You can improve your performance in the law and ethics test by reading this general feedback from the mock test. It will help you improve your technique, and save time.
If you missed the classes on how to do the test, then ask your friends about the signposting in the questions to help you find information.
At least one person looked at the wrong section of the book because they went via the index, rather than the detailed contents. In Part A, it’s possible the index will give you a clear, quick answer. But if there’s any doubt (for instance, a topic coming up in lots of places), then use the Detailed Contents at the front of the book. The questions are all set out under headings (eg Open Justice): these tell you which chapter to look in. Where possible, the opening words of the question will be the same or fairly similar to the blue heading for the section of the chapter that contains the answer (these blue headings also appear in the detailed contents – but not in blue!). Expect to use both the index and the contents; sometimes, you’ll need to skim through the actual chapter looking for smaller headings. The index can be quick; the chapter and the blue heading is the more reliable route to the answer we’re looking for.
If the question doesn’t hint at a blue heading, and the index doesn’t help, then read the chapter summary (one paragraph) and if need be skim the next few paragraphs. That would have given you the answer to Question 1 (no law on who can set up newspapers). It should be fairly easy to find the information: if I couldn’t find it again myself a few days after writing the question, I removed the question!
If you are asked why something is important, make sure you answer: one sentence explaining will get you a mark but probably not the maximum (in Part B)
Nearly everyone scored at least 75% in Part A. Some were close to 100%. If you got less, it’s probably about technique. Expect the actual test to be a little harder.
Show you understand: In the test proper, expect some quick-fire questions, and some further questions worth 2-4 marks each that require you to discover a fact but also demonstrate that you understand – through using your own words, or adding a sentence.
Quick-fire, or considered? The number of marks are a clue to how much is wanted. One mark: just enough words to give the answer. Three marks might reflect greater difficulty in finding the answer, but you probably need to write a sentence or two to show understanding.
Read the question – don’t answer what you haven’t been asked: Lots of people got marks for Question 7 (what can you say about witnesses in pre-trial hearings?) but wasted time and effort because they did not read the question fully: you were only asked about WITNESSES, but many of you listed all the things that can be said about the whole case. If it’s only a two-mark question, you’re probably not being asked for a mass of detail. We’ll try to make things clearer in the test proper.
Keep it brief – save time: People lost time writing very full sentences – for instance, repeating the question – when one or two words would do. For instance, don’t write, “There is no public interest exemption to allow a breach of the Code on accuracy because there is no public interest in inaccuracy”; write just: “No public interest in inaccuracy.”
Don’t write, “This is a key characteristic of press law, because there are no state controls on who can set up/own/run these”; just write: “No such law”. Or similar.
If you know it, fine… but are you taking a risk? There may be a small number of answers you just know: for instance, when a case becomes active. If you’re confident and it’s basic, go with your knowledge to save time. This won’t arise much. But it’s a risk: the book may actually say something unexpected, or you might misinterpret the question in your haste.
The question may tell you what you need to include: If there are specific guides in the wording of the question, make sure you’ve followed them. On the open justice question, you were asked why open justice is important. If you didn’t say why, you probably got a maximum 3/5. To get 5/5, you probably made it clear you understood: reporters are the eyes and ears of the public; it increases trust in the justice system; people are less likely to lie (two of those points would be enough). In other words, READ THE QUESTION; BE CLEAR WHAT IT IS ASKING. A tip: use a highlighter for the key words in the question, or underline them.
If you’re asked for specifics: If you were asked to cite specific cases or guidance (as in the open justice question) then you’ll only get a high mark if you do this. You don’t have to cite EVERY case. You don’t have to explain them in detail: just cite them. READ THE QUESTION: have you done all you’re being asked to do? You’re under time pressure but this is probably more worthwhile than moving on, because you’re already on the right page of the book.
No irrelevant waffle – give us relevant facts, discussion where asked, and understanding: Padding will not get you extra marks. We’re looking for valid points made, and in Part B especially, evidence of understanding, which might involve a little discussion. If there’s an important point we’re looking for, then you can’t get maximum marks if you don’t make that point for (eg, media stings are only justified if there’s no other way to verify the facts). But don’t write at length without saying relevant things.
Be clear: Ofcom, Editors’ Code, or both? Make it clear: If the question is related to print regulation, then bringing in the Ofcom Code would be unlikely to result in a higher mark. And vice-versa. Don’t waste time giving information you have not been asked for.
If the question asked you to consider both print and broadcast regulation, then you need to DEMONSTRATE that you have done so: don’t merely refer to ethics in general, but refer specifically to the Editors’ Code/Ipso, AND to the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. In other words, name them, and show us that you have done what the question asks: if you have considered both, but not told us, we may not work it out for ourselves, and so you’ll miss out on marks.
There is a scenario in the test proper. It is worth 40% of the mark. This is so you give adequate time to it: at least 35 minutes, a little more if you can. There’s more coming on this but in the meantime:
A tip: in the first part of the question you will be asked to list some laws that apply. This is to help you marshal your thoughts and set things out clearly (and maybe pick up quick marks). You don’t need the specific name (and year!) of the law: just a generic title will do, such as “Anonymity” or “Sex Offenders: anonymity”, or “Data protection” or “Human rights: Fair trial). Those were not the actual answers! If you think it’s not obvious a law applies, then add two or three words to justify inclusion. A list of media laws will appear on the front page of the test paper.
This year there is one law you could list that does not appear in the law book (maybe more? We don’t think so, but…); your general knowledge of recent major news should tell you what it deals with.
Mostly, you won’t specifically LOSE marks for saying things that are wrong, except through wasting time, or suggesting poor understanding.
You WILL LOSE marks if you suggest breaking a law that must not be broken: for instance, if your answer would mean committing clear contempt of court, or causing prejudice to a future trial, or revealing the identity of a sex offence victim. Be alert to these risks.
How we marked the papers:
Some papers were marked by Lara, some by Simon, and some by both. Where there was variation we went through the answers to arrive at consensus but have not managed to do this for every single paper; treat your mark as a good indication of likely performance, but be aware the actual test will not be structured in exactly the same way, and of course, the questions will be different: your score might go up or down . Marking will be rigorous.