Studying for a law exam - a cry for help

law students studyingIt’s been a while since I did a mailbag feature, so here’s to turning that around. ;-)

The following email plopped into my inbox a couple of weeks ago from a law student panicked by the prospect of open book exams:

Just found your law blog after having a complete mare over open book exams.
I appreciate this is a completely cheeky and out of the blue question,
but I don't suppose you happen to have those old company law notes you
mention in your revision entry do you?! Completely terrified about it,
have no idea what I'm doing or how to answer question from the second
semester, and generally worried I'm not going to get a 2:1 and thereby
miss my TC offer!

Totally understand you telling me to piss off, but thanks for the
hints and tips anyway :)

Jodie G

For those wondering, my “revision entry” was this post back in 2009.

I stand by the techniques I propounded there – certainly for closed book exams, anyway – and there isn’t really much I can add.

Open book exams are a bit of a different animal. Quite obviously, they call for a slightly different focus with less of the course material committed to memory and more focus on meticulous organisation and knowledge of your permitted materials. But that’s not to say you don’t need to be able to recall a large proportion of the content without being reliant on your books.

Your permitted materials are an aide memoire – not a memory replacement.

Jodie’s email didn’t really inspire me to respond (nope, not even to tell her to piss off). Amongst other things, the experience of a law degree is about trying different study methods to see what works for you, learning from your mistakes and emerging the other side richer for the experience.

As I said to a student colleague recently, “I don’t want to rob you of the learning experience”. I think the subtext there is blatantly clear.

For what it’s worth, I did have the revision notes of which I spoke in the post but they were a) tailored for my course and not Jodie’s, b) the fruit of my exam-time labours (why should I share them) and c) let me ask you this: would you, even as a desperate law student, risk asking a complete stranger on the internet for revision notes of which you have no assurance of quality, accuracy or anything else?

Who’d do that? It’s scary that someone who’d risk trying that has a training contract offer. (Sorry, that’s how I feel).

Btw – “a complete mare”. Excuse me? Is this new street talk?

Update: I’ve Googled it and thanks to Wiktionary, it seems it’s a colloquial contraction of “nightmare”.

(UK, colloquial) (Shortening of nightmare) A nightmare; a frustrating or terrible experience.

I'm having a complete mare today.

Well, there you go.


  1. That's actually terrible.

  2. AW - good to hear from you! :-)

    Is that Jodie asking the question or me ignoring her?

    Or both?



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