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Law School Success, Exam Preparation, and Study Aids: Exam Preparation

Outlining Tips & Tricks

Outlines are not just class notes

In an outline, you want to incorporate Black’s Law definitions, case law, authority – such as the Restatements, FRCP, MPC, etc. – characteristics, differentiations, checklists, flowcharts, and more. This is a combination of all your work – so build on that.

Create your own

You might be tempted to use another student’s outline template, but your outline
should be specific to your professor’s syllabus. You can use another classmate’s outline to help with structure or wording, but don’t depend on it exclusively.

Go beyond just words

Don’t limit your outline format to just notes/briefs. Instead, incorporate checklists,
flowcharts, hypos, color scheming, etc. You can make your outline work for your study habits by thinking creatively.

Start big but end small

Throughout the semester, you will be including class notes, case briefs, helpful summaries, and more into your outline, so don’t be surprised if your outline ends up being more than 100 pages. It is through studying that you’ll start to condense your full outline. The goal before finals is that you will have a one-page summary of your outline.

Exam Taking Tips

Use a Clear Structure on Essay Answers

  1. Organize your answer before you write. After you read the question, you must resist the urge to write your answer immediately. Instead, take time to collect your thoughts and outline / sketch / jot down / plan / map out the governing legal rules that will guide your analysis.
  2. Use Headings. On exams, clarity is king. Simple headings (e.g. Tom v. Nancy: Battery) effectively and immediately tell your professor where you are (and where you are not) in your answer.
  3. IRAC (or CRAC) insures you write what you think you’re writing. IRAC allows the reader to logically learn from and follow a legal problem. Think of your exam answer as educating an uninformed reader, not your professor (“who knows everything anyway”), which can result in you omitting key rules or other important information.

What is IRAC?

IRAC, in short, stands for issue, rule, application and conclusion. You must spot the issue, articulate the legal rule, apply the rule to the facts, and reach a conclusion.

  1. Issue: “The issue is whether [reference to law you’re about to write about] when [key fact(s) from hypo].”
  2. Rule: State all the rules that are relevant to the discussion. You must know the rules cold - either memorize them or have them perfectly drafted in your outline to copy on exam day. No segue is necessary from the issue statement - just state the governing rule(s) (rule is just a generic term for law, and is sometimes referred to as a test or mode of analysis).
  3. Application: Critical words: “Here” or “In this case” and “because + fact(s) from hypothetical”
  4. Conclusion: Your conclusion is the least important part if you’ve written strong I, R, and A sections.One sentence is plenty.


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