Flashcards or Flowcharts: What’s Best?

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!

Torts flashcard
Torts flashcard
Torts flashcard
Torts flashcard

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!

Contracts flowchart

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.

If you found this helpful, check out the Law School Toolbox course. We share a bunch of our old study materials, and walk you through exactly how to create your own!

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About Alison Monahan

Alison Monahan is the founder of The Girl's Guide to Law School, which helps law students and prospective law students get in to law school, get through, and stay true to themselves. Alison is a graduate of Columbia Law School, where she was a member of the Columbia Law Review and served as a Civ Pro teaching assistant. You can find her on Twitter at @GirlsGuideToLS.

Comments

  1. Personally I like a mix of both. Outline notes into a flowchart and making flashcards for different parts of the flowchart as needed.

    • Alison Monahan says:

      I agree that a mix is best in most cases. Depending on the type of info you need to learn, different techniques work better. For me, even with a flowchart, I’d have a back up outline that was more detailed (maybe based on an old one from the class), so I could get more detail if I needed it on the test. But it was too hard to figure out what was going on, with just an outline!

  2. Karren Barlow says:

    Great article! I have found How to Make a Flowchart using lucidchart and it was very easy to use! I would recommend checking it out!

  3. I love flowchart :D. But I can’t see the blue sentences on 5th image because they’re too small :-<

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