Weekly Academic Success Tip - Think About Your Review Process in Preparation for Finals
Some of you have been studying for exams all semester (and during Spring Break) by staying on top of your course reading, adding to your outlines each week, and conscientiously learning new material while reviewing past material. This ongoing process is the key to the highest grades because deeper understanding and long-term memory result.
As you study for exams, consider the four kinds of review that you should include in your study plans. If you incorporate all four types, you are more likely to master your courses and garner better grades.
- Intense Learning. First, you need to learn intensely each topic. This type of study has deep understanding as its goal. It may take several study sessions to reach this level of learning for a long topic that was covered over multiple class sessions. Intense learning may need to include additional reading in study aids or time asking the professor questions in order to clear up all confusion and master the material. In addition to learning this one part of the course, the student should consider how it relates to the course as a whole.
- Fresh Review. Second, you should strive to keep fresh everything in the course. This type of study is focused on reading your outline cover to cover at least once a week. It makes sure that the law student never gets so far away from a topic that it gets "foggy." Students forget 80% of what they learn within two weeks if they do not review regularly. After intensely learning a topic, it would be a shame to forget it. Constant review reinforces long-term memory and provides for quicker recall when the material is needed.
- Memory Drills. Third, you should spend time on basic memory drills. This type of study helps a student remember the precise rule, the definition of an element, or the steps of analysis. For most students, these drills will be done with homemade flashcards. Some students will write out rules multiple times. Other students will develop mnemonics. Still others may have visual reminders. The grunt work of memory can be tedious. However, if you do not know the law well, you will not do well on the exam.
- Practice Questions. Fourth, you must complete as many practice questions as possible. This step has several advantages. It monitors whether you really understand the law. It tests whether you can apply the law to new fact scenarios. It allows you to practice test-taking strategies. And it monitors whether you need to repeat intense learning on a topic or sub-topic because errors on the questions indicate that it was obviously not learned to the level needed.
Ideally, you should set aside blocks of study time to accomplish each of these reviews every week for every course. The proportion of time for each course will depend on the amount of material covered, the difficulty of the course, and the type of exam.