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Legal Studies Extended Response – How Not to Freak Out

By Karly Banks in Study
27th of March 2017

Karly Banks completed her VCE in 2013. She has since completed a Bachelor of Arts, and is presently studying a Juris Doctor – both at the University of Melbourne. Want feedback on your Legal Studies responses? Check out this! 

Extended response questions in a subject such as Legal Studies can often be the source of panic amongst students, as they can seem overwhelming when you first read them.

Often, they are asking you to craft an answer that contains information from a wide range of study design dot points, and possibly from both Units 3 and 4.

In the 2016 Legal Studies exam, there was a ten mark question that related to knowledge from both Units 3 and 4, which read as follows:

‘Judges can resolve disputes effectively because the adversary system of trial and the operation of the doctrine of precedent work well.’

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with this statement.

According to the examiner’s report, it seems a lot of students struggled to determine exactly what this question was asking. The end result was either that they went outside the scope of the question, or they gave an answer that did not relate specifically to the question that was asked.

High-scoring responses were able to canvass the advantages and disadvantages associated with both the doctrine of precedent and the adversary system. These also related the advantages and disadvantages back to the question of judges resolving disputes effectively. Lower quality responses might have included the advantages and disadvantages, without specifically using them to make an evaluation on the ability of judges to resolve disputes effectively.

Ten mark questions, such as the one above, can be scary when you first read them. But there are definitely tips and tricks you can implement to make sure you’re giving yourself the best chance to succeed in the exam:

  1. Make a mental plan during reading time.

A lot of students spend the majority of their reading time gazing out the window. This is NOT the point of reading time. If you can learn to utilise your reading time effectively, you make the rest of the exam a lot easier for yourself. Start making a mental plan for the ten mark question once you’ve had a read through the whole exam (slowly, so you don’t forget anything). Don’t waste the time.


  1. Write the plan down AS SOON as writing time starts.

This is to make sure you don’t forget anything that came to you during your reading time, and to make sure that you can settle your brain. Once writing time starts, people tend to get even more nervous. If you write down your plan as soon as you can, it can help with these nerves.


  1. Break the question down into bite-sized chunks.

The question in its entirety can seem very overwhelming. Breaking it down into its sub-components, especially if the question relates to content across a few areas of study, can make it easier to tackle.


  1. Make sure you’re not losing sight of the actual question.

Examiners’ reports and comments on the longer questions generally relate to students getting too caught up in the detail of what they’re discussing. Or rambling. Or not actually answering the question that they were asked. Always relate your points back to the precise crux of the question to make sure you’re staying on track.


  1. Don’t re-read it straight away.

Once you’ve written the answer to the ten mark question, leave it and go back to the remainder of the exam. Give yourself a mental break from it so that you can edit it with a (relatively) fresh set of eyes later on. You’re less likely to pick up on mistakes if you try and re-read it again straight after you finished writing it.


  1. Don’t leave it until the end of exam time.

There is very little logical sense to doing the exam from start to finish. The best way to approach the exam? In my view, start off with a question you’re confident on – that’ll make you less nervous! Then, tackle the ten marker. You don’t want to get to the last ten minutes of the exam and realise you haven’t even started it.


The most important thing to remember about the ten mark question is that everyone is in the same boat. The worst thing you can do is freak out when you first get into the exam. Take a deep breath, break the question down, keep linking back to the actual question you’re being asked, and everything will be fine!

Jump onto this thread to have all of your VCE Legal Studies questions answered.