For my inaugural blog I thought I would convey some of the wisdom I have gained as a grizzled veteran of 7+ years of post-secondary education. As I embark on my second, hopefully final, year of the LLB program, the thing I would like to convey to you first-year students is that it is possible to pass all your classes without a rewrite and without a supporting institution. Admittedly it may be harder for those of you without any post-secondary experience, but, I assure you, it can be done. Yet if you are looking for a cheat sheet or shortcuts, you will be sorely disappointed: You will not survive without hard work and discipline. That said, here are some tips and hints to help you as you embark on your studies.
Every student should utilize some sort of study tool, whether it be flashcards, sticky notes, or diagrams. Personally, I would strongly recommend Quizlet as a way of organizing and memorizing your case law. I attempted to use flashcards last year but quickly found this to be a Herculean ordeal. Given the sheer amount of case law you will need to remember, I found flash cards to be an exercise in futility that wasted more time than its utility. However, not only does Quizlet offer a way to memorize through repetition, games, and quizzes, it is highly accessible offline via its phone app (which I should add, if you live in a windy locale, is far less likely to be lost in a chinook wind). If you are less organized, you can even access the public flashcards of other students.
This seems counter-intuitive at first, as it’s hard to understand why the author would waste time writing sections that aren’t overly relevant to passing the class – especially when it was listed as an “essential” reading for your programme. The reality is, however, that many of the academic discussions in the textbooks are included simply to make your head explode. This is good. If your brain hurts, it means that you are expanding your understanding and broadening your perspective (or you may just need glasses). Yet, given the copious amount of reading that is required, it is imperative to avoid getting bogged down in these areas, as you probably aren’t far enough along in your course to even fully comprehend it (Tort is particularly bad for this, as you’re reading academic discourses on concepts you haven’t even been introduced to yet ). Read these areas quickly and move on, they will make more sense if you return to them later.
Given that most of you will be doing a significant amount of studying from home or during free hours, it will be easy to get distracted as you have no set classes to go
to. Thus a large part of your struggle will be carving out time to study. Don’t make the mistake of confusing “free time” with “study time” as they are not the same. Rather, you need to establish a study time and study space. For me I had to tell my wife that if I was in the den with the door closed, I am studying and therefore to be treated as if I wasn’t there; I wasn’t available to take the garbage out or to watch the stove until my next study break. While this went over as well as you might imagine (strongly recommend phrasing it differently), it was nevertheless essential to my success. Therefore when you have set up a time to study, you must treat it as such. Set boundaries. You are not “free” to talk, to be gaming, to do chores, to text, etc. you are for all intents and purposes “at school.” Your success will be dependent on establishing a time and place to study free of distraction.
Get used to lower marks than you may be expecting. Apparently, the Brits mark differently than their commonwealth cousins. Admittedly, it could be the British system that is normal to you, but compared to Canadian Standards, it seems downright draconian. But fear not, it may seem ludicrously low but a pass is a 40% and honors start at 70%. So don’t sweat it, you don’t need to rock a 95%. There is no substantial difference between a degree attained with a 65% or one with a 95%. These numbers are only really relevant if you wish to proceed in academia – in which case I would strongly advise studying at a Teaching Institution.
At the risk of overwhelming your already brimming plate, I will stop with these four things. I have attempted to avoid endorsing any specific study habits as everyone learns differently. Try different things and see what works; you may find you study well enough at your kitchen table with the textbook, or you may need to roam the streets searching for someone who will stand still long enough for you to talk through the principals of the promissory estoppel. Experiment and find what works for you – however, I would recommend against the latter approach, until you have finished the module on Criminal Law.
quo difficiulius hoc praeclarius
M. Tullius Cicero, De Officiis, I:LXIV
(for the greater the difficultly, the greater the achievement)
William is studying the LLB by distance learning in Canada.