For all law students, learning case law can be a stressful task and can seem an impossible task. When I started my GDL, the amount of case law involved in each lecture seemed overwhelming. I had no idea how to approach learning cases. Luckily, during my revision period, I found that using flashcards helped me to learn case law extremely effectively.
Using flashcards helped me learn the majority of my cases for each topic in the span of a couple of weeks or less. If I could give one piece of advice to new law students, it would be to start making flash cards as early on as possible. If I had done this, I probably wouldn’t have been so frantic with learning cases in the last few weeks of revision.
When you first consolidate a topic, make sure you can identify the key cases. Often (for the GDL), you will only need a single case for a particular legal point. Note down these cases and summarise the key principle from the case on each flashcard. Repeat this a couple of times so that you have enough cases to answer an exam question. Then, the learning begins!
A better way to use flashcards
Often, people use flashcards aren’t actually testing themselves at all. They simply look at one side, then flip right over to look at the answer. This method does little to test your knowledge. Additionally, using flashcards in an unstructured way will not get you far.
Instead, put aside the cards you don’t get right into a pile for you to come back later. Additionally, just because you get a card correct the first time, it doesn’t mean that you’ve learn’t it. Instead, make sure that you can correctly answer a flashcards multiple times before you categorise it as ‘memorised’.
Another common mistake when using flashcards is to turn over the flashcard before you’ve fully formulated your answer. This is an easy habit to slip into because it makes a partially correct answer seem completely correct. This in turn, tricks you into feeling like you know the cases better than you actually do.
Instead, make sure to have an answer fully decided upon before you flip over the flashcard to check it. This means you’ll only ever be correct or incorrect. I’ve found that getting cases wrong actually speeds up my learning process. Getting an answer wrong has much more of an impact than getting it right. It makes me more determined to try and prevent the mistake from happening again. I’ve found that repeating this process of getting things wrong and learning from mistakes is a much more effective method for learning than getting everything right first time.
Quizlet – My go-to flashcard app
Traditionally, flashcards were handwritten on pieces of card. Now, thanks to mobile apps, you can bring your flashcards wherever you go on your phone. The app that I used to learn GDL cases was Quizlet. You can check out the site here: quizlet.com
Quizlet is a free app which you can use both on your laptop as well as on your phone. Many of its features are tailored to help you use flashcards in a more effective way. Below are a few of the features available in the free version which will help you organise and learn your cases.
Organised sets and folders
Quizlet allows you to conveniently organise flashcards into sets and folders. I suggest making a folder for each module (Contract, Tort, Equity & Trusts etc…). Within each folder, make a set corresponding to each topic (Offer & Acceptance, Terms, Remedies etc…).
Quizlet also allows you to combine multiple sets into a new, larger set. This would be particularly helpful towards the end of your revision. You could combine multiple topics into a new set encompassing all the cases you need for a certain module exam.
Quizlet has a helpful suggestion feature when you edit your flashcards. When you enter in a term (Eg. a case name), the corresponding definition will show you suggestions based on what other Quizlet users have used. This can really speed up the initial process of creating the flash cards. It may also be helpful to use these suggestions and add your own detail to it for a more complete definition.
Traditional flashcard mode
Quizlet has the feature of a traditional flashcard where you can go through a deck of flashcards at your own pace. Swipe to go to the next flashcard, flip to turn it over. This mode is the basic flashcard experience which most people are used to.
The write mode is similar to the traditional flashcard mode, but requires you to write down the answer. This forces you to commit to an answer before you can flip the card over. I found this mode particularly helpful after I had gone through a whole deck and wanted to test myself on all the cards at once.
I found Quizlet’s ‘Learn’ mode the most helpful for memorising all my cases. This mode has a running count of your success rate in answering the flashcards. Each flashcard starts with a count of ‘0’. An incorrect answer reduces it by 1 and a correct answer increases it by 1. A score of ‘1’ means that you are ‘familiar’ with the card. Once you reach ‘2’, it will categorise the term as ‘Mastered’.
This mode provides a more structured approach to learning. It will allow you to repeatedly address errors whilst giving lower priority to cards which you are more familiar with.
The ‘Learn’ mode also tests you through multiple methods. It may ask a multiple choice question, require a typed answer, or show you a flashcard which you flip to check the answer. This combination of multiple testing methods gave sufficient variety to keep me interested and engaged.
Printing your cases and terms
Quizlet also has a handy feature which allows you to print your flashcard terms to a .pdf file. This option has multiple formatting options, including the option to produce an organised table, glossary, or even A6 index cards. You can also produce a printout containing just your starred terms if you so wish
Learning cases might seem difficult at first, but learning how to use flashcards will make things a whole lot smoother! Make sure to make flashcards of key cases as soon as you can. This will make it much easier for you to get straight into revision when the time comes.