Tag Archives: studying

Checklists: The One-Page Outline for Exams

Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s that point in the semester when final exams are looming ever closer. What should you do as you finish up the last topics in your outlines and begin that last week of studying before exams? One thing that I suggest to students is to create a one-page checklist of issues they might see on the exam. It’s an easy thing to do. Take an outline that you have done for one of your law school classes, such as Contracts. Go through your outline page by page, making a separate list of all legal issues and sub-issues. Don’t include any details–your checklist should be made up of key words and phrases, not tests, definitions, case names, or other detailed information. Write out the list in the order that it is organized in your outline.

Once you have a completed list, ask yourself: is everything in the order that I would want to use it? An exam essay fact pattern will not include every issue covered in a course, but there may be a set of issues that are related. If your professor covered one issue in the third week of the semester and a related issue in Week 10, you may not have thought to put those issues next to each other in your outline. But the checklist is the time to consider how you might link issues together. Reorder your checklist in the way that makes it most useful for the exam. Remember my Robonaut example from last week–it’s important not just to have the right tools but also to have those tools work best for you.

So, how should you use this checklist? Once you have your checklist organized the way that you want it, commit it to memory. When you go into the exam, use the checklist to make sure that you don’t miss issues in the fact pattern. You can also use the checklist to test whether you know the tests, definitions, and other detailed information that goes along with the key words in your checklist. If you can’t easily access those details in your memory, it is an indication that you should go back to that part of your outline and review it again or maybe create a flashcard or two on that subject.

In the end, a checklist can be a great way to cap your studying for final exams–list away!


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Filed under General, Law School Exams, Outlines, Study Tips

Making Flash Cards Work Harder for You

There are some legal concepts that law students just must memorize–there is no way around it! Once you have outlined a topic for a class, you will identify specific rules, tests, etc. that you want to know backwards and forwards. For example, think of how you would analyze a fact pattern for “adverse possession” on your property exam. Although your professor may have worded the elements slightly differently than I have here, you know that adverse possession requires that the person: (1) actually enter; (2) have exclusive possession; (3) have continuous possession; (4) have adverse or hostile possession (without the owner’s permission); and (5) possession must be for the period of time defined by the statute. During the exam you will be feeling a lot of stress because of the amount of information you have studied and the limited amount of time you have to complete the exam. If you do not have the elements memorized, you may forget one of them when you are writing your essay. The result: fewer points, a lower grade.

Many students use flash cards to memorize the elements of rules, key definitions that they want to know word for word, and other important legal information that they want to be able to recall with little effort. Of course you can always write out your flash cards on index cards, but there are also a number of programs and apps available on the internet for free or at a low cost, such as Flashcard Machine, available at www.flashcardmachine.com, and Quizlet, available at quizlet.com

You can make flash cards work even harder for you by using them as checklists for legal issues. A checklist flashcard has the legal issue listed on one side and a list of the possible related topics you might need to address if you identify facts related to that legal topic in an exam question. So, for example, if the legal topic was negligence, you might include on the flip side of the flash card the following related topics, among others: (1) comparative/contributory negligence; (2) vicarious liability; (3) joint and several liability; and (4) the types of damages available. This type of flashcard can remind you to look for related legal issues and maximize the number of points you get on your essay.

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Filed under General, Study Tips