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August 07, 2020, 11:00:23 am

Author Topic: Jigsaw’s Experience with VCE ¾ Legal Studies (50 Study Score)  (Read 3418 times)  Share 

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Jigsaw’s Experience with VCE ¾ Legal Studies (50 Study Score)
« on: February 10, 2019, 08:41:01 pm »
Jigsaw’s Experience with VCE ¾ Legal Studies: A Guide for the 2018-2022 Study Design (50 Study Score)

Hey all! Instead of replying to individual PMs about my advice in undertaking units 3 and 4 of VCE Legal Studies, I thought it would be more beneficial if I leave my suggestions in a thread which is accessible to the entirety of the AN community. As you may notice by my signature, I studied Legal as a ¾ in year 12 and received a raw 50. I’m hoping that anyone reading this thread will be able to pick up some tips/strategies that will assist their future legal related studies. So, in saying that, let's start off with what you'll be studying:
Structure of the ¾ Legal Studies

VCAA Examination

The final assessment as is the case for most ¾ subjects will be the VCAA examination. This is a closed book, 2 hour examination, where all key knowledge and skills contained in the study design is examinable. This will comprise of 50% of the study score.


The exam will comprise of two sections: Part A and Part B.

Part A is worth a total of 40 marks which will consist of short-answer and extended-answer questions, including questions with multiple parts. One of the extended-answer questions will be worth 10 marks. The number of questions may vary from year to year. (Source: VCAA Exam Specification and Advice). In my opinion, your success in Part A will depend on how well you know the study design, and how accurately you can retain and recall pieces of information within the examination setting. The more information you can retain before heading into the exam, the better you are likely to score in Section A. If you are interested about how to tackle the ten marker, read below. Part B will consist of short-answer and extended-answer questions, including questions with multiple parts. The questions in this section will be scenario-based. There will be at least two scenarios. Scenarios may be actual, hypothetical or a combination of both. Section B will be worth a total of 40 marks. (Source: VCAA Exam Specification and Advice). This is where you will receive stimulus that you will need to refer to in order to gain all the available marks. Practicing answering questions that involve cases, either hypothetical or actual throughout the year will assist you in this section. For example, the 2018 exam provided stimulus relating to legislation passed to prohibit the commercial operation of solariums. Having experience in drawing from case studies in practice questions will greatly assist you in this section!

The total available marks for the examination is therefore 80.

Advice related to the exam/exam prep:

I personally only did three full exams to time leading up to the VCE examination. Now, to some, this may seem relatively low considering my study score. But here, I want to dispel the myth that completing a high number of practice exams automatically corresponds to a high study score. For subjects like legal studies, I do not believe this is true. Now, don’t get me wrong; completing practice exams, especially in legal studies, in a timed setting is absolutely crucial. This is because it allows you to become accustomed to the time restraint you will be under in the examination and will also allow you to establish how efficiently you are answering questions. A lack of developing these skills will mean you may struggle to finish answering all the exam questions. My legal studies teacher, who is also a VCAA assessor often commented how disappointing it was to see blank answers on the last couple of questions of the paper; an indication that students had not developed their time management skills adequately. However, there are only so many times completing a practice examination will be beneficial to revision purposes. So, for me, after I was confident that I could pace myself adequately through the paper, I began to flip through papers. If I looked at a question and felt confident that I could answer it, I would move on to the next question, rather than answer it. Whenever I saw a type of question that I hadn’t come across before, or didn’t feel 100% confident in, I would answer. This technique meant that I wasn’t spending precious revision time on questions that I knew I could answer, rather, I was focusing on areas to improve. So, whilst I wasn’t completing full practice exams, I was still actively reviewing questions and expanding lapses in my knowledge. This allowed me to cover a large number of practice exams, and see a vast amount of practice questions; more than what I would have if I chose to just complete past papers in full.

I'd also recommend a similar approach when studying for SACs. Depending on how many past SACs you have access to, complete a fair amount to time, and then glance over a variety of questions.

