In this week’s post Rianna A.L answers some questions and talks about what it was like going through second year. Rianna is currently a law student at Nottingham University about to embark on her third year and hopes to become a solicitor.
So, how was surviving second year?
As a law student recovering from the aftermath of the exam season, I can truly say studying law is challenging but very rewarding. Through engaging with the subject, I’ve enjoyed discovering that law affects all aspects of every day life which makes it fun to learn and a very useful subject to have a grasp of in practice and in theory. In every aspect of it, there is something for everyone.
So if I could impart some wisdom in the wake of exams it’s this: I found that sticking to a routine throughout the year really helped. I would start my studies at 9 am if I had a lecture at that time, or 10 am. I would then carry on until 5 or 6pm with an hour lunch break. In-between lectures I would go to the library and catch up on the readings.
I found that it was worth going to the library to find text books that broke down the concepts in a way that I could understand, even if they were books that were not on the recommended list. We all learn differently and understand at different rates therefore it is important to find a method that works for you.
It goes without saying but it is important to stay on top of your work from the start and not just during exam season. Personally, I spent anything between 5 and 8 hours on tutorials and seminar readings. The golden piece of advice that I can give is: do not read everything cover to cover, but try and pick out what is essential. This, like most things, comes with practice. Understanding the law, being able to apply it and drawing out it’s nuances in arguments is what matters, not just the reading the text.
Was there a magic formula?
I am sure you all want to know; how can I pass whilst getting the best results possible? Look no further, here is my advice from experience.
Firstly, leave yourself enough time.
The biggest error you can make is not giving yourself enough time to revise. Law is a very content heavy degree, so it is essential that you put aside longer than a week per subject to do your revision. Cramming is never a good idea and will leave you panicking and less likely to absorb the information. Trust me.
Secondly, avoid the all nighter.
No matter how much of a superhero you look to your course mates, the all nighter is never a safe bet. You will feel like a zombie in the morning and most likely won’t have absorbed anything useful in the long term. So don’t forget to look after yourself during this crucial time and give yourself a break.
Thirdly, condense condense condense!
Condense your notes on cue cards narrowing them down to all the key cases and statutes you need. Look at your lecture notes and the text book notes as a guide. When it comes to converting to memory, whatever you can do to remember a case name, do it! Use word association, no matter how silly. Memorise the case name, key facts and the legal principle, it’s that simple but it just takes hard work.
The key facts are usually what is important in distinguishing cases and help you to elaborate your argument. Think of it as advanced English literature, but rather than poems as quotes, you have cases you analyse to make your argument. In Donoghue v Stevenson for example it’s not essential to state what creature was in the ginger beer bottle, however entertaining it may be!
Do not memorise the text book. This may be tempting but past experience has taught me it’s the understanding not the memorising that will get you marks. In line with this, do past papers – as many as possible, read the suggested answers for past papers if they are available and try and pick up the writing skills and styles which distinguish a 2:1 essay from a 1st essay for example.
Sometimes making a plan for an essay or problem question is faster and easier than writing out a full answer as it allows you more time to practice different questions. However, don’t forget to leave aside a few papers to do under timed conditions, this will help you to estimate how you need to perform and divide your time during an exam. Plus, it’s always good to familiarize yourself with the format and how you perform before the exam.
How did you approach exam days?
In my experience, revising on the day of the exam is never wise. If you do not know the content by the day of the exam you are never going to know it well enough. The best thing to do is to take your mind of it and stay positive. Reflect on how much preparation you have done and be proud of what you have achieved in terms of revision.
Any practical tips for the day?
Make sure you take in highlighters and any stationery in a clear pencil case, remember your statute book if you need one and ensure you carry a water bottle. It is extremely important to stay hydrated.
One thing you wish you had known?
If I could give one piece of advice for someone starting first or second year or one thing I wish I had known it’s this: Be brave enough to approach lecturers and ask for a reading list for each type of law. Basically, don’t be afraid to ask for help.