This is a question I have been asked several times, so I thought i’ll just make a blog post to address it.
This is what I learnt over the years:
- Study smart – studying hard is very important but studying smart is the key. So how did I study smart? Well, my friends and I would each choose a topic under a subject and make thorough notes on it. We would then exchange the notes before the exam – this made revision a lot faster and even gave us time to practise some past paper questions and answers. Another thing we did in our last year in Cardiff was each of us would take a topic for each subject and type out the entire script of the recorded lecture. We would then exchange these. Since it was a script, it was easy for everyone to follow, and since there were a group of us doing this, it saved so much time and made tutorial preparation faster. Moreover, we also had a good set of notes ready for the exam and all we had to do was further reading!
- Figure out what your lecturers are looking for – each lecturer is looking for something different, you just need to figure out what it is. Some want to hear your opinion and some want thorough research and analysis from academic sources. If you attend lectures and tutorials regularly, you’ll be able to pick this up. Additionally, after you attend your tutorials, subject tutors tend to give tutorial feedback. Always read this. You will be able to understand what your lecturers are looking for.
- Structure is essential – you need to ensure that you have a solid structure for your essays/problem questions. Everything you say should always link back to the question at hand. Keep practising to get this right and also ask your law and non-law friends to read your essays as it’s easy to go off topic sometimes.
- Preparation is everything – you can never be over prepared for an exam, so go through past paper questions; identify the grey areas in the law; and practise essays and problem questions while timing yourself. I would also emphasise here that you should focus on your strengths and work on your weaknesses – if you know you’re better in essay questions, and you have the option to do just those in the exam, focus on those. However, if you have to answer problem questions, practise makes perfect.
- Read the judgments – There is no escaping these. Its important to understand the reasoning behind each case. To do this, one must compare the different opinions of the judges. “Did they agree with each other? Did someone dissent? Whose approach do you agree with?” – these are all questions you need to think about. I understand that it may feel cumbersome to read through a 60 page judgment, but again be smart about it. You can always read through a summary of what the judges are saying and get the gist of their reasoning for a case. Once you understand this, go back to the judgment and extract the relevant points to build up your analysis.
- Be consistent – don’t wait for last minute preparation, it is very very difficult to cover everything if you leave it to the end. To do this, I would recommend always attending lectures, and most importantly preparing thoroughly for your tutorials. Understanding a topic is the key. If you understand the law, you can apply it to any kind of question. So always go through your lectures and prepare any questions you don’t understand so you can address them in your tutorials.
- Time management – if you know you have exams one day after another, you need to make sure you give each subject a balanced amount of time. I would actually recommend starting with the subject you find most difficult and ending revision with the subject you find easier. The key is to make sure you have all your notes ready a few days before the exam so you can use those few days to revise.
- Take occasional breaks – your mind needs to be fresh in order for you to concentrate properly. There’s no point of you reading the same page ten times over and saying you have been studying for a hour. You’d rather take a 30 mins break, clear your mind, and since you’ll be able to concentrate better, you could possibly end up finishing a chapter in the other half a hour!
- Focus on the end result rather than what you are going through – Rather than thinking about how stressful the course is, or how overwhelming exams can be, ask yourself what your end goal is and focus on that. I personally focused on the fact that I love the law, and that the stress of studying would pay off once I become a graduate.
With all this being said, it is important to bear in mind that people are different and the fact that I did certain things and they worked for me does not mean the same things would work for you. Nevertheless, I hope my experience and what I learnt can help you.
Should you have any questions or require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to message me!
All the best,