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Exam prep: your last minute guide to Legal Studies

By Olivia Grivas on 31 July 2016HSIEExam adviceHSCNSWblog

It’s the night before the Legal Exam and you’re probably all going a little stir crazy, right? SO many cases and dates and legislation to remember.

By now it’s also probably dawned on you that Legal Studies is one of the most content heavy subjects but you've also realised that at this point it’s a little too late to back out so the only thing you can really do is remind yourself that everyone’s in the same boat and just focus on smashing that exam tomorrow!

So we thought we’d help ease the burden a little by giving you a few tips that’ll help you make it through tonight and the exam tomorrow.

Part 1: The night before

Whilst there are a few more waking hours until the exam tomorrow, now is the time to really crack onto memorising the important details and tying up any small pieces of knowledge you might not have embedded into your memory just yet.

I’m not one to stay up all night and re-read facts over and over trying to remember them so with this process you should be able to get organised and still manage to get a good night sleep (without ripping your hair out):

1. Check the syllabus

The first thing you need to do is open your copy of the syllabus. That seems easy, right?

Now that it’s in front of you, go through each point and have a good think about how well you know it and how prepared you are to answer a question on it if it pops up in the exam. Highlight or mark the questions you’re most unprepared for in pink, the questions you’re a little unsure of in orange and the questions you feel good about in green. Try to spend only 15-20 minutes on this task.

2. Focus on a fix

Now that you’ve identified what you know, it’s time to get on top of what you don’t know as well.

Focus on the pink sections first. Head over to your notes on those topics and start learning. If for some reason you realise your notes aren’t that great for those dot points then head over to Atomi and check out some of our handy videos to help you clear those sections up in the quickest and most effective way possible. Try to get a grasp on how you’d answer those questions in an exam situation and use our application videos so see how to get those Band 6 responses.

Once you’ve sorted through all the pink highlighter (which there hopefully isn’t too much of), then move onto the orange sections and rinse and repeat this process. But be careful not to spend too long doing this, I would recommend no more than an hour or two as you want to be spending most of your time on step 3.

3. Memorising

This is the most important part of the whole process, and it’s all about memorising those vital pieces of evidence for your essays and short answers. By now you should have all of the basic content sketched out in your head so you should spend some time focusing on the details! That means going through and learning your cases, legislation, media articles, treaties, quotes and case studies that by including them in your responses, will bump your marks up.

Whenever I was studying and reached this step, I would take the best 4 or 5 pieces of evidence per syllabus dot point and put them all on one sheet. So for example for Investigating Crime you might put LEPRA, the Evidence Act 1995, the Darby v DPP Case and a Bennett and Morello article about DNA tests. Whenever I could, I would focus on using the same pieces of evidence to minimise the amount of things I needed to know. So for example, LEPRA can be used for practically the whole of the Criminal Investigation Process no need to over complicate it.

Once you’ve got these allocated, it’s now a matter of memorising them, which everyone does differently. Whether you talk to yourself, write everything out 100 times or record yourself and listen to it on repeat doesn’t really matter, as long as you know the content by the end of it.

Part 2: The day of

Now that you’ve got the night before down, it’s time to focus on the actual exam day. Here are the major things you should focus on doing in the exam:

1. Read the question (no, really do!)

I know that’s one of those HSC buzz-phrases that people say over and over, but for Legal this is serious. When you read the question first identify the syllabus keyword. You could really screw yourself over if you Describe instead of Evaluate.

Once you know this, identify the dot point in the syllabus it’s asking you to address. Only write what you’ve learnt for that topic and try to avoid including any irrelevant information that is not going to get you any marks.

2. Use evidence

This is when every single piece of evidence you tried to cram into your brain last night comes to good use. Make sure you tie in the evidence as examples for EVERY QUESTION. If the question mentions the word sentencing, consider it an invitation to talk about R v Loveridge and one-punch laws and accept that invitation.

3. Structure your essays

Don’t get lost in the marathon essay count for Legal. Keep your structure with one paragraph for each theme, and make sure every paragraph has at the very least one piece of evidence, however I would recommend 3 pieces.

If you know the legislation then include it in your answer. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

4. Don’t forget themes and challenges

Don’t fall into the trap of forgetting the pesky syllabus sections: Themes and Challenges.

If the question includes a theme and challenge stick to it. Make sure that everything you write somehow links back to the main syllabus point you’re addressing. I know it’s really easy to get carried away and forget to do these so a good little trick is to write T&C at the top of your page. That way there is a constant reminder to link everything back to the themes and challenges.


So, that’s all the wisdom I can impart to you guys to help you with your Legal Studies Trial Exam. By now you should be ready to dominate so good luck and don’t be afraid to jump onto the site and let us know what you thought of the exam.

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