Revision Tips by Jessica Swannell, Senior Costs Lawyer & Practice Manager
The below are my own personal views when it came to preparing for the Association of Costs Lawyers’ exam. There are numerous revision techniques but these techniques helped me win the Gold Cup in my qualifying Year.
Mini Revision Booklet – Look at your syllabus for the year, put your heading, ie: Professional Ethics and list everything that you have learnt. You can list in a bullet point format or do a spider diagram. Look at your course materials and extract the key information. Each title should be no more than 1 page. This will take some time to do but it will be worth it
Flash Cards – On the day of your exam, you will need something to look at that isn’t heavy but enough to refresh your memory before you go into the exam. You have done the hard part with the mini revision booklet, now condense that down even further to allow one page to fit into one flash card. See it out like below:
Title: Basis of Assessment
What: Standard Basis or Indemnity Basis. The Court will not allow costs that are on either basis, unreasonably incurred or unreasonable in amount.
Standard Basis: Only proportionate costs and doubt in favour of the paying party.
Indemnity Basis: Doubt as to reasonableness in favour of the receiving party.
Make sure that ‘rules’ and ‘cases’ are differently coloured to that of the rest of the body. Make sure that they both have different colours as well. Psychology shows us that our minds remember information better if they are colour coded.
If you have a study buddy or a parent/friend, ask them to test you on your flash cards. This will help your mind remember the colours more.
Learning Rules – When it comes to learning rules, they can be difficult to remember. You have two choices, either make a drawing out of the rules/form or make a poem about them. My personal choice was a poem. When it comes to poems, psychology again shows that our minds remember more if they contain people’s names who mean a lot to us or a very rude joke. When I come to remember the factors contained at CPR1.1 and CPR44.5, I made a rude joke in my mind which always stuck (obviously, I cannot repeat it.) It can be as rude as you like, so long as it sticks, that is all that matters. Just obviously don’t shout it out loud in your exam!! For example, to remember the form N258, my saying was, ‘don’t be late with the N258.’The N258 is a request for a hearing and the prescribed time is 6 months from the date of the entitlement to costs.
Essay Writing/Exam – One key point is make sure all your spelling and grammar is perfect in your essay/exam, you will lose marks for the same and this could be the difference between passing or failing. We are all used to typing everything on a computer so we have minimal experience hand writing essays. You will also lose marks if you do not have clear writing. When I was revising, I used old exam papers and I actually hand wrote them rather than typing. This allowed me to get used to writing lengthy documents again. If you don’t do this, you will get cramp in the exam due to the amount of writing you will be doing which could be painful and will reduce your concentration level. Structure your essays. Be analytical and evaluate. May sound obvious but always answer the question. Once you have finished a paragraph, re-read the question each time. It is so easy to go off track and waffle. When I came to answering a question that required a mini essay, I noted down on a separate sheet the following before I even started. This included all the various rules, forms and case law:
Intro – What you will be answering
Para 1 – Explain
Para 2 – Argue
Para 3 – Evaluate
This meant that I never waffled or went off track
Day of the exam – Don’t do anything you wouldn’t normal do. Your mind will not be used to having an energy drink if you do not usually have them. It will actually have an adverse effect on you. Always have plenty of water on the morning and throughout the day. Make sure you also have your normal breakfast, if you have one. Your mind has absorbed all the information by doing what it normally does so do not change your habits. On the day, of the exam, my preference was to not talk to anyone and I simply sat in the room before going in, refreshing my memory with my flash cards. Remember, you cannot take the flash cards into the exam, either hand them in or keep them firmly locked away in a bag.