Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Some important areas examiners LOVE to focus on, and you should too!
As we have all seen, VCAA is quite a predictable board sometimes when it comes to questions. They love asking students about specific topics, and if you look closely there are patterns that crop up every year. Especially if a question type or topic has been done badly in the past, they’re quite likely to ask it again!!
So, I’ve scoured through both the examination reports and have come up with a handy dandy list of things VCAA may focus on in this year’s exam. Obviously, this is just a prediction based on past trends/patterns, I could be completely off with all of this, so use this as a guide rather than a definitive tip!
VCAA has pointed out a few dot points that were not focused on well enough in last year’s exam so it is possible that they will pop up again. These include:
Sentence Indications and Plea negotiations (specifically, their appropriateness)
How Australian people can act as a check on Parliament
Roles of the judge and the jury
The principles of Justice
Relationships between Courts and Parliament
Doctrine of Precedent
Some areas from the 2018 exam where students struggled:
Appropriateness of VCAT and CAV (53% got it right)
Individuals influencing law reform (48%)
Reasons for, and effects of statutory interpretation (47%)
The significance of S109 (make sure you can nail at least 4 marks for this point) (51%)
Parliamentary committees and their influence on law (44%)
Describe the ability of Parliament to change the law (28%)
Skills to Focus on:
Try and mirror the language in the question to make sure you’re really sticking into the question being asked!!
MAKE SURE YOU’RE ALWAYS LINKING BACK TO THE SOURCE MATERIAL
The task word “relationship” might be scattered in there because it was done very poorly in the past. Words like “leads to”, “consequently”, “therefore” etc. are perfect for such questions!!
Asking about significance/impacts of things!! They’re looking to see how you focus on the actual significance or the relative importance of something rather than just telling a long-winded story about it!!
They always chuck in really sneaky absolute questions “always/never”- make sure you never ever agree with them!! Nothing in the study design is ever completely good or completely bad! These are always discuss/evaluate questions in disguise
Similarly, they will ask if things are better or better than, these are also similar to discuss and evaluates!
Lastly, don’t be boring!! Do not give them 3 definitions at the start of a huge response, you will be wasting everyone’s time!! They do not care about definitions unless they have specifically asked for one in a longer response.
Lastly here are some important points from the VCAA gods themselves (this can be found at the beginning of the 2019 exam report)
Those are some tips from me to you! I would definitely focus in on these areas, especially if you’re not super comfortable with them. This is not to say that other topics are not as important, other stuff can definitely crop up, but these areas sort of have an extra focus on them!! You should definitely aim to know the study design inside out if you are aiming for a 40+!!
Good luck everyone and Happy Studying!
Extra resources to help you boost your legal knowledge: things you can do besides studying
Yes, like I’ve said at least a thousand times before now: doing practice exams/questions is the best way to study for legal and get that lovely study score that you’re aiming for.
However, there are some other great things you can do besides just doing questions for hours that will help you engage with the knowledge and retain it so much more!
Some of these activities are fun (watching tv shows) and some are not so fun (reading the Constitution) but it will all help you supplement everything that you’re already learned so far!
So without further ado, here are some things you can do!! I’ve categorised them based on how much fun they may or may not be to me personally.
Some FUN activities to boost your learning
Watch some legal drama tv shows: obviously do not do this in place of studying!! But if you are taking a study break, might as well watch something that relates to legal studies where you can see all the principles you’ve been learning about (rules of evidence and procedure, standard of proof etc.) being put into action.
The castle is an Australian movie and has a few constitutional references, it’s also very funny and such a great family movie to watch if you can wrangle your parents and siblings into watching it with you!! I would probably recommend this one the most!
Suits is a very enjoyable show and has a very attractive cast (big bonus for me), watch this for mainly a lot of civil law content!! This is American though so if they are talking about stuff that you don’t understand, it’s probably because we don’t do it the same way in Australia. (eg: not all lawyers in Australia have to sit the bar; just barristers do) (On Netflix)
How to get away with murder: Great show and it’s probably the most gripping out of all of them!! I was super invested in the whole series. It mainly revolves around American criminal law and follows the best defence attorney in the country and her interns/students and the lengths they go to in order to get their client off the hook!! (On Netflix)
Listen to some great law podcasts! This is great if you enjoy going for walks or you like listening to things as you go about your day.
Gertie’s law is a great podcast from the Victorian Supreme Court (it’s on Spotify) and they talk about all the drama and behind the scenes action that takes place in the Supreme Court. Some very interesting stuff!!
Understate: Lawyer X is another very gripping one about Nicola Gobbo (who basically gave information to Victoria police about her own clients and their wrongdoings) which you can also listen to on Spotify.
Less fun activities (but still super helpful):
Read the constitution: I know, very boring and I’m going to be very honest with you, it is quite boring. BUT reading the constitution will help you get very familiar with all of the language that is used in it, which is very important. Definitely go through Section 51, the first few sections and all the sections relating to our express rights. You will not be sorry, plus it will only take like 10 minutes.
Make Mind-maps: This is so helpful, not only for legal but for a lot of other subjects as well!! Pick a random topic of the study design (preferably one you’re not very comfortable with) and mind map as many things you can think of relating to it. Relate to the principles of justice, other areas of study, things you saw in real life with policies being made (eg uni fee hikes and covid policy). The more you can connect different things together, they more you are engaging with the content.
That’s it! Those are some other things you can do besides looking over your notes and doing practice questions!! I hope this was helpful for all of you!! Also, in no means am I saying skip the questions and just watch suits for a day, please do actually properly study!! But if you are feeling overwhelmed and burnt out- this is the next best thing I guess!
Have a question?
In the final weeks before exams Risha will be hosting 2 Live Q&A sessions to help everyone get fully prepared for exams. If you have a question on how to best get prepared, have been stuck on an exam question or want to clarify an area of content send it through here, and Risha might answer it live!