GDL Tips & Advice – Exams & Preparation
Note this advice is also good for the LLB and other law exams!
The Graduate Diploma in Law is one of the hardest courses you will ever do. You need all the help you can get! It’s just so intense. 7 modules of law all in one year.
And sometimes that’s with all the exams done at the same time.
That’s 21 hours worth of exams during examination period which could require you to remember up to 300 cases!
It’s hard to pass let alone get a commendation or distinction grade. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your time in order to achieve the best grade possible.
You must plan. Every day, every module, every lecture, every seminar and especially every exam. Without planning you’re basically leaving it up to luck as to whether you spend enough time on each module.
You cant do that when so much is at stake. You really don’t have that much time per module when you divide your time by 7. At the undergraduate level you could pretty much just spend half your time on one set of exams, and half your time on another set. Not for the GDL. You can’t do that.
Plan or fail.
Redecorate your walls!
When I did the GDL I had to remember around 300 cases which is around 40 cases per module. Yes I didn’t use all of them in the exam but you don’t know which questions you’re going to get? 40 cases per module was probably a little on the thin side in all honesty but it managed to get me a commendation. 60 cases will probably be required for a distinction, of course this depends on the module you’re doing. I found contract in particular very case heavy.
To help you memorise all of these cases write about 5 cases down on a sheet of A4 with the case name, key facts, and points of law explained. Then just plaster your wall(s) with them. Constantly seeing the cases really helped me, and when I had trouble remembering a case name I imagined where it was on the wall which actually helped with remembering the case name. This worked for me, maybe you could try it too if you have trouble remembering that many cases.
The GDL is a marathon not a sprint
What I mean by this is you should pay attention the entire duration of the course. Not just at the end during examination period or you will give yourself too much to do. Do your best to attend all the lectures and seminars, even if you feel like you’re treading water and not going forward with your understanding of the law. It eventually will all click, and everything you learnt during the lectures and seminars will make sense.
Just keep working. It’s not going to be easy but ideally you want to have a good general understanding before you start your GDL revision at which point you can build your understanding of the module up and up.
Don’t revise everything
Now this may go against advice given by your lecturers but I can’t imagine how it’s possible to learn every single area of every single module. Yes you need a basic understanding of how a topic links into the module as a whole. However you don’t need to get to the stage where you are up to the standard you can answer an exam question on every single part of the module.
There are quite a few questions on each paper, and you only need to answer 3 questions (depending on institution). So obviously you don’t need to know everything. But what you do need to do is learn enough. You don’t want to be stuck only being able to answer 2 questions in an exam.
Don’t take risks. Learn enough, but don’t learn more than you need to. You should be able to figure out the exact amount of areas from a subject you need to learn in order to be covered for the exam.
Make use of everything at your disposal
This again goes against the advice of some lecturers. They told us not to use the brief case notes books (Nutshell books I believe they are called). The books which give you a simple overview of a module… you know the sort I mean. While you can’t use them alone as part of exam revision they do have their uses.
To be able to write a good exam in a law essay or exam, first you need to be able to completely understand the area of law. This isn’t easy, especially in one year. Understanding of the law to your lecturers will be second nature to them; they have been doing it for so long and are very intelligent individuals. So they look at the case notes book and see nothing of value – they already know it all. However for a student who looks at the case notes book it can really connect the dots and allow them to understand the basics of the module.
Now they understand the basics they can start building their knowledge upwards. Instead of explaining how to revise, I thought i’d draw a picture. I call this the Law Conversion Course Pyramid and is the structure of revision I used. Start simple and build up.
Revise for seminars and exams with others
Doing this will not only allow you to ask others about areas you don’t understand but also let you expand your own knowledge by explaining what you do know to others. In the words of Albert Einstein “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. So it really is a good test of your own knowledge; it also really helps when others ask you questions.
You must be 100% sure you understand everything before the exam – if you get the general legal principles wrong it’s going to be hard to even get a pass. Sometimes you may have a tendency to just skip over an area without knowing all of the details (I know I did!) Furthermore it gives you greater confidence (or even new ideas) when you compare practice exam answers in a study group. You may not have thought about using a case in the same way that your friend did.
Any good GDL advice? Share it below!