From Class Preparation to Exam Taking
2014 Academic Orientation for Incoming Students
Regent University School of Law
August 14, 2014
Professor Natt Gantt
Director of Academic Success
General Study Principles
I. You’re not in college anymore . . . .
Breadth of coverage of material
Inductive case method approach to learning
Testing on application of material
Consider the following quotation about law school testing:
“[F]orget about law for a moment. Assume instead that you are taking a graduate course in engineering and that you have spent the semester studying the properties of various building materials and a host of theories of design. You have dedicated virtually every waking moment to the course. You have read and re-read every assignment and taken copious notes; you have come to each class session meticulously well-prepared; you have taken down almost every word the instructor has uttered; you have saved and annotated every handout; and—during the two weeks before the final exam—you have organized and reorganized and outlined and committed everything to memory with such success that, in the highly unlikely event that someone besides a classmate were to ask you to explain the differing properties of (say) plastic vs. glass, you could quickly rattle off everything that could possibly be said on the subject.
“You enter the room for the final examination, and the proctor presents you with a large box containing a seemingly random assortment of materials of the sort studied in the course. On the blackboard, the proctor writes the following instructions: ‘Using the materials in the box before you, design and construct a widget according to the principles we studied in the course’. (Unlike law students, engineering students know exactly what widgets look like!) Confronted with this daunting task, you would no doubt find the mass of information you have mastered in preparation for the exam helpful—indeed crucial. But you would obviously be making a serious mistake if you left the contents of the box untouched and proceeded instead to compose an essay on the fundamentals of materials and design and to submit it for the grade. The point of the exercise is not, after all, to regurgitate what you know, but to use what you know on what you happen to find inside the box.”
(Richard Michael Fischl & Jeremy Paul, Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams 4-5 (1999))
II. Take an active role in studying.
III. Develop a strategy for studying.
A. Know your learning style.
You will take a learning style inventory during orientation. This inventory will give you one way to assess your learning style. Another common way to gauge your style is based on these three primary styles—
1. Auditory—Auditory learners learn best through any technique that provides for the oral dissemination of information, such as listening to lecture recordings, participating in formal discussion groups (where the agenda is set and one student teaches a particular topic), and engaging in independent learning (where you recite rules or listen to an internal running commentary).
2. Visual—Visual learners learn best through strategies that emphasize visual elements and are informal in setting, such as developing visual flow charts on a particular topic and participating in informal discussion groups in which students tackle a problem together.
3. Tactile/Tactual—Tactile learners learn best by doing, such as by questioning themselves and by developing and taking mock quizzes and practice exams. (This learning style is the one that is perhaps most neglected in law school.)
B. Survey suggested law school strategies.
Many sources will tell you that there is one specific studying strategy that will work for all students all the time. This is not true. You will need to reflect upon your learning style, class schedule, and other factors to consider developing what works for you. That said, I highly