Last-Minute Outlining Tips

Four Last-Minute Outlining Tips For Law School Exams

Studying for law school exams can be tricky. After all, the reading and preparation that helped you do well in class and on cold calls won’t necessarily help you on the exam. Instead, law school exams are all about applying the material. While we recommend that law students work on outlining through the semester, we’ve got a few last-minute outlining tips for law school exams.

Four Last-Minute Outlining Tips For Law School Exams

1. Don’t Include Cases

Both your reading notes and your class notes probably include plenty of cases. However, individual cases will be far less important on your outline — though you should definitely include landmark cases! (We repeat, include landmark case names!) Instead of focusing on the names of every single case discussed, here’s our first last-minute tip for outlining. Start with the big picture structure of your course and fill in your outline with the rules that correspond with the various cases you discussed in class. Be familiar with the facts of a particular case and the outcome, to the extent that you may see or be able to apply similar facts and results on the exam. The case name itself, however, is not important. Learn more about how to create an outline with cases and hypotheticals in our in-depth guide here.

2. Focus on Black Letter Law

If you leave outlining for the end of the semester, you’ll need to be as efficient as possible. Our second last-minute tip for outlining is to focus on the black letter law. Your goal should be to identify the black letter law you learned throughout the semester, memorize it, and then practice applying it. Each part of this process is key. You must be able to understand the black letter law and apply it to a new set of facts on your exam.

Learn more on how to memorize black letter law. (The post is geared towards the bar exam but all the same memorization tips for black letter law apply for law school exams!)

3. Pay Attention to What Your Professor Said During Class

Although you may be tempted to refer back to your reading notes, maximize your time and effort when outlining at the last minute by paying attention to what your professor said in class. After all, they’re the ones who will write the exam. If they spent significant time on something in class, make sure it’s part of your outline! Focus on how the class discussion evolved and the nuances discussed within a case or topic. Be sure to include any hypotheticals related to a case discussion. These adjacent and related scenarios tend to be ripe for testing! Did your professor focus on common law rulings or statutory? Spend your outline and study time focusing on that, as it’s what he or she is most likely looking for in an answer on a similar test quesiton!

4. Using Someone Else’s Outline May Help in a Pinch – But Beware!

It’s no secret that making your outline is one of the most effective ways to learn the material. However, you simply may not have time to create an outline from scratch. Our final last-minute tip for outlining last school exams is to use a friend’s outline or an outline from an outline bank to supplement your own. For this, you want to make sure that the outline is from the same class and the same professor!! The more recent the outline, the better, as class, materials, and the law itself may have changed. Do so at your own risk — you’ll want to double-check and make sure their information is correct! If you’re using someone else’s outline, try to make it your own by adding in specific things discussed in class and revising it to a format that best works with your way of learning.

Notice that we do not recommend using commercial outlines as a substitute for a class-specific one. Commercial outlines tend to go through an entire subject A-Z. There’s simply not enough time in a semester for your professor to do the same. Therefore, he or she likely did not cover everything you’ll find in a commercial outline and you may waste precious time focusing on learning material you won’t even see on the exam! For more tips on where to find outlines, check out this post.

Finally, take these last-minute preparation tips as a good reminder to start exam prep early in the future so you don’t end up in the same situation for next semester!

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