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Nottingham Law School defends decision to keep closed-book LPC exams during lockdown

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Response comes amid calls from students to make assessments open-book

Nottingham Law School of Nottingham Trent University (NLS) has defended its decision to keep Legal Practice Course (LPC) exams during the lockdown period ‘closed-book’, after students petitioned the school to allow them to take resources into assessments with them “to reduce the detrimental effect of learning during a pandemic”.

“The NLS LPC assessments, in requiring ‘closed-book’ examinations in most modules, are consistent with the basis upon which the School’s course is validated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority,” a spokesperson for NLS said, adding:

“As such, careful, considered and appropriate thought has been given to what is required of students, to ensure that the assessment task appropriately aligns to whether they are ‘open’ or ‘closed book’. All of the School’s assessments have undergone rigorous internal and external scrutiny with full consideration given to the wider assessment arrangements.”

NLS appears to take a different approach to other major legal education providers; BPP University Law School, The University of Law and City Law School conduct mostly open-book LPC exams, even in pre-COVID times.

The solicitors’ regulator doesn’t stipulate either way in terms of whether LPC exams should be open or closed book, provided certain regulatory standards are met, and this continues to apply in the context of the current pandemic.

The 2021 Legal Cheek LPC Most List

LPC students at NLS this week called on the law school to make assessments open-book. The change.org petition has so far generated 456 signatures at the time of publication.

“It must be recognised that studying for a university course is not done in isolation from the outside world,” it begins. “A global pandemic disrupts learning; therefore, factors must be implemented to reduce the detrimental effects of the disruption.”

NLS said in response it has ‘no detriment’ measures in place to ensure “the exceptional circumstances presented by the pandemic do not adversely affect the assessment of its students”.

Legal Cheek reached out to NLS LPC student Kaitlin Vardarcik who started the petition. She told us it’s unfair that they’re having to complete the same qualification as students at other institutions under more difficult circumstances. “The LPC assessments are not and shouldn’t be a memory test, particularly in the current circumstances,” she said.

Vardarcik plans to push forward with her petition and submit it to NLS LPC course leaders ahead of this month’s assessments. “I hope they listen to us. Our emails haven’t received a great response so I hope if we come together as a cohort we might have more of a voice.”

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23 Comments

Anonymous

Good. There is no reason to water down standards in the face of spineless opportunism. Are books and materials harder to read in a pandemic? No they are not, in fact students will have more time in to study, even if they seem to be spending most of their timing putting together pathetic petitions.

(118)(292)

William A

This is a classic example of “we may be in the same sea, facing the same storm, but not in the same boat, some are in a cruise ship, others a yatch, others a canoe, and some drowning”.

You are belittling the majority of students rightfully complaining about having to do the LPC online with little support, tech issues in exams, feeling isolated, burnt out, probably facing mental health challenges, maybe even quite ill from covid and struggling to recover, lost a loved one, struggling to pay the fees and not getting what they paid for, and many other issues one would deal with in a once in a lifetime pandemic.

You have a tainted sense of reality with your rose tinted glasses on. You feel so uppity sitting on your high horse looking down on the rest of us because you have no idea what real life is for most students. Acknowledge your privilege and get a heart.

(170)(44)

Anonymous

Quit the self-pity excuse party. Unless someone has been ill for a prolonged period, which will be at most a handful and they will get ordinary dispensations for that, the rest of your whine is irrelevant. Never has it been easier to do this sort of course remotely. The profession needs people with grit and a mindset that can easily deal with the current situation.

Sam

Seems you’re overlooking the fact that other Unis offer the same course work on an open-book examination basis. Open-book exams simply alleviate the need to memorize an obscene amount of information that people within the profession are not required to memorise in their day-to-day job. The importance doesn’t lie in their memory retention skills, but in their ability to apply information effectively and accurately, the same skills needed to be a solicitor.

Alex

It’s the same old people commenting on these articles. Negative drivel from “anonymous”, what a surprise!

In practise, will you be given a task with no access to notes, computers and other staff? No, so why should that be the case for LPC exams. It is merely testing you on a skill that does not resemble the role that a trainee solicitor would have.

The sooner that legal cheek makes these comments show peoples names, the better. Get rid of the sad bitter know it all’s who are plaguing the comment section with their entitled rubbish.

Anonymous

Alex, in practice, (note the spelling it will help should you ever practise), the last thing anyone wants to see is someone turning up on day 1 clutching their entire range of LPC textbooks. Always a warning sign.

But more importantly the whole point of the market for legal education being created was to grant people choice and these candidates chose a course known to be somewhat more exacting in its expectations than other. If the students at Nottingham wanted the easy option they should have gone elsewhere. It is like students at Oxford arguing that their essays etc should be taken into account and all the exams should not take place over two weeks. And calling views of those that disagree with you “entitled rubbish” is just pathetic, cancel culturitis.

