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5 Ways to Get Ahead in the Holidays: Legal Studies Edition

By Maryam Mahvash in HSC
7th of January 2020
HSC Legal Studies tips and tricks

1. Revise content for topics you’ve already covered (most probably Crime and Human Rights)

Crime and Human Rights are the most competitive parts of the course, as they are core units. Knowing the content will give you a boost in your final exams! 

It is important to start studying for Crime and Human Rights now as they require you to know a wide range of content (as opposed to the Options Essays which require less content in more detail). 

A good start would be to find 3 pieces of evidence (Legislation, Cases, Media articles & International documents) per syllabus dot point. This will enhance your writing by making it more detailed and often, using more evidence forces you to use correct terminology. Both the ‘use of evidence’ and the use of ‘correct legal terminology’ are needed to achieve a Band 6. 

Next, work through past papers! Specifically, the Multiple Choice and Short Answer questions, as questions from these sections are often repeated. They’re easy revision and they help heaps! Complete short-answer questions and mark your own work using the marking criteria – this helps you improve as you realise where you’re losing marks. 


2. Create a list of criteria using the Preliminary Legal Studies syllabus

The Preliminary syllabus is more useful in Year 12 than you might first think. Simply read through all three topics (“The legal system”, “The individual and the law” and “Law in practice”) and their themes and challenges. Highlight any simple legal concepts that can be used as criteria to make a judgement. (For example, the rule of law, natural justice.)

Create a bank of these concepts from all your topics, which can then be used for analysis. For example, if the Department of Corrective Services created an unfair rule, it could be analysed as a flaw of delegated legislation (a concept found in the Prelim syllabus). 

Using basic legal terms and concepts allows for more enriched responses and a demonstration of deeper knowledge, making it easier to achieve that Band 6!


3. Read through the Themes and Challenges of your ‘Options’ topics and choose unique topics!

For the ‘Options’ topics, looking beyond the syllabus to find unique examples of the law in practice can be extremely rewarding. Think out of the box to find topics that relate to your Option – look past textbook examples!  

It’s important to know all your syllabus content, however, going past the syllabus can greatly distinguish your response. For example, in family law you can write about issues such as international child abduction or polygamy as well as Syllabus-specific topics like divorce and adoption. 

Look through your Options Syllabi for vague dot points or contemporary issues. These are opportunities for you to branch out and put a unique spin on your essays. For example, in Workplace Law “Safety” is a contemporary issue. Rather than interpreting this as “workplace accidents” look at issues such as [Safety from] modern slavery or more broadly, [Safety from] exploitation. 

Find topics that you’re interested in/passionate about. It’s easier to study things that keep you engaged. 


4. Watch documentaries and media reports for revision! [Especially for the “Options” essays]

Although they may be dramatised, watch media reports from programs such as Four Corners and Sixty Minutes to gain an understanding of certain topics. Later, evaluate the issues presented from a legal perspective. 

Watching real crime documentaries (Australian) or media reports is easy revision and doing so allows you to explore specific topics in detail. The ideas discussed within these programs may form the basis of one or two of your body paragraphs later on. 

For example, ‘Slaving Away’ is a Four Corners report on modern slavery in Australia (can be used for Workplace Law or Human Rights), and ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ (Family Law, Crime and Human Rights) is a report on domestic violence. These programs often explore legal and ethical issues that correlate with the Themes and Challenges of your topics.  

Find topics that are recent and relevant, and know them in depth. Analyse them using basic legal concepts (found in the Prelim Syllabus).


5. Find topics that overlap with Crime, Human Rights and your Options topics – be strategic

When searching for unique issues or studying topics, try to find topics that relate to other syllabi. For example, modern slavery can be discussed as an issue under Workplace Law, Transnational/ International Crime and as a Human Rights violation. 

Another example is international surrogacy, which can be discussed as a contemporary issue within Family Law, under International Crime and Themes and Challenges that relate to ethical standards. 

Finding overlapping topics will help cut down on the content and evidence you need to memorise – which can be a game changer leading up to trials and the HSC exams.