You will find a limitless stream of exam advice blogs online which all say the same thing: Start early; Make a plan; create a study group; create a flow chart; eat and sleep properly; drink water, etc. … While this is all great advice, we expect you have heard it all a million times before and so we won’t repeat it here.
In this post we aim to give you some extra – LL.B. specific – advice to help you make the most of your time before the exams and help you get into those higher grade brackets.
Read the marking criteria
At most universities the marking criteria will be readily available for you to read prior to your exams, and if it’s not, ask for it and familiarise yourself. This is the best starting point for your revision. This document will tell you exactly what the examiner will be looking for and what is required to reach each grade bracket.
In most cases, the examiner will sit with a copy of the marking criteria while they are marking the exam, so if the marking criteria says you must include X, Y and Z, then make sure you do. If you know what is required of you, then you will know how to structure your revision and ultimately your answers in the exam. If anything is unclear, ask a member of the law faculty to explain it to you.
In many exams you will be permitted to take a copy of the relevant statute books into the exam for reference. If you plan on taking one then it is important that you know it (or at least the relevant sections) inside out. Go in unprepared and you will waste precious time flicking through and you will risk incorrectly citing legislation or missing something important which will automatically let the examiner know that you were not prepared for the exam.
If you are allowed to highlight sections of the book then we advise that you do, but be strategic, while going through a statute book colouring in pages with your favourite yellow highlighter can make you feel like you’re being productive and preparing yourself for the exam, remember that this is your opportunity to make your life easier come exam time. Does colouring in the entire Human Rights Act 1998 really achieve this?
One way you can best make use of the statute book is to use different coloured highlighters. If you are sitting an exam on Family law for example, the course will cover a range of topics which will be spread between different legislation, it might be useful to highlight different areas of law in different colours: e.g. Yellow = Marriage; Orange = Divorce; Blue = Children. This will mean that you will be able to find the relevant sections quickly and at a glance.
A knowledge of the relevant cases and legislation which applies to the specific area of law you are being examined on is the minimum you will be expected to cite during the exam. While this may be enough to get you a pass, you should include examples of secondary sources which you have found independently to place yourself in the upper grade brackets.
The best way to do this is to read the footnotes from a range of textbooks to find examples of government or parliamentary reports, official publications relevant to the topic being examined, or academic publications (and if your lecturer has been published on a particular area of law, it doesn’t hurt to gently stroke their ego in the exam).
By including a few quotes from secondary sources in your answers, you show the examiner that you have gone beyond the required reading and understand the content of the course. It is important that you also explain why you are using any particular source, and whether or not the particular source is reliable.
While we are offered a range of resources at university, from textbooks in the library to online subscriptions to Westlaw and the likes, however we often don’t make use of perhaps the most useful resource available to us: the lecturers.
Your lecturer is without a doubt your most valuable resource when planning your revision. It is likely that your lecturer created the course syllabus and wrote the exam questions. No one knows the particular course better than your lecturer.
By starting your revision early you will be able to identify the areas of each subject that you know well and more importantly – the areas you need to work on. If you can identify your weak spots then you will be able to get help.
Remember that your lecturers are there to help you, and, providing you don’t turn up at their office 24-hours before the exam, most will be happy to do so. The best way to do this would be to identify the areas of the module that you most need help with and send them a short email asking if they would be available to meet to talk it over. It should also be noted that they will likely be unwilling to help if they feel like you are seeking special treatment or specific information about the exam. You should arrive to meet them armed with questions or examples of your work to go over with them.
Another important point to remember is that it usually your lecturer who will be marking your exam paper and sometimes you can use this to your advantage. Last year in one class our lecturer often spoke of his admiration of a certain academic writer. I along with others on my course used this information and made sure to find some of that particular academic’s published articles to cite in the exam. This will showed our lecturer that not only were we present during the classes, but also that we were listening to what he was saying.
Obviously this was a rare occasion but it is a strong example of the benefit of getting to know your lecturers.
We wish everyone of our readers the best of luck with their winter exams and if you have any exam tips you would like to share, we would love to hear from. You can contact us here or leave a comment below. We are always looking for contributions and love hearing from you.