Realist

We don’t care. The profession is hard. You’re in competition with everyone else.

if you can’t hack it, give up and then stack shelves in a supermarket.

Pardna

Exactly. Employers want to see someone who had a firm attitude to this year’s events. If someone was too ill to work for months on end that is different but for everyone else, which will be 95 per cent plus of candidates, moping and begging for special treatment is awful to see. Worse still are those that bleat about fees and go into full Karen mode.

Anonymous

You’re probably one of those students who pays for those overpriced pre-written distinction graded ready made LPC notes and guides and then complains about other students asking for ‘handouts’.

Its ironic because I have noticed that the LPC students who are privileged and wealthy all seem to have bought those pre-written notes and guides and then they are the same people who look down on others for asking the LPC providers for a bit of support and adjustment during a difficult time.

GP

omgggg there is this one stuck up girl in my LPC class who won’t shut up about the LPC notes she bought. She managed to buy her way to a distinction using pre-written distinction graded notes on her GDL last year. Eat the rich

Anon

The notes you are talking about cost £45. You hardly need to be rich. Especially when you are using them on a course like the Ulaw LPC which costs £17k

Anon

And especially when the course is so easy as it is.

Asking for a friend

Anyone know the link for these notes so I can make sure I don’t accidentally go to the site by mistake.

Anonymous

If you really believe this then reveal your true identity! Take accountability for what you’ve said!

Anonymous

Nice to see a spineless comment from someone not even brave enough to comment their name. Would you like to be studying for 40+ hours a week, managing to maintain a part time job, look after your own mental health and a child in some cases for students on this course, and still be able to maintain high standard of work?

Anonymous

40 hours a week? And? That’s no big deal. They always have to refer to their precious mental health, these snowflakes, like that takes up a lot of time.

Fair is fair

Great argument. Also universities should raise their requirements for people from Yemen, Libya etc because due to wars they stay longer at home so it should be expected they achieve better. They are privileged, as they can use their eyes all day at home plus there is no motivation to go out (bonus privilege).

You sir were born to be a litigator! Lord Reed will cry tears of joy once you enter the SC.

Anonymous

Come back to us after you have finished your A levels. Are the school third string debate team practices still on Zoom?

It's debatable

Yes. Maybe you should join them and come back with something better

LLB'er

Try and have some compassion. I was quite indifferent to all these calls for mitigation due to the pandemic, having received some of the best grades of my LLB during lockdown. That all changed this week when I lost somebody very close to me. Thankfully my uni has been kind enough to allow me an extension on one item of coursework and a deferral on another – but I’ll bet there are students out there in the same position not getting such mitigation.

I pray that very few people have to feel the heartache I feel right now, but if the statistics are anything to go by, that probably isn’t the case at the moment.

Besides, did you read the petition? Or just see the article headline and post a comment? The students are asking for their course to be brought in-line with most of the other LPC exams in the country, not some kind of ‘free pass’ on the exam.

I don’t doubt that there are students milking the circumstances for all they can, in fact, I know a few myself. That doesn’t mean, though, that there aren’t a great many people falling on hard times right now. If law schools have the means to prevent an otherwise highly successful future lawyer having their career stripped from them before it’s even started, then why not help?

PominOz

Condolences on your loss. Your situation will certainly be shared by some and possibly even by some students at NLS. However, I am positive that 99.9% of students who find themselves in a similarly unfortunate and sad position as yourself, will be entitled to some form of mitigation when it comes to exam results this year (provided that they speak up).

With regards to your second point, regarding the petition and the students request to bring the course “in line” with other course providers by reducing the amount of closed-book exams, whilst I do sympathise with them a little, it does scream a bit like a bunch snowflakes seeking to get a hall pass on their course as a consequence of COVID.

I am sure that NLS will include a COVID factor when marking the papers this year – it would be a suicidal business decision not to, as having the majority of the class scrape a pass or god forbid fail (on what is traditionally a fairly easy course to ace) will do nothing more than damage its reputation as place to study the LPC for next cohort and beyond.

Reuben

I never understood closed book. For the majority of practice areas you will learn parts of your niche area of law by doing very specific things multiple times. Even then, that is just building knowledge which will give you the context to allow you to know what to advise. The majority of things you are specifically asked you won’t necessarily know on the spot – that is probably why you are being asked to advise in the first place! I don’t see how learning by memory specific cases and statute is helpful or relevant to the majority of practice.

Anonymous

Closed book is much better at sorting out the wheat from the chaff. As is a close series of final exams compared to ongoing assessments.

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