Perhaps the least discussed or emphasized aspect of writing an open book exam, is on what you actually take into the open book exam. In an open book exam, you are evaluated on understanding rather than recall and memorization.
Do not underestimate the preparation needed for this, as recall is most effective with the right resources.
Often times people conflate the resources here at BattLaw Resources, with typical notes one would use to learn material. In the same way a carpenter may use a hammer and a screwdriver, resources for exams and notes for learning play their own unique roles in your preparation. Let me explain:
The purpose of notes is to help you synthesize and summarize the information. Instead of reading through books and other primary sources, notes are used to free up your time that is spent disseminating information.
Notes are especially useful for difficult or complex concepts or subject areas - by breaking down the amount of legal jargon into simpler ideas, notes aid with a general understanding and overview.
Understanding substantive information can be achieved with notes - this shouldn't be the expectations with exam day resources.
Exam Day Resources
While notes are beneficial for studying, resources may be used as touch points, or references for exam day.
Your goal while writing an exam, is not to refer to resources for understanding - instead you should endeavour to references items with convenience, ease and familiarity. Exam day resources save much needed time in answering questions, for that reason. With limited time proper organization of material is necessary to quickly find quotes, examples, and/or arguments to use in your answers.The reason why resources differ from notes is because the structures of both are not similar in this regard.
When contemplating the resources you wish to have in exams, you may choose to organize them in a way that follows a methodological approach to answering questions. Notes do not set you up for this in a way you may find most helpful. For example, being able to quickly compare and contrast case law is a helpful way to organize information to take into an exam; it will ultimately aid your analysis of questions and save time locating it in typical notes.
Many people go into exams understanding the law because of their notes, but find the task of answering questions onerous because they lack direction and focus in their exam day objectives. I try to illustrate the significance of resources in your preparation here.
The novel idea here at BattLaw Resources, is to prepare highly thoughtful materials and resources you to take into the exam room. Avoiding an overload of materials and only taking the most essential pieces of information, is our message when approaching an open book exam like the NCA's.
We hope you are able to carefully select your materials and resources and organise them for quick reference. We try to take some of the work out of preparing these materials for you, since we know how time consuming it can be.
Resource are just another tool, albeit one of the most important elements you should be considering throughout your preparation.