top of page

Study Methods 101: A Law Student's Guide

Law students are no strangers to long hours of studying. Whether it be to grasp a general understanding of the law or delve into the intricacies of a case judgement, studying takes up a substantial part of a law student’s day. With such a large breadth of material to cover and so little time to do so, it becomes imperative to develop effective study techniques.

If you’ve ever found yourself pulling one too many all-nighters, or getting so little sleep that you need 5 cups of coffee to pull you through the day, here are some study methods to make your study sessions short, but effective.




What is it?

THIEVES is a “pre-reading strategy” that helps students grasp a broad overview of a topic or concept. The mnemonic is divided into 7 steps that guide students through identifying important concepts, establishing a context for reading, and predicting what ideas may be contained in a text passage.

When should it be used?

THIEVES is useful when you are starting a new topic. If you are the type of student who cannot digest large volumes of information without first having some context to it, then this method is perfect for you.


What is it?

The Feynman Technique is an organisation-based learning method created by Physicist Robert Feynman. Its main purpose is to help students understand, recall, and explain the content in under 20 minutes.

This technique involves forcing you to simplify concepts, thereby making it both easier to understand and remember, and explaining it like you are 5 years old. Keep it simple and be concise. From there, you should be able to identify the gaps in your knowledge and pinpoint where more learning is required.

How should it be used?

  1. Choose a concept: medical negligence

  2. Explain it like I am 5 (years old): medical negligence is a situation where a doctor or hospital provides “bad” medical care, which causes a patient to get hurt.

  3. Pinpoint your knowledge gap: if you could not explain the concept in layman terms (step 2), go back to your source material and better understand it. Pinpoint the gaps in your knowledge.

  4. Use an Analogy: link the new knowledge with old knowledge for a better understanding.

  5. Simplify the Concept: create simple notes and organise them in a way you are comfortable with. If your notes are confusing at any points, go back to Step 3.

When should it be used?

This method is useful when learning new concepts or consolidating your knowledge prior to exams. You can use it to explain concepts to yourself when you are studying or use it to test your knowledge by explaining concepts to friends and family.

Interested? Learn more about it here :

How to Learn Fast with the Feynman Technique


What is it?

The PQ4R method takes an active approach to learning. The acronym stands for the 6 steps in the process that are designed to help you stay goal-oriented and focused during your study sessions. It also promotes the retention of information throughout the process and helps students digest material effectively.

When should it be used?

The PQ4R method is best used when starting a new topic. Like the THIEVES strategy, this method is great for getting some context as to what the topic is about before delving into it, making the material easier to understand. It also provides a flow to your study sessions to make sure that you do not lose sight of what it is that you are trying to learn!




What is it?

Mind-mapping is an effective method to visualise information. It can be used to draw connections between concepts or topics to understand how they work in a bigger picture.

To do this, start with writing down the main heading (topic or subtopic) in the middle of the page. This will be the central theme of the mind map. From there, add branches (known as associations) to extend the map. Associations branching from the main heading are called first-level associations. Branching further creates second-level associations, then third-level associations, and so on.

How should it be used?

  1. Write out the Main Idea (Contract Law)

  2. Write out the First level association (Offer, Acceptance, Consensus ad idem)

  3. Write out the Second level association (Acceptance must be unconditional, acceptance must mirror the offer, etc)

When should it be used?

Mind-mapping is useful in all stages of your study. It can be created in many different ways and be adapted to facilitate your specific needs. For instance, you can use it to wrap up a topic by laying out the key principles of law, any related case law, and relevant provisions. Alternatively, you can use it to consolidate knowledge by laying out, off memory, all information related to a topic. If you are the type of student who needs to organise their thoughts by putting pen to paper, or if you simply like to brain dump, this method could be helpful to you.


What is it?

Spaced repetition is a study method that uses strategic time intervals between study sessions to promote better recall of the information. The method leverages on a memory phenomenon called the spacing effect: Our brain retains information through the formation of neural connections, and spacing out your work allows these neural connections to solidify and retain information in your brain.

Spaced repetition has garnered much attention over the years, and the internet is not short on information about it. However, here is a simple breakdown:

How should it be used?

Day 1 (Actual Learning) The long hours of watching lectures and making notes. Within the first 24 hours of your initial learning, review your notes by reading through them. Attempt to actively recall important points (read the information out loud!).

Day 2 (Short Revision) After 1 day, attempt to review what you learnt without using notes. This takes less than 30 minutes and can be done while you are doing other menial tasks. Just sit down and talk to yourself about what you learnt the day before.

