On a typical LLM course, exams are usually held in May/June especially in universities within the UK. Examinations are a busy time of the LLM year for students who will probably be required to sit exams for more than one module.
Preparation for examinations should ideally start right from the time of attending course seminars and tutorials to final revisions. But given your busy LLM schedules, you are likely to get occupied with other assessments such as essays and dissertation, so it’s important that you plan your preparation well in advance for your exams.
LLM papers often consist of 3 hours of writing your exam and 10 minutes of reading time before you start to write, however some modules could be half-papers that consist of 2-hour examination excluding the 10 minutes of reading time before start of the examination.
A well-structured answer sheet is important for you to get good scores. Scores could be categorised as first class (or with distinction), upper and lower second class and so on. You could be assessed on comprehensiveness and accuracy, clarity of argument, evidence of wider reading, insight into theoretical issues, critical evaluation, etc.
Similar to other postgraduate courses, LLM exam papers generally cover questions that could include analysis, comparisons, discursive questions, critical evaluation, open-ended/closed questions, etc. based on contents of your module topic. In some instances, you may be allowed to use “permitted material” such as statutes, treaty instruments or dictionaries. Make sure you observe all conditions in relation to using such material! Universities may also conduct open book examinations, which would allow you to refer materials instructed by your lecturer.
Now you have a bit of background, here’s our top tips for writing LLM essays:
1. Reading exam instructions and questions
It’s a good idea to spend the initial 5-10 minutes carefully reading the entire question paper and identifying which answers you would like to attempt, and in what order. Make sure you read the instructions on the written examination paper properly so that you answer the right number of questions.
2. Considering the choice of answers
Whilst scanning through the question paper, think of the answers that you plan to attempt and how you would time them. While some of you may prefer attempting answers you know well first others may prefer those for later – the important thing is to calculate how much time you would like to allocate for each answer (don’t forget to wear a watch!).
3. Structuring answers
A lot can be suggested on structuring your essays – building on your introduction and ending with a solid conclusion. If you have practiced answering past question papers, you will find structuring your answers much easier.
4. Paying attention to presentation
If you attempt covering a lot of ground in your initial writing you may be constrained for quality time in checking all your work. Presentation is important to ensure your writing is clear and legible to an examiner.
5. Citing references
Depending on the nature of your module topic and your exam question, you may need to cite a lot of case-law references. It’s a good to prepare your primary sources well and quoting relevant researchers to support your arguments. Remember that you are being assessed on your understanding of the subject matter and the extent to which you have grasped concepts.