Exam notes, exam summaries or study notes – whatever you call them, they are the savior of law students. Thanks to the ridiculous reading requirements of law school, preparing exam notes will always occupy a significant amount of time towards the end of your subjects.
This post provides list of resources to ensure you prepare the best law notes possible before entering your exams.
Law exam notes – an exam script is best
I’ve already explained an earlier post why you should prepare your notes as an exam script or skeleton answer.
Some people might disagree, but I think exam scripts are the best way to prepare for, and answer, exam questions. I never scored below a distinction once I started preparing my exam notes this way other than for one subject – and constitutional law is probably the worst (and most boring) priestly 11 subject anyway!
Cross checking your script
Once you’ve got your draft script ready, you will probably get that creeping suspicion that there might be something that you’ve missed. This is the favourite law student fear, and I’m sure we have all experienced this at some stage.
A little bit of nervousness is a good thing – it keeps us alert and makes sure that we put in a little bit extra effort. But you shouldn’t stress too much. One easy way to feel confident with your exam summary, and improve it at the same time, is by using the massive amount of resources available online.
Quick reminder – the priestly 11 (almost) never change
Before we get to where to find these, and how to use them, I want to provide a short reminder that is worth keeping in mind – the laws creating the foundation for almost all of the priestly eleven subjects were created a long time ago. This means that even notes that are a few years old can be very useful.
Of course, you need to watch out for a few things, including:
- Areas of law that have been overhauled by legislation. For example, the introduction of the uniform evidence laws.
- Where there has been a significant change in the common law. This can occur when the high court has overturned some important case).
- State specific legislation. Property laws will be different in New South Wales and Victoria due to the property legislation in both states.
These should be pretty easy to spot, and you will be told as much in your lectures.
How to use other students’ notes
Plagiarism should not be taken lightly in law school – while you are able to bring anything you like into an open book exam, I would suggest that you don’t simply print out someone else’s notes and bring them in to use. I personally don’t know whether this would breach plagiarism rules at any one university, but I wouldn’t risk it (remember, you will probably be required to disclose even allegations of plagiarism when you apply to be admitted as a lawyer).
What you should do is use other sources of information such as other students’ notes (and your lecture notes, and textbooks and cases) while you prepare your exam script.
I found the best way to do this is to prepare an outline and rough first draft of your script using your own notes and lecture notes. Cleaning up your script and filling in the missing pieces by reading the textbook and cases will take some time (and is necessary to help you learn). There is no need to perfect the script at this stage.
Once this is done, you can start using online materials. By reviewing someone else’s notes against your own, you are effectively sense checking your work – am I missing anything, is there a better way to describe this law, how does this case fit into the topic? (And similarly, go back to your lecture notes – have you missed anything? If you don’t understand a particular point, pick up your textbook and read the section, and then incorporate a summary into your script.)
Being able to consolidate your learning like this is a really important step in the learning process.
Free online exam notes and summaries
Here’s a starting list of different online sites offering free exam notes and summaries for law subjects.
- Your university’s law school society webpage: this is the first port of call for exam notes, lecture notes and summaries for tutorials. When I was studying I used LSS notes from many different universities, but unfortunately, most societies now require you to log into their website.
- EPIC Notes: Study notes and tutorial summaries by Queensland University of Technology students.
- Oats and Sugar: Comprehensive notes for a few subjects by Johanan Ottensooser, a former UTS law student.
- Uni Study Guides: UNSW law students have created this great wiki for legal subjects.
- All Things Law: Law notes that were created by Tim Davis and that (appear) to have been updated and improved on by other students. Great resource here.
- Law Study Notes Australia: Notes from Monash University student George McCubbin.
- Law Notes: Study notes for all the priestly 11 subjects by QUT student Nick Dowse.
- Law Corners: A group of University of New South Wales law students have created these notes.
- Law Notes: Some very old (but comprehensive) notes by University of Adelaide student Dennis Lim.
- Adelaide University Law Students’ Society (AULSS): The Finlaysons’ Exam Answer Bank provides exam answers, lecture note summaries and essay responses to a large range of subjects. You don’t get the exam questions, but it’s pretty easy to figure out what was asked.
- ANU Law Students’ Society: The King & Wood Mallesons exam database at ANU is another great exam database.
Can’t find what you’re after here? Simply google for a more specific set of notes. There are heaps out there and you might be able to find some that are a bit more up to date than the above collections. It might just take a little longer to sift through the ones that require you to sign up to some website or pay.
Paying for exam notes and summaries
If you do take a look online, you will notice that there are plenty of websites offering law exam notes for a fee. I personally wouldn’t be bothered with these – they are generally prepared as a ‘shopping list’ (my post on scripts explained why this is a poor way to prepare), and as you can see from the above, there are plenty of free online notes anyway!
I think there’s also a lot of predatory marketing by these service providers. Many of them know of, and willing exploit, the pressure that law students are under to score highly on every single exam.
If you see a testimonial by someone who “used these notes to get a 89% in their final exam” then they are either naturally brilliant or they put in the hard work and preparation required to achieve that. Not all of us are like Mike Ross, but I’m confident that if you are willing to put in the hard work, you can significantly improve your exam scores without ever paying for notes (that’s what I did).
Good luck everyone!
Hopefully this has been helpful, and together with the post on taking lecture notes, provides you with another tool to put in your law school arsenal.
Cross checking your exam notes with a few other sources of information can take time, but it’s really simple, and when used in conjunction with other methods will go a long way to helping you secure great marks.