Hey, team! I was going to write a post on all four of my papers this semester, but then the “paragraph” I wrote on Law 121 turned into a behemoth, so I thought – hey – let’s give it its own time to shine. I’ll likely cover my Arts papers in a blog post in the coming weeks (once I’ve got some exams under my belt), but in the meantime, strap yourselves in – we’ll be traversing some bumpy, contentious, off-road, foreshore and seabed-type terrain. Let’s get into it!
Deemed “more of an Arts paper than a Law paper”, this course is heavily content-based, with lots of cases, theories, and concepts to take in. Every year, the way it’s taught seems to differ slightly, but for 2017, the learning was split into five parts, with four different lecturers. You’ll certainly find out who you like after a semester of 121. Each lecturer has a unique style, with some using PowerPoints for a list of references to keep the hour on track, and some being cheeky and taking their presentation content directly from readings – and then, at times, proceeding to read straight from the screen. I can genuinely say I enjoyed all the lecturers, and found them all at least quietly funny, if not immediately somebody to look forward to. (I’m keeping quiet on their names so not to express favouritism, but highlights were one lecturer who had been previously thrown in jail in his full judge’s regalia while protesting the use of nuclear missiles, and another who used his own photography in his PowerPoints for class and captioned each picture, “Source: me”.)
For 121, do your readings before you go to class. I cannot stress this enough. You’ll inadvertently feel not quite strapped into a rollercoaster or you’ll end up writing out a massive page of notes that could’ve just as easily been a massive page of highlighted content in your casebook. Plus, it’s better to sit in a lecture and have your brain connecting concepts that might’ve otherwise escaped you from the skim-read you did at 11.30pm the previous evening than to sit in a lecture and have to play catch-up. That being said, sometimes going over readings again after class can also be very helpful.
You only get four tutorials – every two weeks, kind of – for 121. Go to them! The content is completely different from what’s discussed in lectures, but touches on the same concepts. The tutors have been picked for a reason, and will challenge you on your ideas as well as helping you craft new ones – so take advantage of the chance to pick the brains of some current Law students or recent grads, no matter how inferior you may initially feel.
Take organised notes and start studying early – both for your test and your exam. I only put in about a day and a half of study for the test and I did very well, but I’d never want to put myself through that again. Plus, the disparity in knowledge required for the test – which only counts towards your final grade if you get a lower mark on the exam (and in that instance only counts for 20% – yay, plussage!) – and the knowledge required for the exam is real. Knuckle down for your exam revision seriously in advance.
Personally, I’ve really enjoyed 121. I’ve loved learning the theories behind law and legal practice, and how that is implemented in different cases both in New Zealand and worldwide. I have much more of a bearing on our societal framework as well, which I think is valuable for everyone – even if you’re not pursuing a career in law. Plus, I’ve had the chance to learn a bunch of history that has either been to an extent hushed up or which I missed while I was living overseas.
On the whole, I’d say, if you’re smart about it and have a natural aptitude for critical thinking (or a stellar work ethic), go for it. Don’t shy away from 121. However – a word to the wise – if one more person approaches me being like, “oh, Law! I love Suits! It’d be so much fun to be Harvey!” – I’ll probably deck them. Don’t go into Law looking for prestige. You’ve gotta put in the hard yards yet, buddy. There’s an article that my Mum sent me a few weeks back that perfectly summarises how I feel about studying Law/who should take it on, so have a read of that if you’ve got time.
Hopefully this has given you a glimpse of what you’ll be in for should you choose to take on Law 121 (which is also available as a Gen Ed, so non-law students can also feel free to get in there!) – if you’ve got any further questions, please don’t hesitate to leave them in a comment and I’ll answer them as best I can. (I’m great at novel-length responses, as some of you may be aware.)
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Your blogs are so great, I appreciate them so much and your little vlogs add a personal touch which I love! How hard do you think it is to get an E in NCEA and a A+ in University?
p.s. if it seems like I’m giving you a compliment before question, its not like that at all 🙁 I genuinely enjoy reading your blogs and I get so excited to read them
Hello again! Thank you very much!
I notice you’ve asked a lot of questions to our biomed/healthsci bloggers, so I wanted to bring in my friend Jordan (studying biomed) to answer your question from her perspective, as well as giving you my response, because our experiences with marking at uni are very different (I tend to take moderately subjective papers whereas STEM are more qualifiable/quantifiable, I guess).
Jordan says she thinks it’s harder to get an A+ at university than it is to get an E in NCEA, because you can to an extent fluff your way to an Excellence – if you know what you need to write, you can get the marks that way (and top down marking is, y’know, a thing). At university, you need to work harder and work differently – be thorough and spend time nailing concepts, ideas, examples – in order to get that A+. That being said, it’s not the big, bad monster everyone makes it out to be. It’s absolutely doable and many Merit students that Jordan knows are now getting A+s at uni.
I agree with pretty much everything Jordan’s said, and will supplement that with the fact that – for me – a lot of the criticism I got in high school, and how I almost wrote/performed myself out of an E sometimes, was that my answers didn’t adhere to the exact parameters of the question. I was told, “this would be a brilliant university response.” And that seems to check out! You’re much more free to pursue your analysis and depth and innovative ways of thinking at uni, provided they are backed up. Es in high school are manageable if you follow procedure, but university isn’t about that so much. However, as Jordan said, the people who really know their stuff are the ones who do well. If you get Es in high school, you’re in a good place to do similarly at university (anywhere in the A range is amazing, considering an 85 – the marker for an A at UoA – is considered an A+ at other universities in the country) – provided you don’t get locked in procedural practice. Don’t be mechanical! Come up with your own spin on things, if you’re doing a paper that allows you to do so! And back yourself – put in the work and you should get results. Xx
If you don’t mind, I saw this blog and thought I might try my hand at answering your question… bearing in mind if you were thinking specifically of Law 121(G) I haven’t taken that paper.
Some courses are definitely easier than others but often this is an individual thing. But even easy papers can require a lot of work. There was one course I took last year which I think was particularly easy, but at the same time was very easy to end up writing a lot for (n.b. university word counts are easier to exceed than not meet… this course didn’t have any). Similarly, one of the hardest essays I ever wrote was for a stage I paper. Bearing in mind that people with negative experiences are more likely to write reviews, check out student course review to see (hopefully) a range of individual impressions.
The thing with comparing A+’s and E’s is that in NCEA each individual standard is a single thing (independent/an island/a silo/choose your metaphor), whereas at university all the pieces of coursework add up to one single mark. This means that while getting an A in one essay is fairly comparable to an E, to get an A or an A+ for the course as a whole is more like the feeling of getting five or six standards to E and the rest to M. It’s achieveable but it requires 12 weeks worth of work (give or take some plussage).
The bright side to this is that if you do better than 90% in each individual piece of coursework, you don’t need to get 90% on the exam. On the other hand, if you do worse than 90% across the coursework, you need to do better than 90% in the exam. How much better or worse you can do depends on the weighting of the exam and any plussage requirements.
Upshot… the best advice I think anyone can give is the oh so cliched “shoot for the moon, because even if you miss you’ll land among the stars”. Oh, and try some Scholarship papers to get used to drawing in stuff from all of your standards rather than just studying for the three externals.