Many universities require applicants to have achieved certain A Levels in order to study a course – Maths wants Maths, for example (though my knowledge on numbers stops here). Law degree courses, however, don’t seek students with a prior qualification in the law, focusing instead on whether you can think critically and write essays effectively. Moreover, many schools don’t offer Law at A Level, so there are fewer resources giving advice about the course and tips for revision. I did have the opportunity to take Law A Level, so whether you are thinking about Law as one of your options or do not have the option and want insight into what is covered, this article will present my experience with the course.
Though every exam board will have a different structure, from what I have seen the areas covered are quite similar. Spread over two years (my school didn’t offer AS …), my three papers included; the legal system (what does a lawyer do?) and criminal law (from murders to burglaries), law making (both from Parliament and other sources) and tort (disputes about land – sometimes involving smells from farm animals), and the nature of law (legal theories and moral questions) and then a choice of contract or human rights law – I chose contract (though students who opted for the latter gave positive reviews on the topics covered).
After knowing little about the law before starting my A Levels, I do believe that the course gave a valuable introduction to the subject, one that has expanded my interest in current legal developments, and was a key factor in my applying for a law degree at university. It can be said that Law can also improve your approach to other subjects, as some content overlaps with politics and philosophy courses, and the critical thinking and essay writing skills can be applied in anything from Maths to English.
On the other hand, there are some areas of the course that may not appeal to all, and may deter those who choose law in the hope of analysing murder cases from day one – memorising the process of selecting a jury being an example of such a topic. Yet, as with any subject, there will be elements that you find less stimulating or more challenging, and learning how to approach this is good preparation for both higher education and the world of work.
As mentioned above, universities don’t require A Level Law from those applying to a degree, so the skills you have learnt in any subject can be highlighted in your UCAS statement and promote you as a student, the key is to tailor them to legal studies (like any good lawyer, use your words).
For those who have chosen A Level Law, or are thinking about doing so, you may have been warned against this decision – with some suggesting that universities may view your choice unfavourably. From my experience, this was not the case. Having knowledge of the law can help you with a variety of stages in the application process, from having an interesting view on a legal area to bring up at an interview, or aiding your analytical skills during an admissions test. In one of my interviews, they asked me about a topic that I had not studied before, placing me at the same level as any other applicant when considering the problem and offering a viable solution. Conversely, if you don’t think A Level Law will play to your strengths, there is no reason to be discouraged from later choosing it for your degree.
Overall, my experience of Law at A Level was positive; it has really developed my enthusiasm for legal studies and caused me to do wider research on the basis of pure interest. I can assure you that each new element of the law that you come across in class will not fail to be surprising, and will prompt you to analyse the material and consider your own view – a useful skill as you progress onto further education. Equally, there is no requirement to take A Level Law if you want to study it at university, and, if you do take it at sixth from, you are not expected to choose this for your degree subject. There are many pathways to studying the law and gaining a legal career, this just happened to be a useful beginning of mine.
Preparation: no matter what stage you are in your A Levels, final exams always seem to be somewhat distant. But whether you have just started your first year, or are coming to the end of your second, it’s beneficial to keep those final papers in mind. For A Level Law, this can be done through keeping a case or statue ‘dairy’ as you learn each new topic, noting down which cases are most relevant and which sections of statutes you have to remember. This will help you keep track of where your knowledge can be applied, and will save you from organising a mass of notes in the weeks before exams.
Cases: when you initially learn cases, even the summaries come with abundant detail. Whilst the facts of cases are certainly important to learn, especially when analysing how they developed the law, it is the ratio – the reason for deciding the case in a specific way – that is necessary to keep in mind. In exam conditions, it is unlikely that you will have time to write out the exact details of a case, but will instead be required to consider the scenario presented to you in the paper, and use your knowledge of case law and statutes to decide what the outcome will be. Therefore, I would advise learning a brief and functional summary of the facts, but ensure that you are confident with the judgement that was given.
Participate: many of my Law lessons, and hopefully many of yours, involved elements in which students could participate – debating how a case should be decided or whether the present law needed to be changed, and group work with other class mates to learn about a topic and present it to the whole class. I found this to be a valuable alternative to taking notes. For those that don’t feel confident speaking publicly or sharing ideas with a group (as I was initially), these learning styles can still be effective if you listen to others’ contributions and work with those you are comfortable with. When trying to recall a specific case or fact in an exam, it’s often easier to remember when a class mate shared their view on the case, or you had to research this fact as part of your group work, rather than trying to pull out a fact from those hours you spent revising your notes.
Article by Eliza Liddicott