Law is the hardest degree to get a first in

You’re twice as likely to get top marks if you study medicine

It is more difficult to get a first class degree in law than it is in any other subject, including medicine.

In 2015/16, just under 14% of law students graduated with first class degrees. This is ten percentage points lower than the average across all ‘non-clinical subject areas’ (24%).

By comparison, 28% of students graduating in ‘subjects allied to medicine’ got a first. For engineering and technology the figure is 33%, as it is too for computer science. More essay-based subjects such as social studies, and historical and philosophical studies boasted scores of 20% and 21% respectively. Mathematical sciences topped the table with 37% graduating with a first.

That said, law examiners seem to be more generous on the 2:1 front. Fifty-eight percent graduate with an upper second degree, which is notably higher than the average figure of 50%. This means that, overall, 72% of lawyers graduate with either a first or an upper second class degree, which is just below the 73% average. Many law firms specify training contract candidates must have a minimum of a 2:1 degree.

Percentage of first class degrees awarded in 2015/16

Released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the data also shows law students are more likely to be female and are among the most ethnically diverse in the country.

On the gender diversity front, the new research shows 62% of law students are women. While a number of subjects were notably male dominated (only 17% of computer science and 17% of engineering and technology were female), on average females made up 56.5% of students.

HESA’s new research — which focuses on student populations in 2015/2016 — also show that 66% of law students are white. This means 34% are from black or minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds. Like the gender diversity stats, this figure is one of the highest among degree disciplines. To compare, only 11% of historical and philosophical studies students are BME. The average figure is 22%.

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49 Comments

Anonymous

You’ll also find that far more men achieve firsts in law at Oxbridge than women.

(14)(16)
oxal

This is true (particularly at Oxford) and has been a source of real unease amongst members of the law faculty. Women outnumber men significantly on the Jurisprudence course but in some years men receive double the number of firsts.

(14)(0)
Anonymous

It’s because the IQ of men is more extreme – they disproportionately represent the cleverest and the stupidest among the population, as shown by numerous studies.

This the brightest of the bright – Firsts in law at Oxbridge, are mostly men.

(20)(2)
Anonymous

There are also studies to suggest that men are far more likely to be risk takers in preparation for and during timed assessments, while women are likely to play it safe – meaning men are more likely to be at the end of the performance scale, while women tend to be more in the middle.

(8)(0)
Anonymous

men do represent the two extremes, the stupid people who vote for Trump and the very clever people who exploit them for instance.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

If it had been 62% men, I suspect KK would have put the “Gender diversity CRISIS in law” as the headline

(17)(2)
Second Six Star called Bob

Or perhaps letting dim people study it means collectively there is a lower chance of firsts.

Let’s be honest – you’re not going to get med students getting in at Universities easily if they don’t make the grade.

(36)(0)
Anonymous

This true. The table doesn’t show how difficult it is to get onto one of these courses in the first place. Medicine = very hard. Law = quite hard at a proper uni; fairly easy at a bog-standard ex-poly; cake-walk at a private uni.

(6)(0)
Tokey

Bullshite, my LLB from BPP law school is a top degree, I’m now training at a top100 law firm!

(1)(2)
Anonymous

I know for a fact that BPP LLB grads are training/have trained at Slaughters, Linklaters and Herbert Smith Freehills, likely more than you’ve achieved I that front.

(2)(3)
Anonymous

Training to wash dishes in the staff restaurant doesn’t count you know.

(1)(1)
Anonymous

Science subjects tend to be far less subjective than Social Sciences, which is one key reason why it is “easier” to get a higher grade.

(13)(2)
Anonymous

I think the main reason actually follows on from your point – those subjects that were subjective had an artificial cap on the highest grade that you could achieve, whereas the sciences did not. For example, on my Ancient History course the language modules were capped at approximately 80%, even if you achieved 100% on the paper. This was to account for the fact that you could not realistically get above 80%(ish) on essay-focused modules, and to avoid massive discrepancies between those students that took language modules and those that didn’t. By contrast, my friends who studied physics would quite frequently knock out 100% on some of their modules, but the results were never capped.

The consequence is that you have to maintain a mark of around 70% in all your exams to stand a chance of getting a first in subjective subjects, but have a bit more wiggle room in the sciences.

This doesn’t mean that the subject matter is easier, of course. Just that it is easier to get a first.

(5)(0)
Anonymous

Having studied science and law, I totally agree that science marking is objective given correct answers are objective. If a law tutor hates a student, the student is in deep trouble in getting good marks. Law is about equality at least in law school – don’t even think about it.

(1)(0)
Anonymous

These statistics are deeply troubling. Men are plainly underrepresented, since they constitute 50% of the population yet only 38% of law students.