The dreaded ten marker! Ahh. The question that is anyone's guess entering into the exam, and often the talking point when students leave. it is imperative to practice these questions, as it is the largest amount of marks you can gain (or lose), in any question on the examination. For me, I gained practice on these by completing past examinations and getting it marked by my legal teacher. My advice with these is always spend a brief amount of time (no longer than a minute) coming up with a plan on how you're going to tackle the question. Make sure you are answering every part of the question, too. It will often require you to answer more than one point, but in an exam setting, its so so easy to just focus on the first part of the question, but not the second. Having a plan will ensure you don't go on a tangent and also ensure you cover everything you wish to talk about. Furthermore, always use paragraphs! They help separate your ideas, and make it easier for the assessor to not only see where exactly you are making your points, but also, how you are answering the parts of the question. As the ten marker is marked globally, I also recommend to bring in examples wherever you can, as this will ultimately ensure your answer will have depth. Include them even if the 10 marker does not ask for them. For example, from memory, the ten marker on my question was something along the lines on discussing whether the appeal system was the most effective means on reforming the civil justice system (and to also include reference to a recent reform). In order to argue in favour of the statement, an example I brought up was the case of Mabo v Queensland, which allowed me to illustrate how a judicially active decision of the courts advanced the civil rights of Indigenous Australians. Hence, having a wide (and extended) knowledge of the VCE course will prepare you well for the ten marker. As a general rule of thumb, I wouldn't recommend spending much more than 20 minutes on this question. Like anything, the ten marker becomes less daunting the more you practice it, so have a glance over as many ten markers as you can, from past exams (VCAA or external companies) and have a go of writing up a response. You will improve on these questions the more you practice them, so ensure that you do so, in order to capitalise on such a large portion of the examination of which you can gain marks. This is a crucial area you need to score well in, in order to gain a high study score!

General Advice:

Do not give circular definitions! If you are defining a term, make sure you are using synonyms for the term you are describing. VCAA do not award marks for circular definitions. Whilst it is rare for VCAA to ask a define question on an examination (at most will be 1-2 marks out of 80), an adequate knowledge of definitions is still crucial. This is because you can often indirectly refer to the definition of a term within your answer in order to add more depth.

Example: Define Equality as it relates to the Principles of Justice.

Equality refers to the notion that people should be treated equally under the eyes of the law
Equality refers to the notion that people should be treated the same under the eyes of the law 

Referencing Statues:
I’m a big advocate in remembering statute/legislation that is relevant to the concepts you are learning about. There are very few pieces of legislation you are required to know about (if any!) but knowing them will add a layer of depth to your answers that will separate you from the state. For example, if a question asks you to explain two purposes of a committal proceeding, you can start of your answer by stating that these purposes are listed in the S97 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic) or that the external affairs power of the Cth Parliament is contained in S.51 of the Constitution. In questions that are marked globally (whereby your answer will be marked holistically by the assessor), the level of depth that your answers contains often will be rewarded with marks. So, if you come across a statute that you think is worth remembering, remember it! If this is a bit overwhelming, focus on the Act itself and omit the year; you will not lose marks for not including the year!

Note Taking:
Like any subject, notetaking will come down to which method you prefer. Personally, I handwrote all my notes, but this is only because it is what I’m used to. I don’t believe it will make a difference whether you handwrite or type. What will matter, is how succinct you make your notes. As you will soon become aware, legal is an extremely content heavy subject, so the key to being able to handle all this information is to create succinct and summarised notes. There’s no point in writing out exactly what the textbook contains; you should only be taking down information that is directly assessible. Use the study design to aid you with this.

Task Words
Task words instruct you on how to answer the question. These are crucial to learn ASAP. So many students lose marks on SACs (especially the first one), not because they don't know the content, but because they are not doing what the task word is asking of them. For example, if a question uses the task word of 'compare', a common mistake is to only focus on the differences and not on the similarities. Below contains a list of frequent task words that are used in Legal:
Analyse Break into parts and examine, e.g. essential components in decision-making or problem-solving process.
Apply Use theory to help in a practical example. Show or make links, relationships or connections.
Compare Talk about BOTH similarities and differences
Define Accurately state or explain the precise meaning of a word, phrase or term.
Describe Provide a detailed account of something.
Discuss Examine an issue or response and state arguments or opinions covering both sides of the issue or response involved in the stimulus material. Eg. Advantages and Disadvantages
Distinguish To recognise or show points of difference between two or more concepts of items. Note the distinctive characteristics.
Evaluate Talk about the advantages, disadvantages and conclude with an opinion about the topic.
Explain To make the meaning of something clear, detailed and understandable.
Identify To simply state, list.
Outline Provide a brief description of the terms or topic.
Propose To put forward (a plan or suggestion) for consideration by others.
Provide reasons/ Justify Justify your choice or answer. Give valid reasons or evidence to support an answer or conclusion. Say why it is so.

Starting of the year:

Unit 3 AOS 1is concerned with Criminal Law. Hence, although it is not directly assessible, I still believe it is crucial to have a general understanding on what criminal law is concerned about. In summary, Criminal Law is concerned with acts/crimes against the State (Country) that has ramifications for the entire community. Its main aims are to decide whether the accused is guilty of an offence, and to impose a sanction in cases where the accused is found guilty. Prosecution is generally the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for indictable offences and VICPOL for summary offences (not always). The second party, the accused, can be both an individual or an organisation. Criminal Law is also a residual power*. This is why all states have different penalties and definitions of criminal offences. (*Residual Powers will be examined in detail in unit 4 (so don’t worry if you don’t know this now! In essence, it refers to the fact that each state has its own legislation that relates to criminal offences.))

