Let’s be clear. Not all people do well in a study group. Some people rely too heavily on them, thereby confusing their group’s collective knowledge as their own individual knowledge (Spoiler alert: this will cause huge problems come exam day!). Other people mistakenly believe one of the many myths about law school study groups, like that being in one will guarantee you good grades (Spoiler alert: it won’t if you don’t put in the work!). That said, study groups can be amazingly beneficial. Assuming you have considered the pros and cons of joining a study group (discussed here), and you have selected the best group conducive for studying (discussed here), below are three tips that will help you shine as the star of your study group.
Engage in Proactive Versus Passive Learning Activities
There is a huge difference between active and passive learning. Passive learning law students are those who attend class, but perhaps not all of them. They take notes, but possibly inconsistently and likely in a disorganized fashion. When these students study, they simply re-read notes or case briefs, instead of creating their own outlines to taking practice tests. In a study group, they usually remain quieter than their colleagues during group discussions, and they may not complete agreed-upon tasks.
In comparison, active learning law students attend most (if not all) of their classes. They keep organized notes and create outlines based on those notes (possibly in consultation with supplements). They also understand the importance of writing out answers to practice essays and answering multiple choice questions under timed conditions. They know that going through the motions of hard work and engaging in deep thinking exercises are not the same thing.
A star recognizes you can wait to form a study group in order to first get a sense of who is willing to put in the hard work like you. A star knows that “security blanket” passive activities will not help anyone achieve the grades they want. A star makes sure that the group takes practice tests under timed conditions and reviews and compares their answers to the sample answers. A star encourages everyone to create a hypo for the group to attack collectively or (better yet) individually before constructively criticizing one another’s work, because creating questions adds valuable insight into answering them.
Pick the Right Location to Meet
A star recognizes that picking the right location to study is critical. You need to meet somewhere that isn’t full of distractions and that is quiet but allows group members to talk to one another. For example, you don’t want to meet in the law library or law school’s student lounge, because you risk getting distracted by other students or, at the very least, you won’t be able to talk through a hypo because you either need to be quiet or the environment is too full of interfering legal chatter. Your group should meet somewhere where you won’t run into other law students, whether it is at a group member’s home, a nearby coffee shop, a private study room, or even a student lounge in another field. If your school has private study rooms or empty classrooms in between classes, those can be the best places to meet (assuming you can use them at regular intervals).
A star knows that the environment where the group meets is critically important. A star also recognizes that the location that worked earlier in the semester may need to change if a group member leaves or as finals get closer. A star is not afraid to propose necessary changes, even to something as seemingly simple as choosing where to meet.
Introduce the Group to the Circles Method
Many study groups with the best of intentions to work hard fall victim to a common and seductive pitfall: spending valuable time catching up or complaining rather than studying. Misery loves company, and stressed out law students are no exception! However, this attractive self-sabotaging behavior needs to be tamed. Don’t get me wrong, venting can be great (and I’d be lying to you if I said I never gabbed too much when I should have been working). A star recognizes that venting can occur, but that it should occur in moderation. Welcome to the Circle’s Method!
The basic premise of this method (described further here) is to put your tasks on a piece of paper, assign each task a timeframe for completion by doubling the time you think it will take, draw a circle around each task, and fill in the circles once they are completed. Not only is filling in a circle oddly satisfying, but you prioritized and completed goals, which allowed you and your group to enjoy leftover time guilt free!
A star realizes that using the leftover time guilt free means different things to different people. Some people don’t like venting, so a star won’t hold it against team members if they want to head out early to use that leftover time for something other than venting.
Study groups can be amazingly helpful when tackling new legal issues, and, frankly, as a law student, all of the law you are learning presents new legal issues! However, being a passive participant in your group will not benefit you or the people you work with. Be an active member to ensure the time together is time well spent, and do not be afraid to propose changes when changes need to be made.
Did you find this post helpful? Check out some of our other great articles and podcasts:
- Lessons from My 1L Year: Be Careful with Study Groups
- Five Myths About the Law School Study Group
- Surviving 1L: Should You Join a Study Group?
- How to Get Your Law School Study Group to Actually Study
- Active vs. Passive Learning in Law School
- How to Practice for Exams in Law School
- 063: Dealing with Self-Sabotaging Behavior in Law School
- Need to Get More Done in Law School? Try the Circles
- It’s Almost Finals! Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Study Time?
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