Critically discuss this statement with reference to one substantive area of property law. You should draw on case law, statute and academic opinion.
• Identify legal issues.
• Display knowledge of legal rules and principles.
• Apply the law to complex fact situations.
• Distinguish between the relevant and the irrelevant.
• Analyse and evaluate legal doctrines.
• Construct coherent, logical and persuasive arguments.
• Work under pressure, subject to time constraints.
• Writing style.
“It is not the examiner’s job to work out what exactly it is you are trying to say. Rather it is your job to make clear what you are trying to say. If you have particular difficulties writing good prose, keep your sentences relatively short. Make sure that your ideas follow on logically from one another; and, perhaps most importantly of all, take complex ideas and try to simplify them.”
• Gathering the appropriate materials.
(a) Use lecture notes and textbooks.
(b) Journal articles are important: “they will provide you with arguments for and against various propositions, offer views on how legal disputes should be resolved, present rationales for different legal rules, and so on.”
(c) Look at minority judgments: there you will find the arguments of the majority subjected to criticism, thereby obtaining a summary of the law as it is and criticisms of it.
• Formulating your ideas.
This should be done before you enter the exam room, because it is very difficult to do in the exam under time constraints.
• Dissecting the question.
(a) Work out what the question is asking you to do.
(i) “Explain” (i.e., describe).
(ii) “Discuss” (i.e., explain and assess whether the statement is correct, giving reasons).
(iii) “Critically evaluate” (i.e., assess the success or appropriateness of a particular institution or area of law, as well as explain what it is).
(b) Determine what issues must be addressed in order to do (a) above.
• Structuring and presenting your material effectively.
(a) Answers which need only be descriptive.
“Present your material within a good, clear, tight framework, supported by relevant authority, i.e., there is no need to advance an argument.”
(b) Answers where an argument is required.
“Although a partisan answer is a poor answer, it is better if you map out a point of view – posit a thesis – taking into account the fact that, while there are arguments going in the other direction, they can nonetheless be countered or minimised in view of other factors. In this way you will have committed yourself to a particular position; you will have developed your own argument as to why you have done so; and your answer will be balanced in the sense that you will have recognised opposing arguments.”
(i) Explain the steps you will take to reach your conclusion.
(ii) Do justice to competing arguments and then go on to show how they are fallacious or unsatisfactory.
(iii) Outline the general principle first and then give a concrete example.
(iv) Demonstrate your ability to make fine distinctions.
(v) Do not be led by the academic authorities. Impose your own structure on the material you have been asked to consider.
– Sources should be mainly from the UK, not USA or somewhere else.
– References should be more academic, like books, articles, journals, not non-academic websites.
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