Study Skills

Study Skills

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Create an Outline or Study Guide

Create your OWN outline and study guide throughout the semester. When I was in college, studying for finals simply involved looking over my hodgepodge of class notes. It worked fine, but it was inefficient. My notes weren't very organized, so I spent a lot of time thumbing back and forth through them, trying to figure out how different sections of content related with each other.

When I arrived in law school, I learned about the power of outlining. And I wished someone had taught me this skill as an undergrad. Creating an outline for your class does a few things that help with learning. First, it helps you synthesize information and understand how everything fits together. Second, it keeps your content organized for easier studying later on in the semester. Sometimes professors give important insights about a concept you studied earlier in the semester towards the end of the semester. Those bits of information can be easy to lose if you don't have a master outline you can plug them into.

It's important that you create your OWN outline. Don't rely on somebody else's. The simple act of creating an outline for your class will do wonders in helping you learn the material for the exam.

Many students like to wait until the end of the semester to create their outline. If that works for you, do it. I preferred outlining throughout the semester so I could spend more time reviewing my outline and going over practice questions right before the exam instead of spending time creating my outline.

A Short Guide to Creating an Outline

1. Use the syllabus or textbook to create the backbone of the outline.

Here's the easiest way to create your outline. At the beginning of the semester, take a look at your textbook's table of contents. Create the backbone of the outline using chapter titles. The teacher's syllabus is also a good source for creating your outline's backbone. In fact, the syllabus is often presented in the form of an outline.

2. Fill in with class notes.

After every class, fill in your outline with your class notes. You'll really have to think about how to organize your notes and what to put where, but the mental struggle means the info is anchoring deeper and deeper into your brain.

3. Supplement the outline with professor handouts and other students' outlines.

If your teacher provides any handouts, supplement your outline with that content. Also, feel free to supplement your outline with outlines prepared by other students or a publisher. Sometimes it helps to see how somebody else organized the information in order to understand a concept more fully.

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