Exam Preparation JD Students Study Skills Time Management and Wellbeing

Planning Your Semester – The Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle is an informative yet simple concept – in many areas, 20% of the causes leads to 80% of the effects. This indicates the disproportionate value that effective study can have – and also highlights the danger of ineffective study. Bear the principle in mind when preparing for law school assessments, especially exams. Try to make sure that you always identify the work that will be of the greatest benefit first, and prioritise that work. For example, spending an hour researching a specific point of law that is unlikely to come up in the exam is going to be far less beneficial than reading a case that covers most areas of the subject.

One way to apply the principle is:

  1. Identify and list study goals for each subject – eg, complete exam preparation, complete essay
  2. Give each goal a value based on:
    • Their overall value within the subject as a whole
    • The amount of time left in which to complete the task – if an essay is due next week, you may need to give it additional priority
    • One possible way of calculating this would be:
      • Subject Value / Weeks Until Due
      • For example – a 70% exam which is 9 weeks away would work out to 70 / 9 = 7.8, while a 30% exam which is due next week would be 30 / 1 = 30.
  3. Identify the tasks that will contribute towards these goals – eg complete key readings, format essay
    • Brainstorming is an effective way to do this. Try to break down goals into the smallest possible actions – eg, read Mabo, research the history of the rule against perpetuities
  4. For each task, determine how many of your study goals it would contribute towards. You can calculate the same task multiple times if it will be used more than once. For example, a single case might be relevant to several parts of the course, the interim assessment and the exam essay.
  5. Add up the scores for each group

Now you have a priority for each action. This will give you an indication of where you should be allocating your time. Remember, however, that this is only an indication – you will ultimately need to use your judgment and intuition to determine what tasks are the most important to you.

For a Google Sheet which you can use to apply the principle, click here.

For more information, see: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTED_01.htm