Exam Skills Workshop

NB: These are my notes. As such, the side notes are for myself (even though they might seem applicable to you). I just can't be bothered to go through and edit them back out.

Do. Your. Readings. Do. Your. Readings. Do. Your. Readings. Do. Your. Readings. Do. Your. Readings. Do. Your. Readings. During the freaking semester Manda.

  • Don’t freaking regurgitate. It makes it seem like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
  • Listen to the lectures. And figure out what’s relevant. Surprisingly enough, Facebook isn’t.
  • Your notes should be good enough that all you need to do is:
    • refresh your memory
    • if open book – get your notes into an appropriate format
    • if closed book – commit some important points to memory, particularly cases


  • Do your freaking readings
    • And take notes when you read.
  • At the end of the weeks, integrate your notes so you have a detailed summary of the topic
  • Prepare for your tute


  • By swotvac, you should have a summary of each week’s material.
  • Use swotvac to:
    • Summarise your notes;
    • Consolidate your learning;
    • Brush up on topics you don’t understand by:
      • reading cases;
      • reading journal articles; and
      • talking to each other. A novel idea, I know.

Exam notes

  • For an open book exam:
    • Have a page for each week summarising the relevant law – including case references;
    • Have notes that you can look at quickly; and
    • Take the rest of your notes in case you need to refer to something more specific.
  • For a closed book exam:
    • you will need to commit things to memory;
      • One line for the case name, one line for the facts, and one line for the ratio;
    • have a sheet with just cases (with facts and ratio); and
    • establish your own technique for memorising cases.
  • Impressive answers:
    • Dealing with the majority and the dissenting (flipside).

Exam techniques

  • Manage your time;
    • Decide how much time you will spend on each question depending on the marks allocated.
    • Freaking. Stick. To. It. Even if it means you don’t finish your answer to a question.
    • Try to allocate yourself some time to read over your work.
  • Plan your answer;
    • Use your perusal time writing an outline.
    • Prioritise your points – address the most persuasive points first, and leave the issues you’re not sure about until the end (The most impressive answers are ones that address the most important issues first – don’t mention everything because then it’ll seem like you have no freaking clue what you’re talking about!)
    • Make sure you answer the question – everything you write should engage with the question – if it doesn’t, don’t include it.
  • Make sure your response is logical in structure and order; and
    • Your answer should have a logical flow.
    • Do not use the ‘scatter-gun’ approach’.
    • Follow your plan for your answer.
    • Write in prose not point form. The marker won’t be able to tell that you actually understand if you just have a few dot points.
    • Make sure your linkages are clear.
  • Apply the law to the facts.
    • Insufficient engagement with the facts.
    • Many students state the law but did not apply it to the fact scenario.
    • Students often just re-stated the law out of context.
    • Use the IRAC formula. Orrrrr … use the IRAC formula. But emphasis on the application.
    • Identify the relevant law before you start writing – don’t just recall every aspect of the law that is remotely relevant.
    • Insert case names or section numbers wherever relevant or possible.
  • Aesthetics
    • How your answer looks is the first impression the marker gets.
    • Are there paragraphs?
    • Is it legible?
    • Is it in prose or point form?
    • Are there headings? (Although too many headings are also not a good idea. Looks like point form).
    • Are the main points clear? Underline/highlight cases.

For an essay question

  • Structure is particularly important
  • Never just regurgitate the powerpoints. This. Tells. The. Marker. You. Don’t. Understand. The. Material.
  • There’s no right or wrong answer.
  • It is your own conclusion and how you justify it. Persuade the marker that you’re awesome and correct.
  • Introduction and conclusion can be a sentence each.
  • Don’t repeat what you’ve already said. Each sentence must count. And be new. And be special.