I feel that now after studying towards my LLB Law degree for 3 years I have gained valuable skills about successful ways to revise and I didn’t want these skills to go to waste! Over the years I have been given copious amounts of advice about the best ways to revise and I wanted to condense the ways which I found most helpful.
Step 1: Preparation and time management
Once you are clear what topics you need to revise for the exam, it is important that you divide your time equally between all the topics. It is very easy to focus all of your time of the first exam as it looms ever closer. However, a first in one exam and a third in the rest will get you nowhere. I did this by creating a spreadsheet on Excel in which I split my time equally and, if possible, allowing the day before each exam to solely focus on that subject. This should be done long before the assessments so that sufficient attention can be given to each assessment. I gave myself a morning to look at one subject and an afternoon to look at a different subject – however this can be broken down into smaller hourly sections depending on how best you work.
Step 2: Consolidation
This is the time to gather all of the different sources of information that you have about one topic and consolidate it into one document. I had lecture notes, seminar notes and notes that I had made from various text books to consolidate. This is also an opportunity to carry out any wider reading around the topic if required. This can be a time consuming step, but I found that it can be sped up by typing up these notes. Another advantage to this is avoiding the inevitable blisters on your fingers for that little bit longer! Within my consolidated notes I used different coloured fonts for case names and legislation to make them stand out. I made my consolidated notes detailed and they included all relevant information.
Step 3: A3 Sheets
Once all the information that I need about a topic is in one place, I create A3 sheets with mind maps that include less information and key words and phrases for each topic. The aim of the mind maps was to be able to memorise them and reproduce them in the exam. However, because I had already created the consolidated documents, I would know how to expand the key words from my mind map and show my greater knowledge. Again, using a range of bright colours and highlighting relevant information help make them stand out in your mind. I could almost picture mine in the exam (not quite the same as having a photographic memory, unfortunately). On the back of my A3 sheets I also made flow charts for some of the topics if they always followed a certain structure. This helped in the exam as I knew what would be coming up next.
Step 4: Talk to others
I found it incredibly helpful to talk through topics with other students. If another student is struggling, sometimes talking them through how you understand an area will enhance your own understanding further. This also works if you feel a little bit less confident in an area. I used to talk through every area with my house mates (who also studied law) and between us we would help each other. By talking it over with someone else who studies law it helps to identify any gaps in your knowledge. However, it can also work if you live with people who do not study law as, if it is an area that you are confident with, you may simply need someone to listen while you explain.
Step 5: Past Papers
It is important that you feel as though you know the information or at least the majority of it before attempting past papers. The majority of universities will provide students with at least one year’s worth of previous exam papers and these are here to help you. Also some universities (on request) will provide a model answer to some of the past papers, which help you if you have attempted to answer some of the questions. I think it is important that you try to answer the questions in exam conditions before looking at the model answers because it is very easy to tell ourselves that we would have answered the question in that way, when in fact we would not, and that is not effective revision. Some tutors will also offer a service where you are able to email them a plan of an answer from a past paper if there is not a model answer and give you adequate feedback to ensure you are not missing out on any relevant points. I also found it helpful, in those subjects where no feedback was offered, to go through questions in groups or pairs, or to go through the questions individually and then come together at the end to compare what you have concluded.
Step 6: Test yourself
Once you have attempted all of the past papers that are available and you feel as though you know all of the information on your A3 mind maps, all that is left is to keep testing yourself. The way in which you do this is down to personal choice. I kept writing it out over and over again to make sure it was in my head, but it can use an awful lot of paper! I knew of other students who invested in a white board and pens and then once they had practiced it they could simply wipe it away. Others record themselves saying it aloud and then they can repeat it back to them and test their knowledge. The aim of this last step is to make sure that whatever question comes up in the exam you will be prepared for it.
Olivia Hargreaves has just finished her final year of her LLB Law degree at Nottingham Trent University. She will be going on to study her LPC at Staffordshire University in September 2013.