Outline, Short sheet, canned answers, etc.

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Outline, Short sheet, canned answers, etc.

Postby TierForceOne » Fri Oct 07, 2016 6:56 pm

What self-made prep materials do you bring to exams, and generally how long is each one.

We're about half way through Fall classes. I've been keeping up with outlines and they range from 5 pages to 20 (Civ Pro).

Just curious on how you seasoned vets prepare (for those who prepare their own materials).

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Re: Outline, Short sheet, canned answers, etc.

Postby 4LTsPointingNorth » Fri Oct 07, 2016 7:37 pm

Depends on the subject. My outlines ranged from 20-100 pages. ConLaw and CivPro tended to be longer than classes like Contracts or Torts. For those outlines that were more than 40 pages, I made shorter attack outlines which included major points but were reducible to 15-20 pages. In those attack outlines I included cross-references to my larger outlines in case I needed to dig deeper into the material. Whatever you bring with you into the exam, just make sure it is organized in a way that is easy to reference under time pressure, and make sure to practice doing so beforehand.


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Re: Outline, Short sheet, canned answers, etc.

Postby Boltsfan » Wed Oct 12, 2016 12:07 pm

For an open book exam, I always brought in my long outline (20-30 pages) that was tabbed up. I never looked at it, but I always brought it. I never made a long outline that was longer than 35 pages. During the exam I would rely exclusively on a 5-10 page attack outline (no item longer than a single line, less cases, only two or three words of facts to jog my memory). For exams I knew would be real race horses, I boiled that attack outline down to 1-2 pages. This boiling down process was something I would work on throughout the exam prep period as I took practice exams.

Here's the real secret to outlining: doing the outlining is much more important than having the perfect final product. Going through and distilling the class into an outline, and then into an issue spotter, and then into a cheat sheet or whatever, is how you study for a final exam (along with taking as many practice exams as you can). Use other people's outlines to check and see if you have a hole in your own, but if you don't actually do the outlining yourself I think you will be at a serious disadvantage.


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Re: Outline, Short sheet, canned answers, etc.

Postby andythefir » Wed Oct 12, 2016 12:58 pm

2 major hacks: 1 write a lengthy outline that you think has all the content you need on a subject, then put briefs for important cases on the back of the preceding page, then staple it like a book and tab it. Then on one side of your outline/book you have all the law you need, on the other you have ready fact patterns to compare/contrast.

A note on outlining: law students tend to think outlines are books or treatises that contain all knowledge on a subject. If you needed all the relevant knowledge, you'd take your casebook. Outlines are an opportunity for you in October to cleanly and concisely phrase concepts so that you don't have to waste time on a timed exam thinking about the cleanest way to explain a concept. You need to know all the material cold going into an exam, and an outline is a tool to speed up getting all that law onto the exam. If you don't know the material, an outline won't do jack for you. You need to be able to recognize "this is negligence/adverse possession/breach" and then jump to your tabbed outline to hammer out the law and then go onto analysis, where all the points are.

2 Make a second shorter outline in Powerpoint. Include flow charts, boxes to check, graphs. Think through potential exam outcomes in October/November so that you're prepared in December.


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Re: Outline, Short sheet, canned answers, etc.

Postby Shema » Wed Oct 19, 2016 4:05 pm

Outlining is important but I think that the check list or what I call the "exam skeleton" was the tool that helped me most on exams. Especially closed book exams. (I may still have an example of one I can did up for anyone interested) Here's exactly what I did, why I did it and how I used it:

Of course, a closed book exam does not allow you to reference any material during the exam. These exams place students on more of an equal footing but here’s how I turned these conditions into a material advantage.

Let me take you into exam day. Students arrive early and nervous. Days or hours ago they have upload an exam taking software on to their lap tops. At their desks everyone takes out whatever materials they are permitted to bring and places their ID on the table. The exam proctors pass out the exam booklets and read the instructions from your professors. The instructions will give you general information about the format of the exam such as the number of questions, how the questions are weighted and how much time you have to complete. After the instructions are read you will be told to open you booklets and begin the exam.

