A Product of William S. Hein & Co., Inc.
Close this search box.


Table of Contents


Recently, a student asked me a question about the process of outlining as it relates to preparing to take the final examination. I’m reproducing a version of that question and my response, so that you all have this information.

The Student Asked

This question has been edited

During the outlining process, I realized that my class notes are not equivalent to a useful outline. I understand your outline should be personal to the individual, however, I am now understanding that I need to break the concepts apart. I went back into your book (1000 Days to the Bar) again for a refresher, and I think I have a better grasp on what to do. Yet, I am still not sure how much information is too much information. For example, this week’s reading is about the Battle of Forms. The Battle of Forms has subsections for which the book gives details or extra clarification. In my class notes I would pull out these specific rules, but on the outlines, it seems like it’s too much information. Even though it’s an open-book exam, I’m not sure how helpful it would be to have so much extra information. These questions came up as I was watching the Barbri video materials and noticed that their overview of the subjects is much more compact. In categorizing my outline, I was between two ways of breaking up the material: (1) using the side concepts on D2L you have provided, e.g. Formation, Revocation, Contract Terms… as sections, and (2) Using Barbri’s outline. I did see a lot of overlap between the two…

I Responded

This answer has been edited

Yes, I agree (as you know), “It really should be called a ‘course summary’.”
Correct: your class notes are not equivalent to a useful outline. Not at all.
How much information is too much information? That’s an interesting question. We are all different types of learners. Remember – the outlining process is a learning function. As you struggle with putting some things in your own words, using the words of the UCC and the Restatement, finding explanations in the casebook or Barbri or another study aid, etc., then arranging everything in a meaningful hierarchical way – then (perhaps) color-coding material, adding hypothetical examples … each effort you expend like that is a learning event.
When you have it all together for a topic, then reread it a few times, you should find yourself adding, subtracting, revising. Then, when you use it to assist you in answering practice hypotheticals, you will discover holes in it – which need to be patched. What do you wind up with? Something pretty comprehensive … and THAT becomes a study aid for you. For you. It is tailored to be only this: what you believe will help YOU comprehend and remember the law and how it is used.
That product is too long. It’s not too long for a summary, but it is too long to be a useful study aid AFTER you have learned the material. That’s why you should use that summary to create a much leaner product – either or both: a skeleton outline and/or a flow chart. Look at the flow chart example in 1000 Days to understand exactly what I mean. That has each element of each tort in a separate box, then tests to determine whether each element can be proven. It’s simple. You’ll find material in the book about how to develop a huge flow chart on your wall (or a very large piece of paper) – a “subject-specific wall chart.” That is what you memorize for exam use. Visualizing the flow chart (or instantly recalling the elements of each rule) is what you will need to do to reach the highest plateaus of essay writing.
The result of all of that work is this: automaticity … just like you automatically can write your signature, your phone number, your social security number, your address, your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, prayers, etc. You don’t need to think about any of those … they simply flow from your lips … or your fingers if you are typing. That’s what should happen when you take a final exam. So much of your writing should be automatic. You will automatically spot issues because of all the work you have done on your summary, your skeletal outline and/or flow chart, and answering practice exam questions; you will automatically type the rules and elements; you will automatically (as part of your practiced routine) pull facts out of the hypothetical to prove each element; you will automatically set everything up in an IRAC format using (for example) “under,” “here,” and “therefore” to begin each little section.
You mention that as you watch the Barbri video materials you notice that their overview of each subject is much more compact. Of course. They are using a skeleton outline or a flow chart … the step after the building of a course summary. Again, the construction and review of your summary is to help you comprehend everything and how it all fits together; the skeletal outline and/or flow chart is to commit to memory for development of automaticity when answering exams.
The final thing to memorize (which flows naturally from the skeleton or flow chart) is an issue checklist – to make sure you do not miss anything when you’re writing an exam answer. Here is an example of an issue checklist (also referred to as an “attack sheet”).
Yes, you will see an overlap between your course’s organization of topics and the way Barbri’s outline is arranged. You’ll see a similar overlap if you review most other study aids, textbooks, and course syllabi. That’s because there is a logical sequence of how to learn Contracts, how to analyze problems, and how to write exam answers.

Customer Training Session