Take a look at your calendar and you’ll realize that the end of the semester is only a few short weeks away. We want you to be as prepared as possible for finals, so please don’t hesitate to stop by our office or make an appointment to discuss some individual strategies that you can use over the coming weeks. One finals prep strategy that we recommend for all students is to make an attack plan. An attack plan is a document that gives a concise overview of the major topics covered in a course and, most importantly, that lists or organizes the topics in the correct hierarchy. Attack plans go by lots of names – issue checklists, mini-outlines, skeletal outlines, issue-spotters, etc. But no matter what you call it, this is a must-have study aid for finals!

Creating your own attack plan for each course or for each major subject covered in a course, will benefit you in many ways. It will force you to see the big picture; to pull back from the minutia of the cases and see how the key rules and concepts relate on a macro level. A good attack will also structure the concepts in an organized and logical manner, which will help you analyze a future exam problem in an organized and logical manner. Attack plans can also help with memorization of the rules. Since an attack plan will only include the names of the concepts and sub-concepts, reviewing your attack plan will force you recite the concept definitions, rule statements, and rule exceptions from memory.

So, if attack plans are so beneficial, how do you go about making one? It might be easier than you think. To create a good attack plan, you start by simply listing out the major concepts and sub-concepts. Refer to your outline, the casebook table of contents, and even the class syllabus to help you identify the concepts you need to include. Once you’ve identified the concepts, you organize them in the proper hierarchy, being careful to structure the plan in a way that will help you logically and efficiently analyze issues in a future exam problem. Depending on your preferences, you may want your attack plan to be in a more traditional, linear format or you may want to have a more graphic, visual representation. Either way is fine, so long as you keep your attack plan concise and organized.

For example, a first semester torts attack plan might start by looking something like this:

  1. Possible Torts?
  2. Possible Defenses?
  3. Any Additional Issues?

Next, you would insert the concepts and issues you need to be aware of into each of the three steps. So Step 1 would include categories for Intentional Torts and Negligence, and each of those would include subcategories for the key rules that were covered. Step 3 might include categories for Vicarious Liability or Joint and Several Liability, or any other concepts that could not be easily categorized into the other two concepts. Let’s break down Step 2 to see what this process ends up looking like:

2. Possible Defenses?

Intentional Tort Defenses

  • Self-defense
  • Defense of others
  • Defense of property
  • Consent
  • Necessity
  • Discipline
  • Shopkeeper’s Privilege

Negligence Defenses

  • Comparative
  • Contributory
  • Assumption of the Risk

From there, you may break the subcategories down into additional units that list the key concepts for that particular category. Importantly, attack plans don’t include detailed rule statements. They are designed to give you a bird’s eye view of the course and to force you to memorize the rule statements. And remember, if the traditional linear outline approach isn’t your preference, you can create an attack plan resembles a graphic organizer.

A completed attack plan will help you memorize rules, spot issues, and write an organized essay exam answer. They don’t take long to make, but they have a big payoff. They are a must-have finals study aid, so make sure you spend a little time over the next few weeks creating one for each course.