Following this, the very first dot point you will come across will alert you to ‘The Principles of Justice’. It’s extremely crucial to gain a solid grasp on these principles, as you will constantly need to refer to them throughout Unit 3 AOS 1 and AOS 2. These ‘principles of justice’ are new to the study design and a question on the 2018 VCAA exam required students to reference these principles. In essence, they are three principles that the Australian Legal System is founded upon:

1) Fairness – involves the impartial and just treatment/behaviour without favouritism or discrimination; free from bias or injustice. This applies to all of the processes involved in the criminal and civil justice systems. It does not mean that everyone necessarily gets the same thing, however. Sometimes, people need to be treated differently in order to achieve fairness (the way a victim of a sexual assault may give evidence may be different to that of a family member of the victim).

2) Equality – People should be treated the same in the eyes of the law and have the same opportunity to present their case without advantage or disadvantage.

I initially found it difficult to grasp my head around the difference between fairness and equality. But the following visual aid may help you, as it did me.

3) Access – The notion that people should be able to understand their legal rights and pursue their legal claims in court.

Questions that mention the principles of justice will generally require you to explain how a certain element of the criminal or civil justice system achieves or does not achieve a certain principle of justice. With these questions, I’d encourage referencing a definition of the principle you are explaining, and then explain how the element of the justice system you are explaining does or does not meet this principle.

AOS 2 is concerned with Civil Law. Like Criminal Law, I believe it is crucial to have an understanding on how the civil justice system works. This will allow you to properly distinguish between Criminal and Civil law in general, and thus aid your understanding. Civil law is concerned with resolving disputes between two parties (or more) in which one party has allegedly been ‘wronged’ by the other through infringing their rights. The aim is to restore the affected party to their original position before the alleged offence took place to the extent that is possible (generally through monetary means). As mentioned above, you will be expected to refer to the principles of justice in this area of study.

Unit 4 will focus on the relationship between the people and the law. For the purpose of this guide, I want to focus specifically on AOS 1, which requires the referencing of cases! Yay! :) As per the study design, students should know:

• the significance of one High Court case interpreting sections 7 and 24 of the Australian Constitution (Roach v Electoral Commissioner)
• the significance of one referendum in which the Australian people have protected or changed the Australian Constitution (1967 Australian Referendum)
• the significance of one High Court case which has had an impact on the division of constitutional law-making powers (R v Brislan)
• the impact of international declarations and treaties on the interpretation of the external affairs power (Tasmanian Dams Case)

(These are the cases I studied, but there are other options to choose from. Different schools will choose different cases)
As per the key skills, you must be able to discuss the significance of both a case that involved the interpretation of the Constitution (S.7 and S.24/Division of Law Making Powers), analyse the ability of the Australian people to protect or change the Australian Constitution and discuss the impact of international declarations and treaties on the interpretation of the external affairs power.

But, Jigsaw, I hear you asking. How can we explain/discuss the impact of a case? Well, I'm glad you asked! The structure for these questions are a little different. This is because, you should use the FIDI approach. That is:

F- Facts. Briefly mention what the case is about.
I - Issue. What does the court need to decide?
D - Decision What did the court decide?
I - Impact How did the decision change the legal climate?  (if discussing, mention any shortcomings, or what remained the same)

The crux of your answer should be focusing on the impact. These questions are often poorly answered. For example, the 2015 legal exam asked students to explain the significance of one case in which the High Court’s interpretation of the Commonwealth Constitution had an impact on the division of law-making powers. In the examination report, it was noted that: "This question asked for an explanation of the significance of the case, and not an explanation of the case. There is a difference. The first requires a focus on what the case stands for and, in particular, how it impacted on the division of law-making powers. The latter would require only a factual explanation of the case, which may not include an explanation of its significance." Hence, reading what the question is asking of you is key! If you need to explain the impact, focus on the second I of FIDI.

Ultimately, Legal was such an engaging and fun subject to study and I hope you find that, too! I may end up adding more information to this thread; if you want me to touch on a certain aspect, please let me know. Best of luck!
« Last Edit: February 10, 2019, 11:13:20 pm by Jigsaw »
2017: | Business Management [47] |
2018: | Legal Studies [50] (Premier's) | English [48] | Accounting [41] | Japanese SL [38] | Maths Methods [32] |

ATAR: 99.40 2019 Onwards: Laws (Hons)/Arts @ Monash


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Re: Jigsaw’s Experience with VCE ¾ Legal Studies (50 Study Score)
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2019, 08:46:57 pm »
Wow!!! Damn!!
Kudos to you for taking the time to write such an intricate, helpful guide!
I hope you are doing good at uni :D
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Re: Jigsaw’s Experience with VCE ¾ Legal Studies (50 Study Score)
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2019, 08:45:36 pm »
 thank you for making this!!! I was just looking for legal studies advice for my upcoming SAC but a lot related to the old study design  :P