This is part 2 of 3 in our study tips series. If you’ve not had chance, go and read part 1 about making good notes – it links in strongly with this post!
Some of this is probably common sense, but it’s surprising how many people go into seminars with zero / very little preparation. For me it was all about consistency. As you read in part 1, I liked to type up my notes from lectures. This actually is a great way to prepare for your seminar. You’re reminding yourself about the basics of the legal area, and you’re preparing yourself for the required seminar reading. This means that hopefully the required reading will be absorbed much faster and easier.
Let’s be honest. 90% of you aren’t going to do all of the required reading. But I don’t actually think it’s necessary to do all of it. It gets to the stage where it’s an information overload. You can’t possibly remember everything; further detail could add to confusion. For me the understanding of the subject was key at this stage, memorising exact details won’t help too much. When it gets to revision time you will probably have forgotten these specifics anyway. But if you understand the fundamentals of a legal area you can easily add on the complex details later. And these fundamentals should stay with you. If they don’t then a quick look at your notes should refresh you.
So I focused on comprehension and general understanding rather than trying to remember flashy details which will impress the seminar teacher.
What you should do is write down some questions to ask in the seminar. It’s not realistic that you’ll understand 100% of an entire subject area. There are always going to areas you’re a little hazy on. Others in your group may have the same question too.
To get the most out of seminars you should use them to perfect your exam technique. You’ll usually be asked to write answers to a set of problem / essay questions. Do this! But don’t put too much time into trying to make it perfect. Do it like you would in an exam and don’t get help from friends. Making mistakes is the best way to learn and improve. So if you try and write a perfect answer, and then compare it to your friends, then go and make more improvements you’re not learning as much. What you had written yourself could have been correct too. Emulation of exam conditions when writing your seminar questions is going to be the most beneficial way to go about things by far.
So when preparing for seminars it can actually be counter productive to do too much. You don’t need to pull out all the stops trying to impress your seminar teacher and classmates. But it’s a good idea to keep keep the end goal in your mind – doing the exams. Getting your time management right at university is hard. So don’t work harder, work smarter.
I should mention that these tips are just what have worked for me – not everyone learns in the same way. I usually hit a wall during revision and preperation where I could learn no more. I also found that with enough time and effort I could write very good problem question answers. It was completely different when time was limited.
There is one more thing that actually made a difference in my attitude towards seminars – you’re paying for it. You’re helping to pay the wages of the seminar teachers. You’re kind of like their boss! It’s their job to make you understand what you need to know in order to get a good grade. It’s an obvious statement but the more I thought about it the more I tried to get out of seminars. Just imagine yourself handing over a £20 as an entry fee whenever your go into a seminar! It will make a world of difference.
Read the final part in the series – answer writing.