Now it’s September, I’m sure there are many students waiting to start the GDL and wondering how intense the course actually is. I remember that before I started, I heard several opinions of the course. One trainee at a law firm told me, “It will be the worse year of your life”. Others simply told me, “You’ve already done an undergraduate degree, you’ll be fine”. Whilst everybody inevitably has different experiences of the GDL, in this post, I’ll summarise the workload in the GDL which will hopefully provide you with an indication of what to expect.
At BPP, everybody on the full time course has one study day per week (Either Monday or Friday). This is the one day that you are guaranteed not to have any lectures or tutorials (This doesn’t always apply in the first 2 weeks). So this leaves four weekdays for the rest of the course content. On two of these days you will have lectures and consolidations. The other two days will be occupied by tutorials. The timetable is generally arranged so that the tutorials will cover content in the lecture from the previous week. This gives you a week to prepare for each tutorial.
The first week of the course often consists of introductory lectures which simply give you a background to the module. The substantive EU lectures started on week one since it is a module which is assessed at the beginning of the second term.
The course modules in the GDL are as follows:
- Constitutional & Administrative law
- Contract Law
- Criminal Law
- Equity & Trusts
- EU Law (smaller module)
- Land Law
- Tort Law
NB: Once you take the EU multiple choice exam at the beginning of the second term, your timetable becomes more free since you’ll have one less tutorial and lecture each week.
Lectures (7 hours/week)
Each week you will have seven, 1-hour lectures (one lecture for each module). The slides will be posted onto the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for you to download beforehand if you need. Lectures contain the bare bones of the module’s content and should give you a basic understanding of the core concepts.
Many students chose not to attend live lectures since they are available as video recordings on the VLE. If you’re commuting from a distance, this might be a good option for you. You’ll also have the added benefit of going at your own pace through the recording as well as having the option of watching the lecture at whichever time suits you. Make sure you don’t spend too much time pausing and rewinding lectures, because this can become a very inefficient use of your time!
During my GDL, I watched most of the lectures online. It meant that I wasn’t distracted too much by the loud tapping of lots of people typing in the lecture theatre. Additionally, I was able to watch at whichever time of day suited me. Because the lectures are not always particularly content heavy, I would recommend supplementing your learning by reading the study notes. For me, most of my time was spent reading through the study notes and making my own notes which consolidated information from the lectures and study notes.
Be aware that your lecture order might not always follow the order of your tutorials. (i.e. Your contract lecture might be the first lecture in the week, but the actual tutorial on that lecture might be the last tutorial of the following week). Because of this, I watched lectures in the order that the tutorials were coming up. This was helpful because it gave me the maximum time period to prepare for each tutorial.
Tutorials (7 hours/week + approx. 7 to 21 hours preparation time/week)
The GDL tutorials are opportunities for you to apply the content of the previous week’s lectures to exam-style problems. They are based heavily on the style of questions that you will encounter in an exam. As a result, I would recommend that you prepare well for tutorials. Most tutors will simply work their way through the tutorial questions, asking for contributions from the group as to how you would answer the question.
In terms of preparation, we were told at the beginning of the course that we were expected to prepare 3 hours for each tutorial subject. I would hesitate to spend so much time on a single tutorial especially since the actual tutorial will only be one hour each. Personally I tried to keep most of my preparations under 2 hours per tutorial. However, if it is a topic which you are finding particularly tricky to get your head round, it may be a good idea to spend a little extra time on it, so that you are comfortable with the concepts.
At the end of the day be aware that when it does come to the exams, you can be selective in which topics to revise. Most exams have optional questions which means you won’t be examined everything that you encounter over the year.
For more tips on how to tackle the tutorials check out our last blog post.
Consolidation sessions (Optional 7 hours/week)
Consolidation sessions are optional sessions which follow a similar structure to a tutorial. However, they are held in a much larger group in the lecture theatre. At the start of the year, they merely repeat the tutorials for those who were not able to attend. However, later on in the course, they cover exam questions.
Consolidations may be particularly helpful if you don’t understand a particular topic or if you’ve decided which exam questions to attempt, and want to get more practice. Personally, I didn’t go to many consolidation sessions. However, many people who did go to the consolidations did find them very helpful, especially to clarify points which they didn’t understand from previous tutorials.
Whilst not all the consolidation sessions are recorded, by the revision period, most topics had a recording of a consolidation session on the VLE. I found this very helpful when revising. I made sure to attempt the consolidation question prior to watching it. It was then very helpful to listen to a tutor’s ideas on a suggested ‘answer’.
To summarise, the GDL for me wasn’t exactly a ‘walk in the park’, but more like an endurance run. You need to use your time well and keep at it each week so that you don’t fall behind. Conceptually, most of the topics are not too difficult, so just be disciplined, put the work in and keep your eye on the goal.