Exam tips – Part 3

This post has been contributed by Charlotte Crilly, Teaching Fellow for the Undergraduate Laws Programme.

These exam tips come directly from Chief Examiners’ Reports after the most recent exams. There are lots of essential hints and tips about exam technique and how to achieve exam success. This follows on from Part One which covers answering problem questions and Part Two which is about answering essay questions. In this blog post you can find more general exam hints and tips.

How to approach the exam

• Read the whole exam paper and evaluate carefully which questions you can answer best. Choose carefully: If you think that two different questions are about the same issues then you have misunderstood one or both of the questions.
• Draw up a plan of how you will answer each question. This will help to ensure that you do not miss important points and that your answer will be coherent and well presented.
• Write simply. If you are trying to explain a complex argument then it is sometimes better to keep it simple. Write assertively. Be concise. You do not need to be Shakespeare or Dickens to get a first-class mark. You need to be focused. You need to be clear.

Exam time management

• In sitting an examination, timing is very important. Divide the time up between questions and stick rigidly to the timings.
• Plan your time carefully, and avoid spending too much time on any one question.
• Students must be disciplined enough to move on to the next question every 45 minutes – the first marks in a question are far easier to attain than the last.
Structuring exam questions
• The clarity and fluency with which students structure and draft their answers is an important element in the overall grade. Students should offer a clear line of argument in their answers.
• An essay should have an introduction, main discussion and a conclusion and, if a question is divided into two or more parts, that structure should be reflected in the student’s answer.
• You must answer the question that has been set. At every point in the examination you must ask yourself whether you are answering the question. Avoid rote learning of exam answers.

Critical evaluation

• Terms like ‘critically discuss’ or ‘critically evaluate’ in a question signify that students should adopt an analytical approach and avoid a mere description of the situation.
• Essay questions are directed toward a particular problem or controversy and only rarely require candidates to describe the general state of the law. While it is important to be able to demonstrate knowledge of the law, examiners are also interested in your critical assessment of it and your ability to spot the issue raised.
Cite relevant authority
• Successful candidates make detailed reference to relevant supporting authority.

Use of model answers

• Students should be wary of obtaining so called ‘model answers’ that are unfortunately neither ‘model’ nor original, strong answers. Students are urged not to regurgitate template answers.
• Examiners want to see innovative, original, reflective and knowledgeable answers that show individual engagement with the materials.

How to study effectively

• Structure your study around the module guide and the textbook.
• Make sure you read the module guide in conjunction with the textbook – don’t just rely on the module guide.
• The pre-exam updates are essential and the Undergraduate Laws website blog posts can also be highly beneficial.


  1. Your advice is very well informative to students like me who have fell short of obtaining pass marks in years. Now I have better ideas of answering questions. thanks

  2. Thank you very much. A powerful advice for a student like me who have been beating about the bush with answers to examinations. I have a very clear idea on how to answer exam questions. Thank you once more. I’m very grateful.

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