How to get a first class honours degree in law (or firsts in some modules)?

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marrythenight
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Hi there

(1)

I have taken a few days to reflect on my first year law exam grades which were well below what I had expected and worked for (67 overall with two firsts out of four modules). I've tried to get over this, but I am bitterly disappointed and angry at myself, but there's nothing I can do so I'm trying to move on and aim high for next year.

I want to know how and if it is possible to improve my first year grades to a first in second year and how to achieve this?

I also want to know the recipe for a first in exams.

All year I attended every class, made exhaustive notes, revised months in advance and did things that others weren't, such as reading all the extra reading lists, quoting academics in my exams (the exams in which I scored firsts are the ones I quoted academics).

I want to push my grades up by next year and I was wondering if anyone who has successfully done this (i.e. no facetious comments from people who haven't, please) could give me some tips.

(2)
Should I be disheartened by a career in commercial law because I didn't get a first this year? I feel like I have thrown away my chances and there's no point bothering anymore, since everyone I talk to seems to have got a first this year and that is the competition.
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gethsemane342
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(Original post by marrythenight)
Hi there

(1)

I have taken a few days to reflect on my first year law exam grades which were well below what I had expected and worked for (67 overall with two firsts out of four modules). I've tried to get over this, but I am bitterly disappointed and angry at myself, but there's nothing I can do so I'm trying to move on and aim high for next year.

I want to know how and if it is possible to improve my first year grades to a first in second year and how to achieve this?

I also want to know the recipe for a first in exams.

All year I attended every class, made exhaustive notes, revised months in advance and did things that others weren't, such as reading all the extra reading lists, quoting academics in my exams (the exams in which I scored firsts are the ones I quoted academics).

I want to push my grades up by next year and I was wondering if anyone who has successfully done this (i.e. no facetious comments from people who haven't, please) could give me some tips.

(2)
Should I be disheartened by a career in commercial law because I didn't get a first this year? I feel like I have thrown away my chances and there's no point bothering anymore, since everyone I talk to seems to have got a first this year and that is the competition.
I went up from a 2.1 to a first this year, as did 2 of my friends so yes, it is possible.

I don't think there is a winning recipe. However, the main things I changed this year were:

1) Becoming more critical. Not just quoting academics but going on to explain why I thought their reasoning might be wrong or putting two contrasting views and throwing support for one side.

2) Learning structures more in advance. Taking each topic and working out how I'd tackle it in the exam. Learning all your notes is great but the examiner needs to be able to follow what you said.

3) Deciding in advance which topics for each subject I'd learn, which I'd know in outline and which I'd drop. This was obviously subject to change but stopped me learning too much stuff I'd never need in the exam.

4) Finding more articles for myself. Usually, I'd just go to the shelf and grab all the recent journals and find relevant articles.

It's really down to how you work and are though. If you know you tend to panic in exams, think about why you panic and how you should overcome it (e.g. I have a friend who will panic if she doesn't recognise a point so she looked at papers much more in advance so she could recognise the trickier points. Whereas I'm the opposite which may actually cause trouble in the exam because I just continue, regardless of how hard the point is, on the basis that I may as well keep going. This means that I have a tendency not to switch to other questions when it may be better to do so. So after one disastrous exam, I skim-read the problem question and if I don't know a certain point or know it's very difficult, I force myself to consider another question and only return to the first one if I don't have any other realistic option). If you have trouble remembering caselaw or something, focus more on that. Different people have different strengths so don't assume one method works for all.

Also, don't stress out so much. It's first year. 67% is not a bad mark. Law firms will be more interested in what you get in 2nd year, really. And I've not seen any of them ask for a first only.
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PendulumBoB
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How about tips for mathys sciencey subjects?
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Llamageddon
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(Original post by PendulumBoB)
How about tips for mathys sciencey subjects?
dunno about maths, but biology requires a neurotic attention to detail. Tbh the difference between a 2:i and a first is less what you know and more how you think.
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jacob7191
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You are being far too critical of yourself! What you have achieved so far is admirable. I averaged a first in my second year. What needs to be realised is that you need to completely understand the topic to get a first in exams, you do this not only by reading large amounts of journal articles and reading cases in full but also by looking at the past papers and applying your knowledge to them so that when you are faced with a question in the exam you are able to do the same. Law is more about applying rather than knowledge given that content wise it is not the hardest subject in the world, two candidates can know the same in regards to cases and academics but get two completely different marks. This is due to differing levels of analysis offered and you can only do this by practicing as well as memorising. Also a sure fire way is to critique academic opinion using your own view which is supported by other academics/ case law rather than just stating that another academic disagrees.
Also small amendments can alter your mark too, for example; looking at your grammar and answer structure as this will enable the marker to follow your answer better and thus make them more likely to fully grasp your argument and increase your chances of improving your mark.
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Nibbler09
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I remember I got 69.75% in my first year – I was fuming and so angry with myself so I can sympathise with you. You certainly are hard on yourself which I guess is a good thing - it shows you are determined and that element of self doubt will keep you motivated although it could send you to the point of insanity. You do need to be hard on yourself if you’re going to get what you want. Don't be disappointed with yourself by your first year it is still an excellent mark. If you are looking for vacation schemes and commercial law they are looking for high 2.1s so you'll be fine, no damage is done. That being said you must have excellent a level results, work experience, a commercial head on you to be considered – it is very competitive and just getting a first is not enough but a good step in the right direction. Make sure you apply to lots and lots of vacation scheme and training contracts. As well as extra curricular stuff – no recruiter likes a bore with there head in books all the time. Be an interesting person – they are looking for a work hard, play hard mentality.

