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yomi91
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I was wondering how you go about achieving a 1st in a problem question. I apply the law, I discuss alternative arguments etc. In my last essay I even went as far as speaking about proposed reforms of the law in the conclusion, however I still got a 2:1. I was wondering what tips anyone may have to attain a 1st in a problem question, what do I have to do to improve my grade substantially.
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sophie_snail
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(Original post by yomi91)
I was wondering how you go about achieving a 1st in a problem question. I apply the law, I discuss alternative arguments etc. In my last essay I even went as far as speaking about proposed reforms of the law in the conclusion, however I still got a 2:1. I was wondering what tips anyone may have to attain a 1st in a problem question, what do I have to do to improve my grade substantially.

I always got told that the key to a first is the critical analysis, i.e. proposed reforms, critiques of the law, making reference to journal articles (how your supposed to do this in a 2000 word problem question I have no idea)... It sounds like your doing everything right, why not talk to your tutor and ask what area's you can improve on to get those few extra marks? Was it a high 2:1? If so, there was probably not very much in it and the tutor wanted to err on the side of caution.
I was always under the illusion that in practice questions they will mark lower so as to make students 'cocky' and think they don't need to revise as much...

Well done anyway for getting a 2:1

P.S. I had a pastoral tutor meeting where we discussed how to answer problem questions - I can copy and paste, or email the notes I took if you like???
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jjarvis
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(Original post by sophie_snail)
I always got told that the key to a first is the critical analysis, i.e. proposed reforms, critiques of the law, making reference to journal articles (how your supposed to do this in a 2000 word problem question I have no idea)... It sounds like your doing everything right, why not talk to your tutor and ask what area's you can improve on to get those few extra marks? Was it a high 2:1? If so, there was probably not very much in it and the tutor wanted to err on the side of caution.
I was always under the illusion that in practice questions they will mark lower so as to make students 'cocky' and think they don't need to revise as much...

Well done anyway for getting a 2:1

P.S. I had a pastoral tutor meeting where we discussed how to answer problem questions - I can copy and paste, or email the notes I took if you like???
Proposed reforms, critiques of the law, and reference to journal articles are likely to be more or less irrelevant in problem questions. While those critical elements are useful in discursive essays, the most important thing in a problem is close analysis of the facts. Analyse each and every fact--presume that facts are relevant, figure out what area of the law a fact is getting at, and apply the law to the facts as they come. The way to do really well in a problem question is to be as rigorous and analytical as possible in applying the law. You don't need to criticise the law--and in fact you probably shouldn't do so. The only time a criticism might come up is if it was unclear how a court would apply the law. If a court could follow one of two courses, and one is preferable on principle/policy grounds, that is the course the court is more likely to follow. But a problem question is not an opportunity to spout off about critical views on the law. The best way to nail a problem question is very clear knowledge, and application of, the relevant case law and statutes. I've got firsts on problem questions, and I have *never* mentioned an academic article or proposed reforms.
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gethsemane342
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(Original post by jjarvis)
Proposed reforms, critiques of the law, and reference to journal articles are likely to be more or less irrelevant in problem questions. While those critical elements are useful in discursive essays, the most important thing in a problem is close analysis of the facts. Analyse each and every fact--presume that facts are relevant, figure out what area of the law a fact is getting at, and apply the law to the facts as they come. The way to do really well in a problem question is to be as rigorous and analytical as possible in applying the law. You don't need to criticise the law--and in fact you probably shouldn't do so. The only time a criticism might come up is if it was unclear how a court would apply the law. If a court could follow one of two courses, and one is preferable on principle/policy grounds, that is the course the court is more likely to follow. But a problem question is not an opportunity to spout off about critical views on the law. The best way to nail a problem question is very clear knowledge, and application of, the relevant case law and statutes. I've got firsts on problem questions, and I have *never* mentioned an academic article or proposed reforms.
Not entirely true. Most supervisors I've had have encouraged us to critique the law in problem questions - not a full blown thing but to help us analyse. I use critical reading in problem questions whenever I can and it's usually the ones I manage it in in which I get the best marks. So while I wouldn't write loads about law reform, I will often say something like "This is the law from X v Y. Academics such as Z argue that this is a misunderstanding of the law. However, as Lord N points out, the law is this and this must be correct." or "This is the law. As X points out, it does this and this and leads to artificial distinctions. Regardless, it is the law as it stands".
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The West Wing
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(Original post by gethsemane342)
Not entirely true. Most supervisors I've had have encouraged us to critique the law in problem questions - not a full blown thing but to help us analyse. I use critical reading in problem questions whenever I can and it's usually the ones I manage it in in which I get the best marks. So while I wouldn't write loads about law reform, I will often say something like "This is the law from X v Y. Academics such as Z argue that this is a misunderstanding of the law. However, as Lord N points out, the law is this and this must be correct." or "This is the law. As X points out, it does this and this and leads to artificial distinctions. Regardless, it is the law as it stands".
Mmm I lean towards what jjarvis said tbh. My EU law supervisor in particular was key to emphasise that extreme accuracy alone can get you a First in problem questions.

My advice would be to really be extremely accurate in everything you say in problem questions and answer each part of the question.
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gethsemane342
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(Original post by The West Wing)
Mmm I lean towards what jjarvis said tbh. My EU law supervisor in particular was key to emphasise that extreme accuracy alone can get you a First in problem questions.

My advice would be to really be extremely accurate in everything you say in problem questions and answer each part of the question.
I'm not saying write a whole thesis but I've been constantly told to throw in a bit of criticism - in a way which gives a clearer analysis. You can use it to show what the law is but by highlighting that the law itself might be wrong, the decision itself could change if it were in an actual appeal court because a Law Lord could side with the criticism.
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The West Wing
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(Original post by gethsemane342)
I'm not saying write a whole thesis but I've been constantly told to throw in a bit of criticism - in a way which gives a clearer analysis. You can use it to show what the law is but by highlighting that the law itself might be wrong, the decision itself could change if it were in an actual appeal court because a Law Lord could side with the criticism.
Sure, I think there's a difference between that and critiquing the law though.

For example - 'blah blah blah Stack v Dowden therefore *application of Stack v Dowden*, however the Supreme Court has indicated a willingness to blah blah blah in the recent decision in Jones v Kernott.' would be appropriate, but I don't think you'd go any further.
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gethsemane342
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(Original post by The West Wing)
Sure, I think there's a difference between that and critiquing the law though.

For example - 'blah blah blah Stack v Dowden therefore *application of Stack v Dowden*, however the Supreme Court has indicated a willingness to blah blah blah in the recent decision in Jones v Kernott.' would be appropriate, but I don't think you'd go any further.
I'd throw in my opinion "This must be a good thing" and maybe briefly why "Because of its confusion" but yeah, wouldn't go beyond that. It depends what the issue is. If I'm deciding between 2 cases, I'd consider academic criticism as to why I'd favour one over the other. Otherwise for major cases, I would spend a line or 2 discussing it. For smaller or cases which aren't too controversial, I wouldn't. As I said, not ages but throwing it in there that you don't just spend your life regurgitating cases.

Which is why I don't think it's entirely irrelevant. I find it helpful and as I said, my best marks usually come when I criticise the law in problem questions.
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yomi91
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(Original post by sophie_snail)
I always got told that the key to a first is the critical analysis, i.e. proposed reforms, critiques of the law, making reference to journal articles (how your supposed to do this in a 2000 word problem question I have no idea)... It sounds like your doing everything right, why not talk to your tutor and ask what area's you can improve on to get those few extra marks? Was it a high 2:1? If so, there was probably not very much in it and the tutor wanted to err on the side of caution.
I was always under the illusion that in practice questions they will mark lower so as to make students 'cocky' and think they don't need to revise as much...

Well done anyway for getting a 2:1

P.S. I had a pastoral tutor meeting where we discussed how to answer problem questions - I can copy and paste, or email the notes I took if you like???
Thank you very much sophie the notes from your Pastoral meeting will be greatly appreciated . I don't know if it was a high 2:1 unfortunately as they just gave use the mark as a grade, as it was only a 1st draft.
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sophie_snail
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(Original post by jjarvis)
Proposed reforms, critiques of the law, and reference to journal articles are likely to be more or less irrelevant in problem questions. .

Sorry I didn't mean to bring up such a debate on the pro's and con's of critical analysis!!! I usually just do a cursory couple of sentences if appropriate just to show that I understand the area that little bit further; never go into horrendous detail.

You talk about extreme accuracy, I really struggle with problem questions, and I would love to bump my mostly 2:1's to Firsts... How do you go about doing it? (a bit vague I know!!!) for example, I have the fact pattern, cut it down into chunks, and then 'attack' each chunk, which relevant case law, and then compare this against possible, but unlikely case law. What do you find works best for you?




(Original post by yomi91)
Thank you very much sophie the notes from your Pastoral meeting will be greatly appreciated . I don't know if it was a high 2:1 unfortunately as they just gave use the mark as a grade, as it was only a 1st draft.
I'll copy n paste them onto here if possible in a minute.
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sophie_snail
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(Original post by yomi91)
Thank you very much sophie the notes from your Pastoral meeting will be greatly appreciated . I don't know if it was a high 2:1 unfortunately as they just gave use the mark as a grade, as it was only a 1st draft.
Here you go, it's not as detailed as I remember it being but it's the basics and it's always helped me when I've got a bit stuck and feel like I'm losing the plot a bit!!!



Not Your Opinion!!!!!
1. Introduction
Identification of the question – be specific.
Think about if you were advising a client (wouldn’t tell them all about the law relating to that area)
2. Describe the area of the law
Describe that you know what the law is – statute and case demonstrating this.
3. Wider Reading
Essential for critical analysis – no references or arguments basically...
- Articles – Read whole article!
- NOT textbooks
- Journals
4. Critical Analysis
Understand both sides of the argument and have reached a conclusion – don’t come to a basic assumption – continue this argument with yourself throughout
Comparing and contrasting – not forming an opinion. Coursework is not the place for this – stay objective.
Use these arguments to your advantage.
Quoting on its own is useless... Know what your author is arguing – need to add analytical value.
5. Conclusions
Especially important for ‘advise’ questions – yes or no liability.
Usually grey area (especially in essay questions) – otherwise wouldn’t have asked...
Are there any reasons? Public policy? Ethical nature? Etc.

 Proof Read (gets examiner annoyed)
 Make sure it is set our properly...
 Grammatical errors.



Hope this helps anyone at least
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pinksfun
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This is very useful, thanks
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yomi91
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Thanks sophie what university do you go to may I ask?
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sophie_snail
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(Original post by yomi91)
Thanks sophie what university do you go to may I ask?
No problem yomi, I'm at the UEA. Yourself? They do put a lot of emphasis on helping you write the damn essays, as well as learning the stuff to put in the essays!
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jjarvis
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(Original post by sophie_snail)
Sorry I didn't mean to bring up such a debate on the pro's and con's of critical analysis!!! I usually just do a cursory couple of sentences if appropriate just to show that I understand the area that little bit further; never go into horrendous detail.

You talk about extreme accuracy, I really struggle with problem questions, and I would love to bump my mostly 2:1's to Firsts... How do you go about doing it? (a bit vague I know!!!) for example, I have the fact pattern, cut it down into chunks, and then 'attack' each chunk, which relevant case law, and then compare this against possible, but unlikely case law. What do you find works best for you?


I'll copy n paste them onto here if possible in a minute.
Based on your tutor's advice, the ways in which we were taught are dramatically different. Follow your tutor's advice. I'm not going to elaborate further here as I don't want to give you a bad idea of what you should be doing!
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sophie_snail
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(Original post by jjarvis)
Based on your tutor's advice, the ways in which we were taught are dramatically different. Follow your tutor's advice. I'm not going to elaborate further here as I don't want to give you a bad idea of what you should be doing!
Please knock yourself out; it was just a pastoral tutor meeting... and I'm all up for more advice, and heck it might make the world of sense, and get me 100% in everything please!
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jacketpotato
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I agree entirely with your tutor, but there are two completely different meanings of "critical analysis". If you say "critical analysis" most people take that to mean expressing an opinion. It can also mean using the materials at your disposal to analyse the facts. The second interpretation is wider because it includes using journal articles and cases to determine what the law is.

I think your tutor has taken the latter interpretation. Your notes say that coursework is not the place for formulating your opinion, obviously this depends on what the question is but its certainly true for problem questions.

Much of this is common sense: you need to answer the question, not use random stuff just because you happen to know lots about a different but related question. Its very easy for people to fall into a trap - if you know lots about something that isn't really relevant but not that much about the question, or the question is difficult, its very tempting to answer a different question. In my view you can't go far wrong if you clearly and accurately answer the question.
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law.student
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Sorry for sounding dumb, but when approaching problem questions and having to critically analysis, I find this alot more harder in comparison to essay questions as obviously theres more to talk about and its very easy to identify the controversial points as it is usually the question, in which you can asses. I was wondering if anyone can give me some sort of insight as to what you would critically asses in the problem question, other than applying the law to the facts. Thanks guys
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ahijaw
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(Original post by jacketpotato)
I agree entirely with your tutor, but there are two completely different meanings of "critical analysis". If you say "critical analysis" most people take that to mean expressing an opinion. It can also mean using the materials at your disposal to analyse the facts. The second interpretation is wider because it includes using journal articles and cases to determine what the law is.

I think your tutor has taken the latter interpretation. Your notes say that coursework is not the place for formulating your opinion, obviously this depends on what the question is but its certainly true for problem questions.

Much of this is common sense: you need to answer the question, not use random stuff just because you happen to know lots about a different but related question. Its very easy for people to fall into a trap - if you know lots about something that isn't really relevant but not that much about the question, or the question is difficult, its very tempting to answer a different question. In my view you can't go far wrong if you clearly and accurately answer the question.

Suppose, you are given a problem question in your coursework, but it doesn't ask you to advice anyone but just critically analyse the the issues arising, would it be better to form your opinion in this situation?
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jacketpotato
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(Original post by ahijaw)
Suppose, you are given a problem question in your coursework, but it doesn't ask you to advice anyone but just critically analyse the the issues arising, would it be better to form your opinion in this situation?
(Original post by law.student)
Sorry for sounding dumb, but when approaching problem questions and having to critically analysis, I find this alot more harder in comparison to essay questions as obviously theres more to talk about and its very easy to identify the controversial points as it is usually the question, in which you can asses. I was wondering if anyone can give me some sort of insight as to what you would critically asses in the problem question, other than applying the law to the facts. Thanks guys
The important point is that you do need to state and develop an opinion on how the law applies to the facts, but not whether the law is meritorious.

Problem questions usually test uncertain issues at university level. Whilst you can't say something that's legally inaccurate, there is usually scope for you to reach a different conclusion to the person next to you. If you think a court would go one way and a friend thinks the court should go another way, that's fine as long as you (1) recognise that a court go the other way and identify the arguments that would be raised by the other side and (2) give convincing reasons as to why one position is to be preferred.

Sometimes the rationale behind the law and people's opinion on it will be relevant. This would be the case where is contradictory authority and a court would have to decide which line to follow. It is also the case in new or unusual fact situations, where a court would have to consider the rationale behind a rule of law in order to apply it in appropriate manner. But remember that, fundamentally, you are using this information to analyse the facts not to express an opinion on the law generally.

I really advise you not to worry about this too much. The absolute #1 priority is to identify the issues raised, there will be multiple issues in there, and structure your answer accordingly. If you can't break down the issues into separate paragraphs which deal with one issue at a time, there's no way you are going to score well.
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