Developing good study skills is part of what the Institute tries to help every student learn when completing ILSPA’s Legal Secretaries Diploma course. Law students know that being able to study effectively is the only way to get the best possible results. In addition, if you can master good study skills you will be more efficient in the workplace and, of course, you will have more free time to pursue other activities. Legal study skills do not normally come naturally. For the vast majority of students, it takes time and experience to become fully competent. Here are a few practical tips to help you enhance your study of the law.
The crucial skills
Studying the Diploma is an achievable task and, as with any study of law, you need to develop a range of skills. One of the most important skills is being able to read and assimilate large amounts of information. As a Diploma student, you are given extensive key resources that you have to read and decipher. Every unit of the course comes with detailed online notes. To obtain the best results in the achievement tests, it is crucial that you not only read these notes but refer back to them when completing your tests.
If you find yourself reading something and then struggling to recall what you just read, it is likely that you are reading passively rather than actively. Active reading involves being focused on what you want to learn from something. Try these active reading tips next time you are studying.
Highlight keywords – A useful way to read more actively is to highlight separate keywords in a text using different colours. For example, you could highlight references to cases in red, references to Acts in green, facts and figures in blue, quotations in yellow, and so on. When you’ve finished, read the article again and list the keywords you’ve highlighted.
Make notes of what you’re reading – Do this to summarise points, raise questions or challenge what you’ve read. Ask questions of the text like: Does this link with other material I’ve studied in the course?
Test yourself – Read for half an hour, then put the text away and write down the key points you can remember. Then go back to the text and fill in the gaps. Explaining what you have read to someone else can also be an effective way to test your understanding.
Look for important words and phrases to help you understand the text – Phrases like “most importantly”, “in contrast” and “on the other hand” show where an important point is being made that you shouldn’t miss. This is useful if you don’t have much time to read a text thoroughly.
Although reading is clearly one of the most important skills, taking in information is of little use if you cannot accurately demonstrate or convey this knowledge. To obtain top marks in your achievement tests, you not only have to read your notes but you need to refer back to them to ensure you can show a comprehensive understanding. You may be a very capable student, but if you read the course notes quickly and jump right into attempting the achievement test you may not get the mark you deserve. It is better to reread key points from your notes as you complete your test. There are often a few questions in every unit where one answer is correct in part but there is a more accurate answer which is the correct one.
The law is a complex and vast subject. Taking your time, reading actively and making sure you understand every concept are all valuable skills that will help you get the most from the Diploma course.
If you have found this article of interest, then consider checking out some of the following articles from earlier editions of the Legal Secretary Journal: