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Blog 6 - how to create model answers for open book law exams

The greatest thing I ever learnt to do to prep for open book law exams was to create a perfect model answer to bring in with me into the exam room. It is essentially a perfect essay that I could use as a base to answer any problem question, that I prepared when I was really relaxed with my ugg boots on and a cup of tea in hand. No more scrambling through colour coded post its and text books ever again! And a well written, well structured answer meant a happy examiner, which meant I was living in HD land! #winning

So, how to do it?

  • Treat each week's topic as a sub-heading in your answer - eg, week one of evidence law is about "relevance" - so the first sub-heading will be, "is the evidence relevant?" Literally use headings and subheadings, and underline them so the examiner can see the structure of your thinking. Sometimes I even numbered the headings, particularly where I was talking about elements of a cause of action.

  • Under each sub-heading, start your answer with a broad statement about the legal principle itself - ie, explain the definition or concept, and the relevant legislative definition and case reference. Underline all references to make them stand out!

  • There is often some interesting background/policy reasons why the legislative provision is in place - provide a short sentence on this to show off your understanding, and to provide a practical point of view to the question (if you have time).

  • Then leave a blank for applying the facts to the problem. E.g. "Evidence of [x] is arguably relevant pursuant to the Evidence Act, because [y]..."

  • Prepare small summaries of each relevant case (in advance of course) on this point. In the exam you can then provide a similar case to the facts (if possible) - or distinguish the facts if the scenarios are different. Once you are in the exam you won't have to use all the cases that you prepared - only the ones that are relevant (so it pays to be prepared).

  • Form a conclusion. You may also play "devil's advocate" and identify whether you would have formed a different conclusion if there were other factors at play, or you could mention that a Judge may be swayed the other way in the presence of certain circumstances, or if the case was heard in a different jurisdiction. This will give you a little X factor!

  • Then move onto the next sub-heading and repeat.

  • Once you have written all the sub-headings as part of the answer, you can then form an opinion on the entirety of the problem question at the end.

  • Read it aloud and get a family member or friend to look over it.

  • Practice writing it out and applying it to a problem based exam practice question and time yourself - can you make it to the end in the exam time (legibly)?