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Outlining for Examination Preparation

Create Your Own Course Outline

Creating an outline is the process through which you learn the course material. Students often try to use outlines from other students, but this does not help them learn. The act of working the material through the creation of an outline is what will benefit you most.

A course outline is a synthesis of the course:

  • As taught by the professor
  • Discussed in the casebook
  • Augmented and explained by outside resources
  • As you understand it

Create Your Outline Right Away

Successful students start outlines before classes even begin. Most use the table of contents to create a skeletal outline and then fill in each section as the semester progresses.

Different Ways to Create Course Outlines

Many students create a skeletal outline based on the table of contents and then fill in the information from each section as they go through the semester. Other students wait until they have finished a chapter before creating the outline for that topic. No one way is perfect. You will have to figure out what works best for you.


The table of contents is a great resource. The authors of casebooks use chapter and section headings to distinguish topics and even elements. These headings will allow you to see the elements before you even get to the topic in your reading. The vast majority of the information contained in your outline should come from your assigned readings and class notes. However, course supplements can fill in the void when it is difficult to understand a certain concept. If you do not understand a concept, schedule an appointment to meet with your professor. Professors will help you when you have difficulty with a particular topic. Additionally, please schedule an appointment with the Director of Academic Support to discuss your difficulty in understanding a concept.