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How to Succeed on an Open Book Law School Exam

 The unfortunate trap that many law students fall into is under-preparing for open book law school exams. In reality, the basic approach to both an open book law school exam and a closed book exams is quite similar. If you are prepping for an open book exam you should do the following:

1. Outline

This is the step that many law students start and stop with. Don’t fall into that unfortunate category. You should set time aside each week to review your class notes and outline. This will take some patience at the beginning. But, there is really no point in taking notes if you aren’t going to review them. Taking time each week to synthesize your notes into an outline is the key to success on exams. If you take time to outline each week you will have a complete outline by the time study break rolls around.  If you are wondering how to get started on outlining, see our in-depth guide to outlining here.

2. Learn your outline

Again, most students make an outline and never review it. This is the wrong approach. The students who perform the best on open book exams barely use their outline. Think of it like a safety blanket—there if you need it. Also, staying on track with step 1 (above) will make step 2 significantly easier. It is much easier to review and learn 5 pages at a time rather than 50. There are many ways to learn your outline—some examples are re-writing portions or reading it aloud. Check out this link for more information on how to learn your law school outlines.

3. Tab your outline or make a table of contents

This step could technically fall into an “active review” category. However, take the time to make sure that your outline is user-friendly in the event you need it. Remember law school exams are written so that they should take you the majority of time allotted. If you have to flip through your outline to complete the analysis to each question you will likely run out of time. Thus, if your outline is tabbed or has a table of contents you will be able to move around in it quickly during an exam. A tabbed outline is crucial for an open book law school exam!

Plus, you can complete this organizational step during a study session where you are quizzing yourself on the outline. Thus, it is something that will help you on exam day and can serve as a source of review.

4. Practice exams

If you stay on track with the above steps you will have plenty of time to do practice exams. And that is good news because practice exams are so important! One downfall in an open-book exam is that professors tend to be a little less impressed with basic rule statements. After all, you have your outline right in front of you! Rather, they will be looking for a stellar analysis. So, take the time to get some past exams from professors and practice them. You should practice enough times so that you are barely using your outline. If you can get to that point, you know that you have properly prepared for your exam. For more information on how to take law school practice exams, see this link.

For an in-depth guide on how to answer law school exam questions, see this link.

Let us know if you have any questions about how to succeed on an open book law school exam! Taking a closed-book law school exam? Check out this post on how to succeed in a closed book exam!

Good luck!