Remember, a law school outline serves two key purposes:
- It forces you to review and synthesize the material.
- It’s a useful reference when you’re preparing for and taking the exam.
Here are some things to keep in mind while working on your outlines:
- Try not to think of outlining as a strictly linear process. It rarely is. It’s fine if you don’t include everything the first time through—there will be ample opportunity to add more later.
- When outlining, remember that you want to think about the material, not just mindlessly copy things down (or worse, re-type someone else’s outlines).
- An outline can definitely be too long! How are you going to memorize something that is 60 pages or more?
- Remember, outlines are based on your class notes. Here are some tips for turning your class notes into outlines.
- Outlines are your study materials, so make sure they reflect how you learn. If the “outline” form doesn’t work for you, try using flashcards or flowcharts.
If you haven’t started your outlines, you need to develop a plan to get that work done.
- If you are in crisis mode, all is not lost. You just need to develop a plan to get everything done.
Note: This plan does not include splitting up the outlining with your study group.
Some students think that they can split up the outlining work with their study group in order to have more time to prepare for finals. Good idea? Um, no. If the point of constructing your outline is to personally learn the material, it’s not going to do much good to have your classmates (whom you’ll be competing with for a grade) do the work for you. This is essentially the same as using an old outline or a commercial supplement. Sure, you have the added bonus that someone can explain the section to you, but you’re not going to receive the benefit of having really struggled with the material yourself.
Particularly for the first year, it’s crucial to do your own work. Work together with a classmate if you like, so you can share ideas and check each other’s output, but be very careful about handing off drudgery and expecting to learn the material. It’s just not going to happen.
Remember, a good outline is one that helps you answer an exam question. So you must test your outline with practice in order to make sure it is really working for you! Good luck!
Want more exam help?
- Check out Law School Exam Prep 101.
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