May 27, 2016

Tips for an Open-Book, Closed-Notes Law School Final

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So apparently when I said no more finals posts for a while, I really only meant 5 days. Sorry. But I was looking at those snapchats about my open book final and realized that I had a lot to say about those. Both of my Contracts finals this semester and last semester were open book so I have a pretty good system down that I wanted to share. PS -- it's hard to see my outlines in the book because I did them in pencil, which I highly suggest because sometimes you get tired and accidentally copy down lines out of order.

First off, let me just say that one thing I learned last semester is do not think that just because it's open book that you won't have to study. I pretty much did everything the same studying for this final as I did all of the other ones, but just skipped memorizing an attack outline since I was going to bring it in to my final. Like I said, in your finals you're going to be rushed for time so really you should only be using your book as something to jog your memory, not as something you'll have to go look up answers in. My professor only let us bring in a book (no notes), and anything we added to the book had to be hand written and couldn't be stapled in or anything.

The very first thing I did was go buy some tabs to separate out the chapters for me. These are the ones I used, and I really liked how big and sturdy they were. This semester, I alternated between pink for odd-numbered chapters and yellow for even-numbered chapters just so that it broke it up from having 9 tabs all of the same color. 

your guide to an open book final |

I then put a green tab on the page where my first chapter started in the table of contents. Within the table of contents, I highlighted every Restatement or UCC rule and the page number it was on, in case I had to directly quote it. I did this because sometimes these official rules are long and they would take up way too much space in my outlines. I also wrote these page numbers in my outline in my favorite purple pen so that I knew where to flip to in the book, if I needed to. Then I added an orange tab for the back section where the blank pages start, which I'll talk about more in a second.

your guide to an open book final |

My professor warned us last year to be careful when writing our outlines in the books because there's only a few blank pages in the back and we'd have to make those pages last for two semesters. Some people remedied this by writing really small, but in a stroke of genius I realized that there's a blank page right at the beginning of every chapter that I could write on. This worked out great because I can flip to the tab and there was my outline for that chapter. I feel like this saved me time because I didn't have to scan one long outline to find the chapter I needed. 

your guide to an open book final |

I also added these bright colored post-its to the page opposite of my outline with just the main points of each chapter, so if I wasn't sure which chapter something was in, I could look straight to that instead of having to skim my outline. For some chapters, the outline didn't all fit so I would just color the edge of the page orange with my highlighter and that told me to flip to the orange tab at the back for the rest of the outline (what I was talking about earlier).

Related: How to Make an Outline

your guide to an open book final |

If something was too long to put in my outline but wasn't a rule mentioned in the table of contents like with my green tab that I was talking about, I would write it out on these tabbed sticky notes and put them wherever they were mentioned in the chapter. Last semester, I just would stick a post-it in my book, but I like these better because they have a tab so that I can easily find it. 

your guide to an open book final |

The last thing I did was make an attack outline on the inside front of my book. I didn't do this last semester and it really sped things up for this test. I color coordinated the Roman numerals and letters with either pink or yellow to match the chapter tab, or orange to tell me to go directly to the back. 

your guide to an open book final |

This was might've been overkill, but I did it because I'm a type A person. I did end up staying up a little too late the night before a test because I underestimated how long it would take me (5 hours to copy an 18 page outline). Copying the outline into the book was a great review for me, but by the end my hand wasn't just cramping—it was throbbing. If I have another open book final, I'll definitely spread this out over a few days instead of treating it like a last minute thing. But overall, I was happy with the results and didn't waste as much time finding things as I did last semester. Okay, NOW I'm done with talking about finals for a while. I won't break this promise again. 

Also, check out my Finals Posts Round Up post for more tips to help with your finals!


  1. To whoever is running this blog, thank you so much because you are such big help! I'm starting law school in a few weeks time here in the Philippines and I'm sure that I'll be able to take great tips from your blog. Totally bookmarked!

    1. Thank you so much Zen! It's so exciting to think that my blog is relevant on an international level! Good luck in law school!

  2. Thank you so much for this blog! I'm starting in August and don't know anyone whose done this before. This is a huge help!