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Three tips for using your Ratio notebook

When I was tutoring law students I noticed that most of them didn’t know how to write effective legal case notes. They also couldn’t understand why writing half a page of facts from a case didn’t get them any marks in an exam. But most importantly, I noticed the sheer fear in their eyes each time I mentioned the words Ratio Decidendi (aka the ratio). 

How did I know it was fear? Because I had felt the same way when I was studying law. The more my professors would say how important the ratio was, the more fear I felt because I had no clue what it was or how to find it. One of the reasons I decided to call this notebook Ratio is because it was my worst enemy during my university years. I spent so much time confused about it that I wanted to make law students’ lives easier. Now they don’t need to play the game of how to find the bloody Ratio. Here are my top three tips to get the most out of your Ratio notebook: 

  1. Not all facts are important and writing ten pages of them will piss your professor off. In your exam you shouldn’t be writing all the facts you know, they won’t necessarily get you any marks. What you need to focus on are material facts (there is a section for these in the Ratio notebook). How do you judge if they are material or not? A fact is material if it’s absence would change the judgement. Thinking this way takes effort but it will get you more marks. Material facts also help you remember the case and understand the judgement. 
  1. Speaking of remembering the case – mnemonics are also a great tool to use. You will have so many cases to memorise and it has been proven that you can lock things into your memory with simple mnemonic techniques. If you are visual, you might like to do a little sketch. Or you might prefer rhymes to aid your memory – do whatever works for you. During your exam you will be stressed, that’s just a fact of life. Even the most confident student can be affected so make sure you make remembering your cases as easy as possible. 
  1. The Ratio Notebook is lightweight for a reason – it is designed to be carried around with you. Remember that travel time is invaluable revision time. Instead of playing Candy Crush, take out your notebook and read over your notes. This is what you need to do if you want to get good marks in your exams. Also, make your notes stand out with colours, stickers, pictures – whatever you want. We have provided the template but there is so much more you can do to make it your own.

 Hopefully these three tips help you to get more out of your Ratio notebook. What do you find useful when you are studying? Remember that there are more articles for law students on the Journal here. We would love to hear any suggestions for our next post.