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The Underachiever’s Guide to Faking it in Class

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Some law students finish their readings every week, maintain their notes with meticulous care, and come to each seminar/tute/lecture/exam completely prepared. And there are the others.

Those who worked 20 hours on the weekend, are swamped with too many assignments or who just flat out forgot (nay avoided) doing their readings. This article is for the latter.

Class participation is often underrated, but it can be the deciding factor between a pass and a fail. Whether you’re unorganised, sleep deprived, or just down right shy, here are a number of in-case-of-emergency ways to make it through the perilous weeks of semester by scoring some easy participation marks.

Reading for Class Participation Marks

Ignoring those who finish their readings without fail, there is a strong possibility that the rest of the class have only finished half their readings in the hours before a seminar/tute starts. To stand out (and give an impression you finished the readings), read the last cases of assigned, first. When your fellow underachievers (who didn’t make it to the end of the assigned readings)fall silent towards the end of the seminar, you may be able to win some cheap class participation marks.

Good for: Giving the lecturer in question the (potentially false) impression that you finish your readings each week.

Bad for: Without having read the first cases assigned, it may difficult to follow lines of argument and references to precedent.

Warning: This also assumes that the others in your class/seminar haven’t made it to the end of their readings.

Get to Know Your Referencing Codes

Everyone, without fail, cringes when they think of the AGLC. While learning to reference will deter even the most studious of law students, doing so will allow you to wade through the readings much faster.

By paying attention to codes after case names, in times of desperation you might be able to skip over cases that aren’t relevant to your jurisdiction. In doing so, you will have a basic knowledge of the most relevant cases for class. For example, in NSW, look for abbreviations like NSWSC, NSWCCA and NSWLR, and at a federal level, keep your eyes open for ALR, CLR, etc.

Good for: Principles textbooks, general texts on subjects, subject guides, cases within cases. By doing so, ‘reading for CP’, may not be needed.

Bad for: When an area of law is unresolved at a higher court level and various cases are referred to at a state level, which went unnoticed through the skipping by code strategy.

Participate In Policy Discussions

Policy discussions are a saving grace when it comes to gaining participation marks. By contributing to policy discussions, you can actively contribute to class with limited preparation. All you need is an opinion, as opposed to substantive knowledge of case law or legislation.

Good for: Underprepared students who have opinions.

Bad for: Tutorials and seminars that don’t have policy questions.

Answer the Easiest Question First

This one is self-explanatory. Through answering the easiest questions first, the tutor will, more times than not, over look your next hand raising in order to get the rest of the class involved in discussion. Class participation in the bag.

Good for: Diverting attention to other unsuspecting law students, because you’ve pre-emptively answered an easier question.

Bad for: Giving the impression you know what you’re talking about (especially if the question you answered is the only information you bothered learning). May be vulnerable to follow up questions.

Sitting Near the Gunners

Although almost universally envied and despised by other law students, the gunners can be used as a strategic tool in achieving easy participation marks.

By sitting next to, or in the vicinity of a gunner (ie read-it-all, know-it-all, usually-annoying-well-connected-law-students) the lecturer/tutor will invariably look away from the direction of the gun law student, in an appeal to other students to participate. In using a gunner law student as a shield, you may bask in their performance by association or benefit from the lack of attention directed at you.

Good for: Hiding when unprepared for class. See ‘answering easiest question first’, when sitting next to a gunner for optimal results.

The reverse can also apply here. If it is attention you need, in order to accumulate class participation marks, sit away from a gunner in order for attention to be directed to you.

Bad for: One’s own mental health.

Strategic Typing

In every tutorial, without fail, there will be someone on Facebook. In order to stalk your friend or talk with others on chat while in the comfort of your own seminar, timing is essential to not getting caught.

By timing typing strategically, that is, in short intervals after the tutor says something (a feigned look of interest or confusion may also help; happiness isn’t normally found in a property law class), it may give the impression that you’re attentive and actively taking notes.

Good for: Appearing to type notes and catching up with friends.

Bad for: Actually learning the essential points raised in class.

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