Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Excellent Research on Studying: Common Wisdom is WRONG

The New York Times has a great article in their Mind section on the latest research on studying. I won't wade into the morass on learning styles (those of you on the LegalEd listserv know this has been going back and forth for a while) but the article does have some wonderful nuggets that are great for our students.

1) Mix up your location. Studying in one place all the time is less helpful than moving to different places. Give your mind a chance to associate the knowledge with multiple cues.

2) Mix up your study plan. It's better to study multiple related concepts than one thing for an extended period of time. Think of it as a warm up (review), the main event (reading, briefing), and cool down (quick test of what you learned.) Or mix up your subject areas when outlining instead of spending countless hours on just one subject. 

3) Testing is one of the best ways to learn something. That's right folks, us ASPer's were on to something when we told you that take practice tests. The harder the test, the more the information "sticks" in your mind. 

4) Cramming may help you finish a test, but don't expect much learning to come out of it. For law students, who are facing a bar exam at the conclusion of law school, this is crucial information. The NYT uses the analogy of a packed suitcase. If you choose a cheap suitcase and throw everything in haphazardly, it may make it to the destination (or maybe not) but don't expect it to last long or to come out looking very good. If you pack carefully, in a quality piece of luggage, not only will the (information) get where you need it to go, you will find it easier to find (information), and you will look much better in the end.

5) Space out your study sessions. This is an extension of # 4.  “The idea is that forgetting is the friend of learning,” said Dr. Kornell. “When you forget something, it allows you to relearn, and do so effectively, the next time you see it.” So sleep on it. Sleep and fun are important components of learning; they give you a chance to forget and consolidate your knowledge.  (RCF)

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