Similarly, white people constitute 87% of the population (2011 census) yet only 66% of law students.

I look forward to seeing Katie King’s analysis as to how we can increase the representation of these plainly underrepresented demographics in our university law courses.

(28)(15)
Anonymous

LOVE this!

SJW’s just got their own BS thrown back at them.

Using statistics they can’t refute or argue with.

And they can’t handle it!

(7)(9)
Anonymous

It’s not all bad news. Even if a law degree is the hardest, it’s followed by the LPC which is the easiest, most pointless crock of sh*t academic course ever designed.

(11)(2)
Anonymous

I did my LPC part-time whilst working I raised points throughout the course and eventually got tired of tutors saying this isn’t what you would actually do in practice, but it is how we have to assess you.

Safe to say I lost interest in that course pretty quickly, walked away with a commendation but was just happy to get it out the way.

(8)(2)
Anonymous

“You’re twice as likely to get top marks if you study medicine” is misleading!
In the stats provided, subjects allied to medicine, instead of medicine itself, has 27.6% 1st class degrees. It probably includes courses like biomedical sciences, physiotherapy, nursing etc.
PS: There’s no 1st class degree in medicine. Some schools do have ‘pass with honours/merit’ though.

(18)(2)
Chegal Leek

Spot on. Subjects allied to medicine includes many subjects (including those you listed) but not actually medicine. It also doesn’t include subjects like Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine/Surgery etc.

(3)(0)
Anonymous

” law students are more likely to be female and are among the most ethnically diverse in the country”
lol whilst we look at law firms!

(5)(1)
Anonymous

Lowest percentage of firsts does not equal “hardest”.
Graduated in “subjects allied to medicine”. What?
This article is pointless and horribly flawed.

(3)(1)
Anonymous

Clearly university-level mathematics must be a piece of cake if, according to your infographic, over 37% students get a first.

Or maybe maths is only read by those who (1) actually have the requisite intellectual ability for it, and (2) those who actually are interested in it, as opposed to dreamers with false preconceptions about what they’re getting into and their future earning capacity. Law is, on both counts, at the exact opposite of the spectrum.

(11)(1)
Bumblebee

Indeed, unfortunately the data cited in the article doesn’t even come close to properly substantiating the opening sentence, “It is more difficult to get a first class degree in law than it is in any other subject, including medicine”.

(1)(0)
Anonymous

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(3)(6)
Anonymous

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(0)(1)
Tomsk

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(0)(0)
Shansi Womble

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(0)(0)
Anonymous

Few firsts are a good thing. The honours classifications are not very valuable in themselves if a large number of graduates with (sometimes vastly) differing abilities get them, as appears to be the case with a 2:1 in law (and any honours classification in other subjects).

Was it always this way or is it simply a matter of grade inflation?

(1)(1)
Anonymous

Upon graduation I noticed on the list that one student, surprisingly or unsurprisingly, obtained a first. She rarely participated in classroom discussion (unless being picked by tutors to answer questions, and only one tutor did it once) so no classmates actually could observe / judge by themselves. When she answered the question, it seemed she studied, but lack of clarity. It seems every 2:1 could do it. Often distinction answers are very clear such that they would give a click in the brain or open the eyes for the read

(0)(0)
Officious Bystander

Surely shouldn’t the title say “Law is the hardest degree IN WHICH to get a first” ?

Didn’t stop the author from getting one though…

(1)(1)
Anonymous

University of London International LLB, 2016 results: first class: 0.48%, upper second: 10.25%. No grade inflation. How does Oxbridge compare to that?
Pretty tough to do well, but it is ‘only’ a distance learning degree, so many employers dismiss it….

(1)(2)
Officious Bystander

Ditto the OU degree, which requires (albeit with some margin of discretion) a minimum of 85% in at least half the year three subjects to obtain a first. For some reason people still regard the OU as a university for bored housewives and people serving at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

(1)(0)
LL and P

The majority of the people on the distance learning UoL LLB have no business doing a law degree. They are people all over the world who want to study for a prestigious degree and don’t have the means to travel. The one’s who do well get top jobs in London, some even make it as barristers. However the majority get a 2.2 and lower, so the degree is completely useless.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

Hmm – the odd valid fact there, but mostly garbage. ‘No business doing a law degree’ – how superior. I take it that you are also of the opinion that more generally, legal study should be the preserve of the privileged and that the ‘riffraff ‘ should be excluded.

Most of the first-class graduates are, pretty much every year, from Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries where it is hard to find the ‘ means to travel’. I have met many idiots with firsts from full-time courses – the only thing they have in abundance is arrogance, why is generally why I don’t employ them.

(0)(0)

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