Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Let's start with a little introduction before we jump into the actual advice. I’m Risha, I graduated last year and am currently doing a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne. I know exactly how you’re feeling right now. Well, not exactly, you guys have the unique circumstance of being subjected to a global pandemic but let’s try and ignore that for now.
If you’re anything like me you’ve probably got your last Legal SAC coming up, and you’re sitting there struggling to try and remember the content from only a few weeks ago, wondering how on earth you’re going to remember a whole year’s worth of legal content (and 4 other subjects worth).
I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying “practice makes perfect” and I assure you this goes for ANYTHING you’re trying to achieve in life. Instead of reading and rereading your notes, you have to do practice questions. You just do. That’s the BEST way, and the FASTEST way you’re going to learn your content. Physically handwriting your answers just does something magical and the information automatically just plops itself into your brain.
Okay, so I’m sure you just read that and thought “I already know this” but just hear me out. First thing we need to think about are sourcing questions, not just any questions, you need questions that are complex and interesting and that really challenge you to think. You HAVE to be doing questions that you struggle with, you have to lose marks here and there, that’s the only way you’re going to get better. Trust me.
Don’t do textbook questions, they’re just not great for Legal Studies, they’re quite basic and not close to the ones VCAA like to ask (however, this varies from textbook to textbook). The absolute best place to get questions from is VCAA’s archive of exams. However, with the study design change it can be difficult to find relevant questions, so if you don’t have the time and energy to sift through the exam papers, here’s what I recommend.
Badger your teacher for questions if they’re not already giving you questions to do. Ask them politely to see if they can find more relevant questions, they usually have access to a lot more resources than we do. If they wave you off and tell you the textbook has enough, be ready to make some small investments. The Cambridge Checkpoint books are one of the best question books that you can have (and this goes for all subjects honestly) and they’re not super pricey. However, I’m sure you can check some second hand (online) markets for them (Facebook marketplace is great) and get them mailed to you or ask some students from the year above if they have a copy on hand. I’ve found that when you know someone personally, they’re more than happy to loan or give you the book for no cost, especially during these times. The A+ notes are pretty good too, they’ve got some decent questions and some good notes as well, however I still think Checkpoint wins for this one.
Now, you’ve got your questions, how many should you be doing? When should you be doing them? Try and aim for 40 marks per week, or in other words, the questions you should be doing should be worth 40 marks by the end of the week. This could be trying to do 4 x 10 markers a week (although this sounds torturous, don’t do this), or 8 x 5 markers. This way, you’ll basically be finishing a legal exam every 2 weeks. However, if 40 marks seems like a lot to you, start with 20 marks a week and work yourself up.
I’m not saying you have to do questions every day, I definitely didn’t. Work smarter not harder here. Set a few hours a week dedicated to answering questions, you could start with 2 hours a week and work up from there. If you’re not in the mood, make yourself answer a 2 marker (it still counts!!), if you’ve got the motivation, try a big 10-mark question.
Now onto marking them. This is a big one. Obviously, the best person to give your questions to is your teacher, and in my experience, I’ve never had a teacher refuse to mark something. However, that may not always be possible.
Asking a friend is one of the best ways to get something marked, however you need to pick the right person. Ask someone who’s just as motivated and dedicated as you, and offer to mark something of theirs in return if they’d like. Peer marking is so underrated, it improves your skills and you learn to look out for mistakes and can really benefit from learning the various things people incorporate into their answers.
If you haven’t got someone to ask, you’ve got to mark it yourself. This is easier than you think! First off, read the examiner’s report, understand what they’re saying and what they’re looking for. Legal Studies is marked globally which means that they read the entire answer and then allocate a mark instead of marking as they go, adopt that technique with your marking. Make sure you’ve used examples, and you’ve written enough. 4 lines of handwriting per mark is a tried and true method (adjust for handwriting size obviously).
There you go! That’s your ultimate guide for practice questions!! Please don’t overwork yourself with questions, but make sure you are doing enough to flex those Legal muscles, stay tuned for some more tips next week!!