This post has been contributed by Charlotte Crilly, Teaching Fellow for the Undergraduate Laws Programme.
Students recently had the opportunity to ask a lecturer questions about contract law, in preparation for their exam. Many of these questions were about exams and exam technique in general, so we’ve put together some of these FAQs and answered them. Hopefully these will be useful to you all in preparation for your exams, whatever subjects you’re studying!
How should I answer an essay question? How much should I write in the exam for an essay question?
- The most important thing to do is to answer the question! Don’t answer with a rote answer that you’ve learned, don’t just write everything you know about the topic, and don’t answer the question you wish you’d been asked instead. Read the question carefully and underline key words to make sure you’ve fully and accurately understood it. Everything you write must be relevant to this question – keep the question in mind as you write.
- Structure your work clearly and logically. Write an introduction, a set of main paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each paragraph should deal with one main point in your argument.
- Write in clear, simple and accurate English, with correct spelling and grammar. If you need help with academic English skills, you could look at the BBC Skillswise website (at http://www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise/english).
- There is no set length for an essay in the exam. Focus on making sure your whole essay is relevant to the question, and contains relevant evidence, examples and legal authority to back up your arguments. An essay should be long enough to explore all the relevant arguments you wish to make. Think about quality, not quantity!
- For more guidance on writing essays, have a look at the blog post ‘Exam Tips – Part 2’ (at https://laws.londoninternational.ac.uk/2017/09/27/exam-tips-part-2/).
How should I answer a legal problem question? Should I answer legal problem questions differently from essay questions? How should I apply the law in a legal problem question?
- Legal problem questions should be answered differently from essay questions. In a problem question, you must show that you can apply relevant law to the facts in the question, in a precise and detailed way.
- A good structure for your answer is Issue – Law – Application – Conclusion, or ILAC for short. This will make sure that you answer the question comprehensively and avoid irrelevant material. There is no set length of answer for a legal problem question. As with essay questions, answer the question fully, but avoid irrelevant material. You can read about the ILAC structure, and how to apply the law to the facts, in more detail in the blog post ‘Exam Tips – Part 1’ (at https://laws.londoninternational.ac.uk/2017/09/21/exam-tips/).
- When stating the law, you must cite the case law or statutory provisions. You should cite the law that is relevant to the legal issues that you have already identified, and leave out irrelevant law. If you are citing a statute, you should not copy out the entire text, even if you have the statute book in the exam with you; instead you should summarise the key points.
- If you want to see some worked examples of a problem question, you could read the following book: ‘Studying Law’ by Simon Askey and Ian McLeod (2014), pages 213 – 225.
How should I use case law in the exam? How many cases do I need to include in my answer? How should I cite cases in the exam?
- In essays, case law should be used as legal authority for the points you make. Successful exam candidates make detailed reference to relevant supporting authority, whether that be case law or statute. In problem questions, case law can also be an essential part of stating what the law is, before applying the law to the facts to reach your conclusion.
- There is no set number of cases you need to include in your answer. Rather than worrying about the number of cases to include, bear in mind that every statement you make must be backed up with legal authority, whether that be statute or case law.
- You don’t need to give all the details of case law in an exam – it would be very hard to remember every full case citation! Our blog post ‘Citing cases in exams’ explains exactly how to reference cases in the exam (at https://laws.londoninternational.ac.uk/2014/04/09/citing-cases-in-exams/).
How should I use a statute book in the exam?
- You’re in luck! We have already provided detailed guidance on using a statute book in an exam in our earlier blog post ‘Using statute books for studying and exams’ (at https://laws.londoninternational.ac.uk/2017/11/30/using-statute-books-for-studying-and-exams/).
What should I do as final preparation for the exam?
- Hopefully, just before the exam you have done most of your revision. Don’t leave all your exam preparation till the last minute!
- It’s a good idea to condense down your notes as you revise, till you have maybe just one A4 sheet of the most important points and key cases by the time you come to the exam. These are then the key points to revise in the final stages of exam preparation, and should act as a reminder of all the other things you’ve already learned.
- Make sure you have all the practical arrangements in place: check your equipment for the exam including necessary ID documents and any permitted materials; double check the venue and time and how you will get there.
- Get and early night before the exam and try to relax. By this stage you should be prepared!
And finally, what are your top exam tips?!
- You can read all about our top exam tips in this blog post ‘Top tips for exam revision’ (at https://laws.londoninternational.ac.uk/2017/05/09/top-tips-for-exam-revision/).
- Above all, leave enough time for your exam preparation; revise using past papers and examiners’ reports; read and answer the exact questions set and finally, don’t panic!
For more exam tips, search under ‘exam guidance’ on the Undergraduate Laws Programme blog. You might also be interested in the following articles: