My fellow study mates!
Exams are soon upon us and so I have decided to take a break and tell you about my study pattern which worked for me during my LLB and seems to be working for me now as I read for my LLM. Hopefully it can assist you as well, especially those new to the University of London International Programmes (UoLIP).
By way of introduction, I am Philip Koonj Beharry, graduate of the UoLIP LLB programme, Class of 2012. I am currently an Attorney at Law in my home country of Trinidad and Tobago and I am also currently preparing for my first set of LLM exams with the UoLIP. My personal story can be found in this article on London Connection.
My secret to success:
1) Read the Study Guide. The Study Guides are usually very brief but they are still your essential starting point. You may not fully grasp all the concepts but at least you would have a basic understanding of what to expect when you begin to do more indepth reading. Read and attempt the self-assessment questions. You may not be in a position to answer fully, however it gets your brain thinking. You should also read the past paper questions, especially if they are at the end of a specific chapter and deal with a specific issue of which you have just read. This gives you an idea of what the questions for the specific topic may look like.
2) Past Papers/Examiners Reports. Download and print as many as you can from the VLE. Don’t just have it on your laptop. Download and write on them, draw on them, day dream on them if you must, but get accustomed to having that question paper in front of you. You may think that looking at these so early in the study process would not be useful, however in my experience, I’ve found quite the contrary. I review them at this early stage because it assists in gauging where I should focus my attention when I begin to read more in depth. Do not underestimate the necessity of Examiners’ Reports. Past papers and examiners’ reports aid in helping you to focus your attention. Please be aware that this does not mean you are only to study what you see in there. You must have a full and thorough understanding of the particular topic or module or course, but they are beneficial to developing a structured and critical thinking mind. Make a mental note of the cases that keep appearing and pay careful attention to them when you reach Step 3 below.
3) Textbook. You must read the provided textbook or the recommended text for your course. If you do not understand the text at first, read another text which has an introduction to the topic or is simply easier to understand. This is not a competition and you would not understand every concept with first reading, so do yourself a favour and get a simpler textbook or article that helps you! Then move on to the recommended text. As you read, remember the past papers and the recommendations of the examiners in the examiners’ reports and intermittently stop and question yourself as to whether you would have made the mistakes pointed out in the examiners’ reports. Read and re-read as many times as you need to so as to understand what you are reading. Take a walk, a snack break, and then come back when your mind is clear.
4) Articles (optional). I call this, “Know your examiner.” Find articles and/or books written by your examiner and read them! Not necessarily in totality but sufficient to grasp how they think. This assists in knowing what your examiner is expecting and the writing style that is expected of you. I did this for the duration of my LLB and it never disappointed me! Also, utilise the Additional Readings.
5) Past papers/Examiners’ Reports. Once again, pick up your folder containing these. You are now to pay critical attention to these. This is where you begin to pick out issues and map out answers. Once this is done, go to the examiners’ reports and see whether you were correct. Bear in mind, examiners’ reports do not address all the issues, so having more issues on your checklist does not mean you are wrong. However, ensure that you are in a position to discuss whatever extra issues you may have chosen. It is at this stage, that you do double reading, that is going back to the textbook to re-read whatever you need to. You also can better your learning by doing extra reading at this stage. Go through as many past papers as you can, systematically. Focus on one topic at a time or one module at a time.
6) Writing answers. Following from Step 5, I highly recommend you attempt writing answers. At first, it may take hours to write one answer. Do not freak out, just keep at it. Eventually you will get to the point of writing an answer in 45 mins if you consistently practise. Again, write answers systematically, by topic or module. Correct the answers yourself if you have no one to do so for you. This is also where teamwork comes in if you have a team to discuss questions and answers with. Look at the examiners’ reports and see whether what you wrote is in line with same. You are also well read at this stage and is in a position to correct yourself. Do not give up until you can answer questions in 45 mins each. Rewrite answers to the same questions over and over until you are satisfied. For example, May 2010 – I would write the answer and label it with the date and a number 1. The second time I rewrite the answer (some days later), I label it with the date and a number 2. Doing this allows you to track your own progress. Be honest with yourself.
7) Whilst doing 3, 5 and 6 makes notes of the major cases and major issues. Personally, I do not make lengthy notes. This causes delay and is counterproductive. Get coloured paper and list out the cases, then stick these sheets on your wall or wherever you spend a lot of time. At nights, read through the list and try to recall the principles; on mornings, repeat.
One last bit of advice, USE YOUR UOLIP PROGRAMME MATERIALS! These materials are provided to you for a reason, they contain at least the basics. Learn the basics and then move on to other readings, especially if those other readings are not essential or useful further readings as pointed out in the Study Guides.
Considering we are in April, your focus should be on writing answers to past papers and cross referencing with your prior reading.
Hope this helps a bit. If you need any more advice feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below!
All the best from the sunny isle of Trinidad!