At this moment what most students will do is begin reading the fact pattern from top to bottom. As they read they may highlight, circle or write in the margin.

While this may seem like the right thing to do it is not the most efficient thing to do.
Here is why. At the moment the exam began you had two huge problems. The first is that the clock is ticking and you have to deliver a lot of analysis in a short amount of time if you are going to beat the majority of your class mates. The second problem is that you have no material to reference. Expecting yourself to remember everything you need to discuss under the pressure and anxiety of a timed exam is not realistic. Time moving we cannot change. Not having material to reference we can change.

Step 1, skip the fact pattern. The fact pattern is the story or hypothetical your professor has given you. I know it sounds crazy but skip that for now and go straight to the call of the question.

Why is that the first step? The call of the question will tell you what issues you need to discuss. For instance on a contracts exam a call that asks whether a contract was formed between the parties indicates that you need to discuss the issues of formation. Without knowing anything about the facts knowing that you need to analyze formation tells you a lot about what issues, rules and cases your exam needs to use.

Why is this first step better than the alternative? It’s about taking control of the exam from the start. Reading the fact pattern first floods your mind with a lot information that points you in various directions. Reading the call of the question focuses your thoughts on objective and concrete topics. This sort of thinking leads to more organized exam responses because it focuses you on organizing your exam response and taking control of the exam instead of being responsive and allow the exam facts to control you.

Step 2, based on the call of the question, begin typing and organizing your essay into highly tested issues, rules, cases and policies. Essentially in this step you are simply writing the outline checklist or exam skeleton that you prepared before the exam. This is something that I would create, memorize and practice typing under time conditions in the weeks and days leading up to the exam. Because it is something you have memorized and spend time practicing for speed, on exam day, it can be written in under 10 minutes. This checklist or skeleton is a substitute for the exam being closed book because the check list or skeleton serves as a reference or guide to help assure that no issues, rules cases or policies are missed under the pressure of the exam. The coolest thing about this exam tool is that now all we have to do is read the fact pattern and fit the facts into the already organized issues and rules.

The benefits of this second step are important to understand. On a law school exam you are awarded points for writing analysis. The sooner you begin writing analysis the better your chances of outperforming your competition. The blueprint of analysis are the issues rules and references to cases or policies. For each class there are actually a lot of issues rules, cases, hypotheticals and policies to remember. On an essay exam there are certain issues rules cases and policies that are so commonly tested that its best to already know how you will discuss them and in what sequence. Approaching the exam this way takes much of the guess work out.

If you think about it, there are a limited number of topics and themes that a professor can test on. If you take enough practice exams you begin to notice that the same themes, issues and topics surface again and again. Part of this is because the ABA requires law school professors to test on certain topics in order to maintain accreditation. For these reasons it just makes sense to have things that we know are going to be tested already prepared. This way we can focus more on writing analysis and not have to worry about details such as issue headings, rule statements and case or policy references that we can plan out in advance because they are standard and universal. The final benefit of this approach is that it puts you in control of the clock because it is now clear to you exactly what issues you must address so that you can prioritize your time and address each issue or topic of analysis with balance. Being able to step back and see the big picture or the universe of issues you will analyze is a huge distinction from what most of your peers are doing on exam day. Most of them are so focused on the fact pattern that the overall structure of the issues framing the analysis is lost and being pulled in various directions by the competing facts. Again taking control of the exam is key.

The third step is to read the fact pattern. Now that your answer is already organized the facts will fall into play inside of the format and structure you have created. What you will find is that the story in the fact pattern will fall under the topics, issues, rules, elements, cases and policies you have already organized prior to reading the facts. Since you have already spotted the issues, written the rule statements , at this phase your role is to spend your time focusing in on crafting your arguments and analysis. This puts you at a tremendous advantage because the pressure of spotting issues is removed and you have all of the resources you will need to write a full analysis since you have already organized the cases and policies. Being able to focus in on the analysis will distinguish your exam from others because most of the points are earned in the analysis section which is exactly where you are able to focus using this strategy.

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