Best of Wolters Kluwer
Law School Tips: Week 10

Outlining Like a Champ, Part 2

Creating an Outline


The type of outline you create will depend on whether your exam is open or closed book. Both types of exam require that you memorize your outline; the principal difference between the two lies in what your professor will expect in your answer. If you don’t know what kind of exam it will be, it’s best to assume that it will be a closed-book exam. When creating your outline, keep your exams in mind (e.g., you won’t be writing a full-page explanation of the facts of an underlying case in your exam answer; at most, you might write one or two sentences). In many ways,  if you create your outline correctly, you’ll be “pre-writing” your exam answers.

When to Outline

As a rule of thumb, you should start outlining about two or three weeks into the semester (as soon as you have covered enough information in class that you can outline it). To get the most out of your outline, you should continually update, revise, and memorize it as you go through the semester. Additionally, you should work on the outline for every class weekly. Often, students will take a week or two to outline Torts, and then a week or two to outline Criminal Law, and so on until exams begin. However, the problem with this strategy is that by the time exams have come around, you haven’t looked at Torts for several weeks and whatever class you’ve waited until the end to outline will likely be rushed as exams get closer.

If you’ve been studying by “progressive parts”, it won’t take you very long to outline each course. Your outlines should be complete early in your reading period—the time after classes finish and before exams start. If you finish your outlines early, use the remaining time for review. Brushing up on points that give you trouble and practicing with questions from old exams are the most useful way to spend your time.

Extracted from Strategies & Tactics for the First Year Law Student (Maximize Your Grades) by Lazar Emanuel and Kimm Alayne Walton.

Coming next week: Outlining Like a Champ, Part 3