Thinking Outside the Outline

With exams starting in less than a month, you are probably at least thinking about outlining, if not actually beginning to outline.  Outlines are great because they help you organize a lot of class material in a logical way.  The one problem with traditional outlines is that they are linear.  This is fine for classes where you’re making checklists of elements (torts, criminal law, etc.), but what about when a point on your outline is connected to more than one area of the class?  Mind maps, which organize information spatially, allow you to connect one idea to multiple ideas and see how concepts are connected.

You have options when creating mind maps.  You can draw them by hand, or you can take advantage of many different mind mapping programs.  You might chose one over the other based on how you learn or time constraints.  When I was in law school, I created mind maps by hand (using information from a longer typed outline), because I know I remember things I hand write better than ideas I type.

Exam preparation should be whatever helps you learn best.  That may be long outlines, issue spotting checklists, mind maps, flashcards, or a combination thereof.  There is no wrong way to study, so if you think a traditional outline is not the best approach for you, don’t be afraid to try something you think will be more closely aligned with your learning style.  For many people, combining different study aids and techniques will be the ticket, because the strengths of one method compensate for the weaknesses of another.  Good luck with your exam preparation!