Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Study Aids-What do we recommend?

I am often asked by students for advice on purchasing study aids.  Usually, I advise that students create their own outlines and use those for a study aid.  Yet, in the era of many first year multiple choice exams, I must admit that sometimes a study aid can be a helpful practice tool.

I have a library of study aids in my office.  A treasure trove of books (and other things) that, ironically, I would have killed for in my first year of school. I even have many subjects on cassette, but I never let a student borrow them for a long car ride (doing my part for highway safety!).

So what do tell them?  Well, after explaining to students that in my first year of law school I had no money for study aids (in fact, I think I used one big bottle of shampoo for the entire year--it was a bad hair year), I find myself asking some diagnostic questions.  Are you a visual learner?  Do you like games?  Are you having multiple choice questions on your exams?  Based on the answers I get, I prescribe, albeit somewhat reluctantly, a study aid.

After doing this for some time though, I realize that I tend to point students in the direction of study aids that are interactive and engaging, rather than mere reiterations of what is contained in the casebooks.  I never recommend the "canned briefs" or casebook specific commercial outlines, instead I tend to recommend what I would consider workbooks. 

I think students can enhance their class work and outlining with books that contain sample questions, hypotheticals, maybe a brief outline of the subject and my personal favorite learning tool: flowcharts.  Sometimes I recommend the flash cards (for those gaming types). Most importantly, I think that all of these types of study aids cannot be used in lieu of reading, going to class and student outlining.  All of these study tools require that students not only know their subject, but can apply the rules and do the analysis required on exams.

Note, however, that in late November, when students come to me panicked because they have not outlined yet (exams here start in early December), I recommend prayer. (ezs)

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