Study Skills Series: Formative Assessment

by Robert Craig, University of Bristol Law School

[The introduction to the series can be found here]

This post is written as if addressed to a student who is about to attempt a formative in my subject which is constitutional law.

Writing legal essays is probably the most important key skill you need to master. Try to structure your answer in a logical manner. Human beings like stories and those of us who mark your formatives and summatives are, contrary to certain vicious rumours put about by second year law students, definitely human. One helpful idea is to imagine you are writing to a senior professor in another subject (e.g., the Head of Bristol Law School, Ken Oliphant, who for some weird reason is not a public lawyer. He is, sadly, a tort lawyer – such a waste of a fine brain). (more…)

Study Skills Series: Taking part in classes

by Robert Craig, University of Bristol Law School

[The introduction to the series can be found here]

In classes, it might be thought to be better to choose your own moment to contribute rather than perhaps be randomly asked a direct question that you were not expecting by the tutor in the class. They will be trying to involve you in order to encourage you to make the best use of classes, which are designed to help you develop and test your ideas and reactions to the material by discussing them with your tutor and peers. But, to repeat, it is far better for you to pick a good moment to contribute something, even if it is just a question. (more…)

What Are Law Schools For?

by Foluke Adebisi, University of Bristol Law School

I wrote an article as part of a special issue that reflects on the state of the traditional law school and legal education. The full text is open access and can be accessed here or through your local library or other institutional channels. The purpose of the article was to think through the role of law schools in local and global society, especially in teaching the world to our students, especially if we want to engage with the possibility of changing the world. (more…)

Study Skill Series: Proactive Learning

by Robert Craig, University of Bristol Law School

[The introduction to the series can be found here]

Law is a subject where there is usually a strong correlation between effort and progress. Experience with generations of law students suggests that it is a bad idea to “leave things until later” in your class preparation because it is much harder to come back to things, from scratch, when they are not fresh in your mind. Also, the volume of material can quickly add up. Little and often is better and, incidentally, pacing yourself well over time also helps you to learn and remember the content far more easily – not to mention that the discipline of training your mind to keep plugging away regularly is a useful, and marketable, life skill. You will be justified in giving yourself a little pat on the back when you get to the revision period if you are actually revising rather than “catching up”. (more…)

Study Skills Series: SQ3R

by Robert Craig, University of Bristol Law School

[The introduction to the series can be found here]

One widely recommended way to try to distil complex texts into notes is called “the SQ3R method”. It means “Skim, Question, Read, Recall, Review”. Some of you may find it useful, but – again – don’t force yourself to do things that don’t work for you. In essence, the SQ3R method means you first Skim the whole chapter and make a note of the main section headings, so you have an overview. Then you ask yourself (“Question”) what you are trying to get from the material – try to identify a few main things you want to know after each subsection. Then you Read a small section of the chapter – say 3-4 pages – without taking notes. Then you look away and Recall the main points. Then you Review those points by writing down the main points in your own words and from memory. This is crucial. Don’t write out what the author of the textbook said. And try to use simple, clear sentences. Also consider using the dictation tool on Word – my note taking improved massively when I started using that.

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