Pile of law textbooks

On the GDL and LPC, you will be given permitted materials which you can bring into the exams. An efficient tabbing and highlighting system can help you navigate the statute in an exam much more effectively.

Practitioner’s texts such as Butterworth’s Company Law Handbook can be difficult to navigate due to the thin pages and sheer size of the book. Tabbing relevant sections will cut down the time spent searching for a section and give you more time to answer the question.

This post is a guide to give you some ideas for your tabbing and highlighting strategy. However, these are just suggestions and you may find your own method which works for you. If that’s the case, that’s great! Feel free to even leave a comment so others can learn from you too!

Tabbing

Get yourself some coloured tabs

First off, I recommend that you go to Wilko or Amazon and get yourself a set of coloured index tabs. I find that the translucent plastic ones are better and more durable than paper ones. They don’t fold or crease as easily and you can re-use them multiple times.

Group topics together

Each module should be split into different topic areas. It’s likely that each question in the exam will be testing your knowledge of one of these topics.

Grouped tabbing system
Here, each topic is specified by a specific coloured tab. The orange tabs at the top of the page represent ‘setting up a company’. Note that this method has not incorporated any sequential tabbing system.

For example in Business Law and Practice (BLP) on the LPC, the topics can be broken down into:

  1. Setting up and financing a company
  2. Directors
  3. Shareholders
  4. Acquisitions
  5. Business Accounts and Tax
  6. Insolvency

Once you’ve split up a module into its topics, you can tab each topic in a different colour or in a section along the side of your books.

Tab in sequence (i.e. the sequence that you would need to answer a question)

On the GDL and LPC, you will need to jump around different sections of statute to answer certain questions. Often, there is a specific step-by-step way in which to approach your answer.

With these questions, you can tab the sections in order, running down the side of the page. It doesn’t matter whether the relevant section is on page 10 or page 500, as long as the next step is the next tab along the side.

Sequential tabbing system
Here, the orange tabs in the middle represent one topic. As you go down the side of the page, each tab represents the next step in answering a question.

Tabbing in sequence can also prevent you from skipping a step when answering a question. If your tabbing is rigorous, you can be confident that as long you have addressed each tab in sequence, you have approached the problem correctly.

Remember, you can also tab the top and bottom sides of your materials!

Whilst tabbing the right hand side of a book is the common thing to do, remember that you can make use of the top and bottom of your books! Tabbing on these sides can help you to find contents and interpretation pages quickly.

In Civil Litigation (LPC), I used the bottom side of my materials to get to the relevant rules on drafting the different statements of case. The top and bottom sides can also be useful for tabbing up pervasive topics in each module.

Highlighting

Get a set of highlighters

Obviously, this is the first step if you want to highlight your materials. I personally like using these BIC highlighter pens because they feel much nicer to use than the normal chunkier ones.

Whichever highlighter you use, it helps if the colours are not too intense that they prevent you from reading the actual text with ease. Some people have suggested to me these pastel coloured highlighters which are slightly easier on the eye.

Highlight definitions/interpretations

Certain questions will require you to analyse whether something falls under a certain definition. Many statutes will have a separate interpretation section which defines certain key terms.

I like to highlight terms which require a definition in a different colour. This reminds me to turn to the section which then defines the term.

Highlighted section of the Companies Act 2006

Highlight references to other sections

Some sections will also reference another section of the statute. It may therefore help to highlight these references in a different colour.

This will prevent you from forgetting to check a certain section when answering a question. This highlighting can be reinforced by tabbing the section as part of a sequential tabbing strategy.

Highlighted section 180 Companies Act 2006
The references to other relevant sections are in blue

Highlight the contents page

In each module, you won’t be required to know every single section of a piece of legislation. Therefore, you materials could contain several sections which you would not be expected to refer to in an exam.

You can highlight all the relevant sections in your contents pages to ensure that you limit your answers to these sections. Highlighting the contents is also useful if you ever forget your tabbing system or lose track of where to look to next. The headings and titles will also help you navigate your way around the statute.

Contents page of Butterworth's Company Law Handbook
Here, I have highlighted relevant chapters/sections in yellow. The orange highlighting tells me which sections contain definitions of certain terms

Highlight conditions/exceptions

Sometimes, a section only applies if certain conditions are met. I like to highlight each individual condition in green. This reminds me to go through each condition before applying the law to the scenario.

Highlighting conditions in green
The green highlighting reminds me what must be considered when applying a section.

On the flipside, I like to highlight exceptions and conditions where a section does not apply in pink.

Highlighted section 254 Companies Act 2006
Here, I’ve highlighted ‘does not apply‘ in pink to remind me of an exception

Make use of other forms of highlighting

Depending on your provider, you may be allowed to make vertical lines in the margin as well as underlining and circling. Use these different highlighting methods to your advantage.

For example, the requirement of an ordinary resolution (OR) and special resolution (SR) may be in a large body of text. This can be difficult to find, especially under the time pressure. Instead, you could use a vertical highlight in the margin to signify the requirement of an OR. Then, you could use a different colour where a section requires a SR. This way, you don’t even need to read through the text to see whether a certain type of resolution is needed.

Good luck!

Highlighters and coloured tabs
My trusty highlighters and Wilko coloured tabs

The ideas in this post are suggestions for you to try, not rules which you must follow. Feel free to adapt and change throughout the year to find a method which suits you. However, once it comes to exam period, make sure you are consistent with your highlighting and tabbing strategy. Let us know in the comments if you have any tips of your own!


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