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What Do Examiners Look For?

Do we study a subject in Law to understand and learn it or to impress an examiner and pass an exam? This is often the question I get from students. The answer, to the surprise of many such students is ‘in order to impress an examiner, you need to understand the Law’. Let me explain.

There’s a premise that must always be at the forefront of your study routine. Whenever you read or gather knowledge in Law, ask yourself ‘do I agree’. In other words, start building a point of view, an academic personality, so to speak. The reason why this is relevant (and I would argue, fundamental) is because a Law Degree is more about how you think, than what you know. It is a ‘skill’ as opposed to a ‘knowledge’ driven exam, contrary to popular belief.

a Law Degree is more about how you think, than what you know

As such, what attracts the positive attention of an examiner and thereby higher rewards, is showing ‘Conviction’ of response. What your examiners needs to see in the answer is your personality, a unique method of approaching the problem presented. Granted, not every question presented to you will require you to articulate opinion but every question does invite you present arguments in a logical and considered manner.

A common error that students (even those who’ve progressed well in their first year) make, is mistaking a Law Degree for one which requires you to present your ‘memory’ of the subject verbatim. Too often do I encounter the ‘kitchen sink’ responses; namely, the narration of the entire topic for any given question without (a) understanding or (b) dissecting the question asked. You are expected to answer the question, not tell the examiner everything you know about the topic.

There are a number of resources available online to guide you on the subject matter and help you understand complex elements of any given topic. The lack of information or guidance, is mostly on how to use that information in making a compelling argument during an examination.

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