Top tips for performing well in law exams
A law exam is so much more than merely recalling what you’ve committed to memory, important though that is. Indeed, some of your law exams will be open book and so a test of pure understanding and whether you apply knowledge satisfactorily. The power of your analysis and demonstrating how your interpretation and application of the law are relevant and beneficial to the client are essential.
Express yourself clearly
Make sure that your legal interpretations are “public-friendly” and easily understood. Your law exams are vocational and the clarity with which you can explain the law to clients will be a factor in your exam results.
Check your spelling
Ensure there are no common misspellings among your answers. Remember “advise” is a verb that means “to give counsel to; offer an opinion or a suggestion as worth following.” Whereas “advice” is a noun that means “an opinion or recommendation offered as a guide to action or conduct.” Your legal analysis may be dependent (as in the adjective meaning “reliant”) upon a prescribed course of action but it won’t be “dependant” (as in the noun meaning “a person who relies upon another, especially a family member”).
Read the instructions at the top of the paper carefully
This may sound ludicrously obvious, but some students damage their exam prospects by simply not reading exam questions properly. It’s as if they answer questions in their own ideal manner as opposed to how they’ve been instructed to.
Keep an eye on the time
Sadly, failure to answer all questions on the examination paper is a common reason for getting disappointing exam results. It can spoil things for even the best students. Work your way through every question and don’t spend overlong on any one question or section. You don’t have to write everything about a law – just whatever is relevant to the task.
Remember the importance of structure
Structure your written answers. Ensure their introductions and conclusions refer to the questions. This will give you focus. Identify the issue, state the law or rule, analyse it and specify how you’d apply it to the facts. Analysis is essential. Cite the authority for your statement of law but if you can’t remember what that is don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. Better to write something like “as in the case where the member of the public launched an action against X for negligence”.
Your conclusion should specify the legal probabilities of the issue as you see them.
Multiple choice questions
Analyse each question. What legal issue is being considered and which rule do you need to know to answer the question? If the examination is open book, look up the relevant law. Explain why one answer is correct.
And most importantly, don’t panic. In the unfortunate situation where things don’t go your way during the exam, remember that it is not the end of the world and you can try again in the next exam sitting. Keep in mind that an exam cannot determine the rest of your career. It is this understanding that will provide you with a calmness and clarity during the exam, enabling to focus on the task at hand, and not the ‘what if’.
Good luck to all of you during law exam season, this, too, shall pass!