Four Common Indexing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them


There isn’t one “right” way to go about indexing for the licensing exams. Some students choose to make their own indices from scratch, some use old indices, some purchase indices, and some make or update indices with a group. However, no matter what your method, there are four common mistakes that can sabotage efficiency and accuracy. Follow these tips to ensure your indices won’t let you down on exam day.

Mistake 1: Improper or Inconsistent Structuring

The first thing you should consider when creating or selecting a set of indices is their organizational structure. The LSUC materials don’t always cover subjects in a manner that will seem logical to you, which can make it difficult to remember where particular subtopics are located in the materials during the exam. It is critical to structure your indices in a way that will make intuitive sense to you, so that you’ll have no trouble quickly locating keywords or topics in your indices.

If you are making your own indices, you should sit down and think about what kind of organizational structure is going to work best for you. What should your first-level keywords be, and what should your second- or third-level keywords be? Do you want your entries to read “Client Property—Definition” or “Definition—Client Property”?

Choose a method, articulate it in writing, and stick with it. If you’re working with a group, ensure everybody is on the same page about what method to use. Otherwise, some chapters will inevitably be indexed differently from the rest, and you might not realize it until you begin writing the exam.

If you are using purchased indices, or updating an old set, look at a few possible options and select the one that makes the most sense to you. If your group decides to update a set that is not ideal for you, consider changing around the structure once you get it. While this will take extra time during your preparations, it can save you valuable minutes during the exam. Remember—an index, no matter how detailed, is useless if it’s incomprehensible to you.

If you’re starting from scratch, follow the steps below, designed to help you structure your indices in the most effective way possible.

Step One:

The appearance of your index is very important. You should ask yourself how you want it to look, and what will make it the most readable.

First, choose your base. Would you prefer an Excel chart or are you more of a Word doc person?

Next, think about navigating your indices. They must be easy to read in order to be helpful on exam day, and they are going to be lengthy no matter what. It isn’t worth using an unreadable size 8 font just to shave off a few extra pages.

Finally, try doing anything you can to make it easier for your eye to spot things on the page. One way to make navigation more manageable is by bolding the first keyword in a series of entries that use the same keyword:

          Client Property—Appropriate to hold when
          Client Property—Dealing with—how to
          Client Property—Definition
          Client Property—Duty to manage
          Client Property—Financial accounting records separate

If you were looking for “Client Property—Duty to manage,” you could simply go to your outline and look for the bolded keyword: “Client Property.” Your eye will be drawn to this entry, and then you can search for the specific entry from a much smaller set of terms. This is a far more efficient method than scanning the entire page until you find the exact entry you are looking for.

Step Two:

Ask yourself what you want to include in your indices. Of course you’ll want to include your keywords, but what else? Many students choose to include the chapter and section in which the keyword is found. This is a great way to differentiate between similar entries and place the keyword within the broader context of the materials. It will also give you more information to search with if you have a page number error.

Some students will also include the physical location of the corresponding entry on the page. You can use A/B or L/R to distinguish where exactly the entry can be found. Others will go further and include T/M/B to indicate the top, middle, or bottom of a page.

Finally, it’s a good idea to highlight your keywords within the text in a distinguishable colour. All of these details will ensure that using your indices will be efficient, and that when you go to the page you can locate the necessary information immediately. 

Step Three:

Decide how you want to frame your keywords. For this part, you should really focus on what makes sense to you. Consider how you intuitively think about the material. You will likely develop an understanding of this once you go through the materials and try to synthesize them. You should also use practice questions to see how you intuitively search your materials under pressure. For example, many people choose to frame their keywords with the “section” first, followed by the description: “Insolvency—Aboriginal—Garnishment.” This generally requires you to have a good understanding of where things are in both your index and materials.

Alternatively, you could have “Aboriginal—Insolvency—Garnishment.” This would be helpful if you are more likely to identify the question as relating to Aboriginal law first. There is no objective right way to choose how to format your keywords, but there is usually one way that will be right for how you think. You should tailor your keywords and phrases to the way you think about, and respond to, the material. Do you understand the material in specifics first, and then figure out where they fit into the material on a higher level? Or do you think from a higher-level view first and then zoom in to where the specifics fit? The answer to this question can help you shape your keywords to make them the most effective for you on exam day.

If you aren’t sure how you think, test yourself with a practice exam and pay attention to your thought process when trying to find something in your materials. Think about what keyword you would intuitively want to search to answer each particular question. If you’ve purchased or borrowed indices, test them. If you find you can’t locate the keywords you need relatively quickly in your indices, then you know this set isn’t intuitive to you.

Looking answers up during the exam takes time, which is why the more organized, thorough, and easily navigable your indices are, the more valuable they will be to you. The faster you find the information, the faster you can answer the question and move on.


Mistake 2: Using Outdated or Inaccurate Indices

It’s so easy to make mistakes, especially when you are overtired, stressed out, and probably hungry. This is why it’s important to ensure that your indices are correct before exam day. You don’t want to realize on the day of the exam that “Duty—Criminal evidence” is not on page 107 like your index says. There is nothing worse than realizing the answer to a question, or six, is on some random page that you can’t find. If that happens, you will realize quickly that you don’t have the time to flip through your materials to find it.

Two effective ways of testing for mistakes on your indices are:

  1. Reverse look up: Open your materials to a random page, think of the keyword you would have connected with that page, and then flip to your index to try to find it. If you can’t, or you have to try multiple times, change the keyword. This is essentially the way you will be using your indices on the exam, so make sure they work this way for you. If you do find the keyword, make sure that the page number you have listed on your index is the page number you found the information on.

  2. Practice tests: Use indices during a practice test, making note of where your index did not make sense, was too difficult to use, was missing something, or was completely off. Then, go back and fix the problems.


Mistake 3: Not Understanding the Material

Even the best, most organized, and most thorough indices in the world won’t help you if you don’t understand the material. It’s essential to know what is in your indices and where things are in your materials. But you should know not just what the keyword you’re searching for is but how it fits into the materials overall. This is because there is some crossover in the materials. If you can easily find what page something is on, but if you have no understanding of the context then you are unlikely to come to the right answer.

This is particularly relevant to questions associated with Ethics & Professional Responsibility. Often, questions on the exam will appear to be substantive law questions, related to a specific section of the material, when they are actually a Professional Responsibility question in disguise. This is where indices alone are not sufficient. Indices allow you to quickly locate micro-level information, but if you do not have a macro-level understanding of the materials, and how they fit together, then your index will simply take you to a page with information that you don’t know how to apply to the question. Knowing your indices and understanding the material as a whole will help increase your overall efficiency and accuracy on exam day.


Mistake 4: Never Practicing Before Exam Day

The best way to ensure your indices will work for you on exam day is to practice ahead of time. Practicing with your indices will make you more efficient and more accurate on exam day. You can use the few practice questions given by LSUC or use online practice exams. Emond offers two online practice exams here that will enable you to test your indices and get familiar with them.

Indices are a great aid to your exam preparation, and can be a lifesaver on exam day. If you use the above tips when making or updating your indices, you are likely to come into the exam with indices that will be helpful in answering questions quickly and accurately.