enhanced my understanding of the complexity behind the cases and has given me a forum to ask questions I might have been too embarrassed to ask in class. One of the best study sessions I have ever had was with one other person, before my Civil Procedure exam, and I ended up getting an A in the class!
You said you are not good working in groups, and it is good to know that about yourself, but you may want to find one or two friends with whom you can discuss the cases, especially since you were not thrilled with your performance last semester. It might be beneficial to try something new, even if you think you are not a group person. Also, most people generally agree that teaching another person about a concept is one of the best ways to learn it yourself.
Just some thoughts! Group study is obviously not for everyone, and of course, the key is to find what is best for you.

Best way to study for law school

Posted: Tue Oct 10, 2006 2:22 am
by Christina
I too want to find the best way to study for law school. I don't have much time so I want to make the most of it. I have made outlines for each of my classes, but I have a hard time remembering case names. I have tried study groups, but most of the time I end up frustrated. All of my exams are closed book.

Posted: Wed Nov 08, 2006 6:09 pm
by ranchnet
I'd agree with the outline/flow chart advice. You can use mind maps or just straight up linear listing. Focus on distilling material down to it's essence - there's just too much to manage otherwise. It also lends itself well to getting your head in the multiple choice test game.

Make sure you're not getting scorched on test format issues, too. If you have trouble with multiple choice exams in general, then no amount of studying is going to help until you address the underlying issue. There are tips and sample tests (free) at Some of the tips are pretty helpful if m/c has ever been an issue.

I also found it helpful to not believe I had to study every second of every day. Go for smarter over harder... :)

Good luck!


Posted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 4:58 am
by VictoriaMarie
Someone mentioned course maps and flowcharts to me before, but I didn't actually make one until today. My property exam is open-book, and I'm going to use the one I just made, and I think it will be really helpful.

I took an in-class constitutional law exam 2 days ago, and I used flash cards to learn all the cases and the methods of argument. That worked really well, as far as I can tell, so I'd recommend flashcards for closed-book exams for case-based classes.

How have you guys used commercial outlines? I find them helpful in some classes (property) and useless in others (con law).

Best way to study for law school

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2006 2:32 pm
by katespade
So I'd love to hear some thoughts on VictoriaMarie's question:
How have you guys used commercial outlines? I find them helpful in some classes (property) and useless in others (con law).
Come on, what's the scoop? (sorry to be a nag, I know you lads and ladies are busy busy. Get back to me after finals if you like!)

Posted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 9:09 pm
by jhett
I don't use commercial outlines (CO). I think it's better to *gasp* pay attention in class and figure out what issues the profs like. Because those will probably be the ones that show up in an exam. COs are useful as an overview of a topic but less so when trying to do well on a particular exam. Also, I think it's better to struggle with hypos than just read what the CO has to say on the topic (active v. passive learning).

But, you'll also reach a point where you just don't care anymore (I think my train just pulled into that station). Then it doesn't matter what you have... you're screwed anyways.

Wow, law school is really making me cynical.

Best way to study for law school

Posted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 9:24 pm
by YogaAddict
Are COs expensive?? Do they even fit into the budget?

I also found more info on the best way to study for law school in the law school admissions forum: