Law students get lots of advice about study aids. Some people swear by flashcards, others by flowcharts. What’s best?
What’s “Best” is What Works for You
There’s no one “best” option. The question is what works best for YOU.
That being said, flashcards and flowcharts are useful for different purposes.
Flashcard Pros and Cons
Flashcards are great if you need to memorize a lot of stuff. There’s something about the act of writing out the cards, and the act of physically flipping them over, that engages lots of different parts of the brain. Particularly if you color-code the cards (so the colors actually mean something), you’ll probably find flashcards help with memorization.
The downside of using flashcards is that they make it hard to get a general overview of a subject. Because all the pieces are separate and disjointed, it’s hard to see how everything fits together. One way to combat this limitation is to lay all the cards out on a table and make the connections between them that way. However, as soon as you tidy up, your linkages are lost.
Just for fun, here are a couple of my Torts flashcards, complete with drawings!
I don’t guarantee the law is correct, but perhaps they’ll give you some ideas for your own flashcards!
Flowchart Pros and Cons
The upside of a flowchart is the inverse of flashcards — they’re great for mapping out connections between ideas. Flowcharts are also fantastic when your analysis has a lot of branches. If you’re able to create a flowchart that asks simple “Yes” and “No” questions to lead you down a decision path, you’ll be very well situated to write a great exam answer.
The downside, however, is that a flowchart can quickly turn into impenetrable mess. When you want to include a lot of details, this probably isn’t your best option. (However, it’s worth asking if you’re including too many details, if you can’t reduce what you’re studying to a few fairly simple questions.)
A lot of the law isn’t really that complicated, when you break it down. But, some of it is, so it’s important to recognize where flowcharts are more confusing than they are helpful.
Here’s one I did for Contracts, and I guarantee it’s the only reason I passed the class!
The Bottom Line
When you think about what kind of study tools will help, don’t limit yourself to one type! There’s no “best” choice — only what’s helpful in a particular situation.
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