Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Study Methods of the Gods!

One week from today classes are over, which means that a student's mind turns to finals. I would imagine that there are many study methods-- probably even classes on how to study-- but most of us develop our own style early in our careers as a student.

My own personal method was certainly, well, personal, but usually effective. There were three basic steps:

1) Create a master outline of the material, incorporating class notes and the reading. I would also throw in a few critical analyses of my own-- ie, ideas for essays on possible topics.

2) Review the master outline and reduce it to an even shorter outline.

3) Finally, create a third, very short outline which would hit the main points and critiques. Often, after this, I would go back to my first master outline and review it.

This format worked best for tests that consisted of a few essay questions, which is mostly what I saw in law school. For example, as my classmate Brett Kavanaugh remembered when visiting here a few years ago, our property exam had one question: "Communism v. Capitalism. Compare."

So, what is your method?

I just read my class notes obsessively. So far, this has not been a succesful plan in law school.
I've been doing my master outline for my courses in clumps.

Now, I'm going back and condensing the outline into just the necessary subjects, points, and elements omitting all but a precious few cases.

My next plan is to crunch those necessary facts into my head by writing and rewriting them, drawing them out and putting them on index cards.

If I can generally follow this, I think I will have adhered to a successful study plan, so far as I am concerned.
Is that Eli Manning? Has he been hanging out with Matt Leinart, and getting pics posted on
My method was somewhat similar to yours. First, I would read and highlight down my notes and from that type out my master outline. I would then read that several times.

After that, I would go through and further highlight down that master outline.

I would then make a second outline, but I would hand-write this second outline and also try to do it from memory. This had two advantages: One, it forced me to see what I remembered. Second, I find that when I write things out by hand I remember things better.

Third, I would read that hand-written outline a few times and highlight that down (and also re-read the big master outline a few more times).

Finally, if the exam involved a bunch of black-letter rules/tests I would type out a list of the rules/tests and their elements and that is what I'd study in the few minutes before the exam.
Very similar...

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

After a few law school classes, I started to realize that MOST of what we'd been talking about all semester would not be on the Exam.

The problem was always that I ran out of time to do the third iteration and then go back and look at the original notes.
Master Outline, short outline, re-write short outline from memory forwards, re-write short outline from memory backwards, check how you did. Only a moderately successful method of study.

I sat on my couch, rocking back and forth, occasionally gurgling like a baby.
Sit in the fetal position. Crying.

Then I'd watch lots of TV. I'd occassionally eat a whole pizza.


It worked surprisingly well.
Sound like good study methods . . . and a scary exam question. (the Communism v. Capitalism one).

I remember my worst exam in college . . . in a class on Existentialism, and the questions were like a whole, LONG paragraph each, like almost a half page long, consisting of a long quote followed by a question or two or three. . . I just threw up my hands after one of those.
If it's your first quarter, don't bother studying. It's all a crap shoot. Good luck.
Why would writing an essay on existentialism bother anyone?
Procrastinate as long as possible. Then, the day before exams start, attempt to read entire textbook. Realize that this is probably not a good use of time. Decide to clean house and do laundry while mentally reviewing most recently attended class. Hope the professor likes to grade on the curve. Practice explaining scholastic probation to parents, and why one should "take a year off and travel". Consider future in retail or food service/bartending. Suck it up and go back to reading. Nail the exam, and live another day.
1. memorize the restatement (second) of contracts

2. realize how stupid that is.

3. give up. ZEEEEEEEEEERO.
Outlining was a waste of time for me. All I did was copy my class notes to my outline. So after my first two quarters, I focused on my class notes instead and used the time I would have wasted on outlining actually studying for my exams.

My grades improved significantly my third quarter, and I never tried to outline again.
I've done an outline for about 80% of my law school classes. I enjoy doing it and believe it really helps me learn the material. I never had time to do a master outline, short outline, shorter outline, then review the master again. That could never work for me: too much time making outlines, too little time reviewing them.

About 10 days before finals start, I sit down with all of my class materials (cases, statutes, books), the course syllabus, my notes (usually 1 or 2 yellow pads), and a clean yellow pad. On page one, I do a course overview/master summary (with Roman numberals for the key topics and As for subtopics) - usually just condensed from the syllabus. It is never longer than 1 page.

On page 2, I start with Roman I and go from there. No one case usually gets any more than 4 lines. If there's a particularly important handout or summary of a topic, I incorporate it behind the page of my outline that fits with the handout/issue summarized. My longest outline is approximately 80 pages. My shortest is approximately 20.

Non-Outline Alternatives -
On only two occasions have I ever used an outline made by another student else. When I got my grade back, I could tell. When pressed for time (e.g. during 2 quarters I had 6 finals), I just pick the easiest class and study by reviewing my notes.

Anyway, that's my study method.
I'd love to have that be the topic for our PR final. My philosophy friends right now are running a study group of Marxist and critical economics, and I find it fascinating. Plus, I'd even doodle a hammer and sickle on the top of the essay.

My method of studying is to take my notes (every weekend, like clockwork!) and arrange them topically into an outline, usually divided into a section for issue triggers, rules, an analytical pattern for applying those rules, and a short listing of case summaries.

Then, I take the "big" outline and condense it down to the essentials -- a big "overall" analysis pattern for each topic heading. I call this my "attack" outline.

If the course lends itself to such an analysis (like con law, for example) I then restructure the attack outline into a meta-analysis, that way I can have a mental checklist to apply to each problem.

Finally, I draft a few hypos and run my analysis on them to make sure it's able to catch all of the issues I've raised.

I have varying success with this method; it seems that in classes that are not black-letter heavy and rely on the analysis (again, like constitutional law) I do well... but on more objective tests (like multiple choice... gulp) I tend to do bad to very poor. But then again, I have never been very good at multiple choice.
That picture looks like one of my high-school buddies partying at U of I with a unknown young lady.

- Chicago
This comment has been removed by the author.
Take meticulous notes every time you go to class or have a reading, and then read those notes obsessively.

It helps to outline out essay questions if you know 'em beforehand.

Getting together in study groups to discuss everything helps a bunch, too.

--token undergrad
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?