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I had an interesting meeting with a guy who’s failed three Board papers on the trot. They were –

  • Ethics
  • Wills and Estates
  • Bookkeeping

He’d passed Court Procedures because that’s what he does for a living.

I started out by saying a few basic things –

  • An exam is not an opportunity to show the examiner what you know. It is a mark scoring exercise, no more, no less.
  • There’s no right and wrong in law, only strong and weak arguments.
  • Give the examiner what he asks for – a letter, an opinion, a Will
  • State the obvious –
    • A letter must be addressed to someone, have a date and start Dear sir(s)
    • an opinion may also have to be addressed to a client and if so will open with “You have engaged me to express my professional opinion on ……..”
    • a Will must have a place for signature by the Testator or Testatrix and the witnesses on each page and for a date and place
  • each of the above will score free marks

Then I mapped out a model answer

List the sources – sections of Acts, paragraphs of the Code of Conduct, Common Law that are relevant to your argument. You might even refer to a report that you read in De Rebus, even if you can’t remember the exact date, title of the case or whatever.

Interpret those sources in relation to the question

Draw a conclusion from your argument

This approach works with the Ethics paper (and with some Court Procedure questions).

He then told me that the Wills and Estates paper always had a high scoring L and D account. Great! If you know that’s what’s coming up, then you know you won’t be wasting practice time perfecting your skills! It’s like a free spot.

With anything, such as an L&D account, a set of bookkeeping transactions, a Will, that have standard layouts, don’t start at the beginning and work through. Start by setting out the layout of your answer. Then fill in the easy bits. Those marks are for free! Then tackle the slightly more difficult bits and so on towards the most difficult until you run out of time.

If they try to muddy the waters in the question as, for instance, how the deceased and survivor were married, document your interpretation first, don’t just dive in assuming that your thinking was right. Even if you come to the wrong conclusion, at least show that you applied your mind.

And, of course, do everything that I suggest in my article “How to pass exams

Go into the exam knowing that you will pass.

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