Law student to be: What you need to know to ace the law school pre-entry exam

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Saturday 3rd October 2020 [ the scheduled date for the law school pre-entry exam at Makerere University] is a day many prospective law students are dreading. And why not? Out of about 2000 applicants for the LLB course pre-entry examination every year, roughly 300 make the cut. This equates to an admission rate of 15%, making the course one of the hardest to get into, at least mathematically.

However, contrary to what you may have heard, the law school pre-entry examination can be passed, and with flying colors too. The aforementioned statistics don’t tell the full story. Keeping in mind that there is no tried-and-tested method of passing the test, here are a few tips that may be useful to you as you go into the paper.

Go through the pre-entry past papers

The best way to prepare for this examination is to go through previous papers and doing a thorough job while at it. Answer as many questions as you can. I highly recommend the paper being done individually, as well as, in discussion groups. However, I do not recommend discussing the paper in groups of more than five, since your contribution may not be as effective as it would be in a small group.

Going through the past papers will help you settle your nerves (for the most part) and help you find your best method at navigating the questions. These will be critical to you when you are in the examination room.

 

Critical thinking and analytical skills

The first section on logic is probably one of the trickiest in the paper. It is imperative that you read the questions at least thrice before you pick an answer from the objectives. What makes this section quite difficult is that even the wrong answers can be arrived at logically and will be part of the objectives. This makes for some serious critical thinking.

One word could change the final answer. Most people usually discard the simplest answers for the more complex ones due to the length of the question. For example, if a man is walking to town, and sees three people, four monkeys and five giraffes, how many people are going to town? Some people will include the creatures he met on the way, and surely enough the “13” will be an answer in the objectives.

Others will be weary of the animals and after reading it twice, shall easily conclude that there are four people going to town. Once again, surely enough, the “4” shall be in the objectives. However, the question indicates that only one man is going to town and does not mention anything about the three men going to town with him.

Therefore, “1”, which would be the most overlooked answer because of its simplicity, is the answer. This section(s) is usually a test of your analytical skills and critical thinking. The answer is almost always in the question, but can you put these two skills to the test?

 

Tip: Take your time on the section on logic. Read the question at least thrice. Don’t get excited when you arrive at the final answer since all answers can be arrived at logically, but only one is correct. I would suggest that you give the section at least thirty minutes. Do not dismiss even the simplest and “most stupid” of answers.

 

Read up on your synonyms and collective nouns

Particular sections may require you to find synonyms and collective nouns for underlined words. These sections will greatly test your knowledge. The collective noun part, particularly, may not focus on the “traditional” ones such as a flock of sheep and a herd of cows, but rather on the rare collective nouns, like a parliament of owls.  Another tip is to find out collective nouns for the law profession, such as a bench of Judges and a Bar of lawyers.

Tip: The Students’ Companion is a great asset for anybody preparing for the law school pre-entry exam. You could also use online facilities to look them up. Try to read up on as many synonyms and collective nouns as possible.

Comprehension

Majority of the people who do the law school pre-entry examination plan on putting all their effort and hopes in the sections filled with passages based on their past experience in A’level Arts subjects, particularly Literature.

However, in my opinion, this section is the trickiest to navigate. It requires critical analysis and all four answers in the objectives can actually make sense in relation to the passage. Therefore, it is critical to read the passage twice and think critically before choosing your answer. If in doubt, choose the answer that you believe to be most correct.

Mathematics

The Mathematics section is widely considered to be the most difficult section in the paper. As such, people give up a little too quickly when the going gets tough. However, this section can ensure that you get over the line with ease. The ten questions have two marks each, so getting them correct grants you twenty marks, almost half of the fifty percent that usually gets people into law school.

To debunk another myth, you can get all ten correct. The Mathematics section is not rocket science. In fact, it is more akin to a Primary Seven mathematics contest paper than an A’ level Principal Mathematics paper. The answers can be arrived at logically and complex formulas usually aren’t needed. Try to use whichever method you think can get you to the answer. If necessary, draw tallies and/or add numbers basically. In the end, only the answer is needed.

Tip: Work on all the Mathematics numbers in the law school pre-entry past papers and ensure you get them correct. Cross-check with your discussion group on the answers.

General  Knowledge

This section is probably the most critical. It usually carries 25 marks, a quarter of the total score. Passing this section requires knowledge on current affairs, both local and international. It also requires knowledge on trivial geography, such as capital cities. To stand a good chance of passing the test, one has to aim at getting 20 out of 25, or 16 at the minimum.

Tip: Try to read newspapers dating back four months before the date of the law school pre-entry test. Try to read as many stories as possible on your news feed whenever you get the chance, preferably when you wake up and before you go to bed. You could also subscribe to as many news platforms as possible on your social media accounts so that you learn something or two while you scroll through your socials.

Focus on the major topics in the news currently, like the Uganda Law Society election, United States election and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) primaries and try to read up on them extensively. Read up on the law section as well, such as the Judges on the bench of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the Principal Judge and the Ugandan nominee to the International Criminal Court.

Try to find out the leaders of as many nations as possible, as well as their deputies. Read up on leaders of major world companies, as well as abbreviations and their full forms. Do not neglect sports news, a question or two could come from that area as well. While they may be extremely rare, a question may be set on the leadership of the Makerere Law Society and/or the Principal of the School of Law.

It is noteworthy that the list above is not exhaustive, but it gives you a clue on where questions in the general knowledge area come from. Remember to read the ESSAY. Like the general knowledge section, the essay requires knowledge on certain issues. Furthermore, the word limit (300 words) means that one has to present their arguments in a concise format such that they fit on one page but persuade the examiner to give them a great score out of ten.

Tip: Do not give too many points as that will naturally force you to give vague arguments. Try to limit yourself to three to five points. Outstanding essays are also backed up with authorities. These are examples from society that give credence to the argument you are making.

Lastly, do not fear taking up the “unconventional” side. You could support homosexuality and witchcraft with some very strong points, and that line of argument could easily get you 9/10. In the end, this section is about showing the examiner whether you have the nous to make coherent heavy-hitting arguments and whether you have the capability of making a great lawyer.

Conclusion

From a personal point of view, I know exactly how it feels to be preparing for this paper. There are a lot of nerves and it is literally impossible to be fully prepared. In fact, being half-prepared may be all the preparation you need. Just don’t go into the paper unprepared.

Adhere to the rules that have been set to avoid disqualification. This can end the journey before it has even started. Refrain from examination malpractice and post-paper discussions. On the latter, the popular opinion on a wrong answer could greatly diminish your confidence in the right one that you selected. Have confidence in your answers, and belief that you will get into law school.

The statistic that I started this piece with does not tell the full story. I prepared for the test, I did the test, and I got into law school to fulfill my life-long dream. So did a thousand others before me. If you have the desire and passion, you can too.


 

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