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Achieving a first-class law degree

Achieving a first-class law degree

Ibrahim Ilyas


Achieving a first in law sounds like an overwhelming challenge and some may feel that getting over the 70% bar in an exam is just too difficult. After achieving a range of grades throughout university, this blog seeks to demystify the process of gaining a first-class law degree.

It is important to note that although achieving a top mark is not impossible, it is no easy task. It will require dedication, hard work and a sincere willingness to improve. If you really want to achieve a first, you must take steps to shift the quality of your work into that high bracket. Below is an outline of how you should approach this goal.

First, craft a revision plan early on and ensure that all topics are covered well before your summative assessments. This will give you time to revise subjects and, crucially, practice past papers. 

Attempting past papers under exam conditions is a massive help. You are effectively giving yourself the chance to answer questions that are not too different from the real thing. The second part of this particular recipe for success is to submit these attempts to tutors for feedback.

Not all tutors will offer such practice opportunities. If this is the case, consider self-marking using any available mark schemes. However, if you can, take advantage of this beneficial opportunity. It will be your tutors who will mark your summative assessments (before moderation), so getting feedback from them is essential. Further, your tutors may provide tailored advice on how you can hit (or surpass) that 70% mark. For example, if you find that you are hovering in the 2:1 bracket, you may be advised on how to develop your work so as to achieve a first. 

Moreover, look beyond powerpoint presentations and lecture notes by seeking judicial commentary and scope for reform. Students who go beyond simply answering a question to actively engage with the law by taking the above (and more) steps will please the markers and show them that they not only know what they are talking about, but also that they have taken the time to research around the topic and present sophisticated arguments. 

Similarly, instead of merely reading the recommended pages or chapters, speak to tutors about developments in the relevant area. For example, on the subject of Article 267 (preliminary rulings) in EU law, Wightman is a recent development concerning matters surrounding the principle of harmony between the EU courts and member states. Why not make a concise, relevant remark in this regard? It can only help!

There is only so much advice one can offer. The rest is down to you. Work hard, seek feedback and act on it. Practice as many past papers as possible to give yourself the best chance, and know that whatever stage you are at and whichever grade boundary you find yourself in, you are capable of excelling and getting a mark of 70% or higher.

Ultimately, achieving a first-class law degree is an exceptional achievement, but if you strive for excellence, you can do it!