After 1 week (Active Recall & Revising): repeat Stage 2 but fill in the gaps. Attempt to recall the details, not just the big picture ideas.

After 2 or 3 weeks (Active Recall & Revising): At the end of the month, repeat Stage 3. Attempt to pull all the information you can off memory, then revise and fill in gaps using your notes.

Cementing it (Repeat Stage 4): By now, you should have a comprehensive understanding of the chapter and the important details.

When should it be used?

Spaced repetition should be used when studying a new topic or in preparation for exams. It is a powerful tool for both understanding and memorising information, but it requires time! If you attempt to use this method, be prepared to stick to it for at least a month to really benefit from it.

This method actually lines up with the flow of our modules. You first learn the concepts in lectures, then prepare for tutorials 1 or 2 weeks later where we revisit the topic, and finally, critically analyse and comprehend the study material during our actual tutorials. Given that we essentially perform half these methods (assuming you keep up with lectures and tutorials) why not take advantage of the system and do it well.

Interested? learn more about it:

Spaced Repetition Memory Technique

How to study for exams - Evidence-based revision tips


What is it?

If you follow “study-inspo” accounts or watch productivity youtube videos just for the kick of it, you should have come across this study method. Pomodoro technique is a structured study method that promotes time management by breaking down study sessions into 25 minute intervals. Research has shown that an effective way to break out of the cycle of procrastination is to shrink whatever you’ve been delaying into an un-intimidating first step.

How should it be used?

Set a time for 25 minutes and start your task.

If a distraction pops into your head, note it down on a piece of paper and return to your task.

When the buzzer rings, put a checkmark on your paper.

Congratulations! You have just completed one Pomodoro.

Take a five-minute break.

You can check the distractions that popped into your head, stretch yourself out, grab a cup of coffee, etc.

Repeat steps 1 to 3 for another round of Pomodoro.

After four Pomodoros, take a 30-minute break.

Note: Although Pomodoro lasts 25 minutes and is the most ideal structure, you can customise your work sessions to your own preference. If you’re struggling to stay focused for 25 minutes, try a 15 minutes Pomodoro and slowly build your way up. Alternatively, extend the Pomodoro if you require a work session that is longer, for example, during essay writing or researching (take longer breaks too!). A DeskTime study found that a 52-minute focus and 17-minute break is a perfect balance. Others prefer 90 full minutes with a 20-30-minute break, based on Ultradian rhythms. During your breaks, remember to work off your inertia! Try walking around the house, getting a drink or a snack or anything at all that does not involve you continuously sitting stationary at your desk.

When should it be used?

Use this method whenever. The best part about the Pomodoro technique is its customizability. You can mix your intervals based on your energy levels and the type of work you are tackling. Remember that action is the foundational key to success so get your Pomodoro timer on and start doing what needs to be done!


What is it?

A method that most students should be familiar with: practice, practice, practice! At the end of the day, studying will not matter if you are not able to perform on the exam day itself. Practice papers can be a lifesaver depending on how you utilise them. If you are clueless about what topics are important, or your “tembak-ing” skills are not quite on-point, go through the past papers available for your module. You will be surprised to find that there is a trend of questions in a certain topic, or that some of them match up with your tutorial questions.

When should it be used?

Practice papers are useful in preparation for exams. Even in open-book exams, time is of the essence. Every exam tends to feel like a race against the clock, and attempting practice papers beforehand will give you a better idea of what to expect and allow you to prepare accordingly. Use practice papers as a way to discover which areas of a topic are most examinable, and be mindful of them when studying that topic. It is also an all-around great way to retain information better as it forces you to apply the material in context.


What is it?

This method of studying simply involves recalling information and teaching it to others. Research has shown that students tend to have better memory when they attempt to explain newly learnt concepts to others. By recalling and organising information systematically to teach to others, it allows you to be more engaged and proactive in your studying.

When should it be used?

All the time! Whether you are learning a new topic or concept, or simply trying to consolidate your learning, this is a simple but effective method to do so. You can do it anywhere, at any time, and you do not necessarily need someone else to work with- you can teach the information to yourself as you would to someone else!

How should it be used?

If a friend is struggling with a concept or asks you something, don’t say no! Unless of course, you don’t know what you’re talking about, in which case you zip up and sit down. Try your best to walk them through the concepts in a simple manner, making them clear and concise. You can only teach what you know. If you lack understanding of the particular concept, this will become glaringly obvious when you try to put it into words.

All these methods serve different purposes and will come in handy for different subjects. Explore and find the ones that are best suited to you!

405 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page