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Start Outlining for Final Exams: 3 Tips as Finals Approach

By George Khoury, Esq. on April 01, 2019 2:30 PM

As final exam season approaches, law students who haven't started their course outlines are surely starting to panic. Heck, even if you've been diligently outlining from week 2 or 3, you're still probably panicking because that's just the nature of law school.

At this point, actually sitting down to condense the semester's class notes into an outline probably seems overwhelming. But, regardless of how it feels, if you start putting in the time now, it'll get done, and you'll be better and smarter for having done it. And whether you're starting from scratch, or have been diligently outlining all semester, below you can find three helpful tips to help prep your outline for finals.

1. Check Your Syllabus

While it seems obvious, students often forget the fact that professors have given them a big clue on how to organize their outline before the semester even starts. That clue is the syllabus. These are generally broken down into cases, codes, and theories that the professor believes merit their own section, which should clue you in to what's important when creating your own outline's organization and section headings.

2. Read It and Revise It Often

Thanks to the technology of today, it's easier than ever to review and revise outlines. Syncing your outlines up to a cloud service will allow you to review them anytime, anywhere, from your smartphone. Simply put, the more time you devote to your outlines, the better you'll remember them come exam time. You don't have to spend every waking moment with your nose in your outlines, but making sure you can at least spend some of your downtime just reviewing your outlines on your phone each day adds up over time.

3. Get Help Early

If you're struggling with a concept, or even just finishing your outlines, reaching out for help is more than okay, it's a good idea. Yes, going to office hours is time consuming, and might make you a cold-calling target, but if you're not grasping something, that's what your professors are there for.

Alternatively, commercial outlines, briefs and other course supplements can also be rather helpful, just be sure not to trust a supplement over your professor, as often, as in actual legal practice, lawyers see things differently, and your prof is the one doing the grading.

Protip for 1Ls: It's always a good idea to take a look at one or two actual prior exams and answers from your professor and course (most schools will provide these) well before you start studying for finals, as having an idea of your professor's expectations can help guide your outlining during the semester.

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