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Golden Rules for Law Exams

10 Golden Rules for Law Exams

To most law students, law exams is a formidable challenge that demands meticulous preparation, unwavering determination, and strategic execution. These 10 Golden Rules encapsulate time-tested strategies to help you navigate the complexities of legal studies and emerge triumphant in examinations. 

1. Prepare thoroughly. In particular, practise doing the past examination questions.

2. Read the examination paper carefully. Choose the four questions that you want to answer, and make a rough allocation of time.

3. Make rough notes on the answers to all four questions before you begin to write a full answer to any of the questions. We do not always remember at once all the information that we have learned. If you adopt this plan, you give your memory the maximum opportunity to remember what you need for all the questions. 

4. Answer the question set. This is particularly applicable to essay questions, and it involves two prohibitions. First, do not just write all you know about the topic. Each question will have a particular angle which requires careful thought and the selection of relevant information and knowledge. Second, do not write an essay about a different topic. At the root of both these faults is failure to prepare properly. Answering a different question to the one set will result in poor marks. Remember, law is about the ability to advise a client, which requires precision in your application of knowledge. It is not about having a broad general knowledge of the field into which their problem falls.

5. Write tidily and legibly. If you practise writing questions under examination conditions during your studies, you should find that you are able to write at speed, but also tidily and legibly, in the examination. Examiners will not mark answers which are illegible.

6. Follow the instructions on the front page of the answer book. The instruction that candidates most commonly fail to obey is that which tells them to tie in any extra pages at the end of the book, inside the back cover. Do not write in the space reserved for examiners, and do not leave blank pages without reason. Remember that you are asked to fill in a space that sets out the numbers of the questions you have attempted in the order in which they have been attempted – and not in numerical order; many candidates forget to do so. Please try not to tie your booklets together so tightly that we are unable to turn the pages!

7. Do not write too much or too little. In particular, remember that you are allowed to bring a collection of statutes into the examination hall to give you more time to answer the questions effectively. You are not expected to spend time copying out large extracts from statutes. You will gain no credit for doing so, and you will lose the time required to write a good answer. Good planning of your time at the start of the examination should prevent you from writing too much on a particular question, and hence too little on another. Of course, the careless or badly prepared student who settles down to write all he or she knows about a particular subject is likely to end up writing far too much and failing. As a rough guide, approximately four to five pages should be enough for a good answer. This, of course, assumes that you write, as you should, on every line, and that your handwriting is not overly large. 

8. Answer all four questions. Many candidates spend large amounts of time attempting to improve a good answer, leaving too little time to do other questions. It is difficult to pass, let alone to do well, if you have not answered all four questions required. A candidate who devotes all their time to writing three first-class answers will end up with around 53% overall. If these answers are only 2.1, he or she will likely end up with a bare pass. Therefore, it is important to allocate sufficient time to answer each of the four questions. Many students fail every year because they do not have enough time to answer the last question.

9. Refer appropriately to cases and statutory sections to support your propositions of law. When doing so, show some knowledge of the cases by applying the principle or ruling to support your points, and do not just refer to the name of the case as you would in a legal encyclopaedia. Underline case names by all means, but not references to statutes or anything else. Try to spell the names of cases correctly, but if you cannot remember a case name, refer to the principle, ruling, or facts of the case so that the Examiners can identity the case to which you are referring. If you read the cases and note them properly, this should not be a problem.

10. Read the question carefully. You must answer the question the examiner has asked, not some variation on this. Irrelevant material will not earn any marks. 

Remember that your dedication, coupled with these principles, will shape not only your performance in exams but also your growth as a proficient legal mind. As you forge ahead in your legal education, may these rules continue to guide you toward success, both in the classroom and beyond.

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