Your first year of your law degree was about familiarising yourself with law, building a foundation of writing skills and generally settling into the degree. Getting a high 2.1 shows your certainly on the way to getting a first. You can and you will improve in your second and third years. In the first year it appeared to me that it was all about stating and describing the law. But it your second year they want you to be analytical and in your third critical evaluation.

As for a recipe for a first I'm not sure there is a guaranteed way but there are plenty of things you can do. I got my first and it feels amazing because of all that work I did finally got somewhere. Some people can naturally bash out a first in an exam with very little effort but others just haven’t got it and really do have to work at it (I was the one who seriously had to work for it). But if you want to get a first I suggest:

1. Hone in on your essay skills - look at your university's marking criteria - go the extra mile with your essay’s this will impress, remembering anything above 85 is rare so aim for 90, utilise your word limit, get critical and analytical in your second year and by your third year you will be a legal wizard. It is essential you use journal articles and use quotations effectively for your arguments – have a look at legal writing books if you’re not too sure.

2. Build up an amazing set of notes – lots of reading in there including journal articles, critical arguments of the law. Use these as your revision notes and you’ll feel less stressed and able to concentrate knowing you have an amazing set of notes behind you.

3. Learn how to read cases, journal and books quickly (i.e. for case read within 15 minutes get to the ratio and actually discussion) and gain a thorough understanding of all the arguments in your own words – by that I mean look at how they have effect the law and what are the practical implications, compare cases and synthesise the law.

4. Be wary in your second year of equity and trusts – this is notoriously a difficult module, with students getting bad marks. Make sure you master that one because you could get blinding results for your 2nd year and have equity ruin it all for you.

5. In exams don't waste time describing the law too much - focus on the discussion and understand what they are asking you in the exam. Think to yourself it is a point per case, or a point per sentence so make sure milk it and develop your discussions. Learn how to write very very quickly and very concisely quality arguments - it sounds simple but the more you can write, the thorough you are.

5. Critically evaluate yourself – think about your weaknesses and your strength and what can you do. You need to do this now so you improve in your third year. You sound like you’ve done all the things I have suggested and doing the things you should be doing to get a first but there must be something missing. Practice exam papers, give them to lecturers and ask them to tear it apart and show you were you’re going wrong and where you’re going right. It is often case you can know it all till your blue in the face but if you don’t use your knowledge effectively what you write on your exam paper is nothing.

6. Maintain a positive and dedicated attitude to it.

I hope I haven’t scared you too much but all the best for the future.
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lupelupe
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I want to know how and if it is possible to improve my first year grades to a first in second year and how to achieve this?

[B]I also want to know the recipe for a first in exams.
[


This will be best achieved by speaking to lecturers who have marked your work and finding out what your weaknesses were. If you cannot get feedback for your exams, I'm guessing part of your mark also concerned some essays? If not, im guessing that you have had some kind of essay marked at uni. if you did not get a first find out why - this may also relate to your exams. If again this is not the case, im sure that you will have the opportunity to write unassessed essays next year. always obtain feedback - make the effort to speak to the marker and ask how you could have improved.

TIPS: Ask yourself if you supported your arguments in essays tightly enough. If writing an essay, its always good to include counter arguments and argue why they cannot be correct. This will strengthen your argument.

Also ask yourself if you commented on further developments on the law in problem questions. ie Law Com changes which have not yet become law. and in problem questions, always be sure that you are addressing the scenario, and not babbling too much about the wider law.

And you got great results anyway for your first year! In my first year i got 2 2.1s and 2 1sts, but have just graduated with a first overall and have some amazing academic achievements under my belt. And im guessing that in your final year you will be chosing your own modules to study - you should therefore be interested in them and are likely to achieve at your best. Youve done well and should be proud.
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angelin
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You guys are fantastic! I am starting as an undergraduate at Birmingham in September and I am so grateful for all the information you are providing.
Thanks a lot!
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marrythenight
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(Original post by angelin)
You guys are fantastic! I am starting as an undergraduate at Birmingham in September and I am so grateful for all the information you are providing.
Thanks a lot!
To be honest, I've come to the conclusion that getting a first class mark is something that I personally can achieve by improvement and growing.

It's not something I can read about and say ''I need to do bang bang bang in order to get a first'' before starting my degree - you just get it my improving.

I was getting 2:2s and low 2:1s in my assignments and mock exams during the year which knocked my confidence, but finally before exams, a lot of exam practice and taking on board tutor advice, I came out with two firsts a high 2:1 and a low 2:1.
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First4LLb
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Have you read, "Use your head" by Tony Buzan?.....mind mapping try it! it may surprise you.
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