"That's a good case, I'll add it in when I get back from the cinema."

Law students studying for the Graduate Diploma in Law this year will enjoy far longer to take their exams than any previous cohort, thanks to Covid.

The GDL typically involves students sitting a series of two and three hour exams in timed, invigilated conditions.

However, with Omicron rampant, numerous universities have opted to let their students access their first semester assessments remotely, and have given them 24 hours to complete each essay paper.

At London South Bank University, the multiple choice element will remain timed, said a source, but the essay component will be split out and students will have 24 hours to submit each paper.

Liverpool John Moores is releasing its online exams at 9.30am on the day of the assessment, with students similarly receiving "24 hours in which to submit their answers", said a spokesperson.

A GDL student happy to forego the intense GDL timetable of a pair of three hour exams every other day told RollOnFriday, "I can only imagine that the quality threshold is raised because there's less excuse for writing gibberish".

City Law School said it was also opting for 24 hour "take home" exams, while Northumbria University confirmed that it was adopting 24 hour online exams as well.

Two of Northumbria's seven exams will have a 3,000 word limit and the other five will have a 4,500 word limit, reflecting the fact that in "normal" times its students would have been given two hours to complete the former, and three hours to complete the latter, said a spokesperson.

The continuing pandemic has forced legal education providers to find a compromise for assessments that doesn't endanger students but which also doesn't result in the piss-soaked debacle of last year's attempt to enforce exam conditions from afar.

With no compulsory standard approach, universities have hit upon a mixture of solutions which means that although many GDL students will enjoy a more relaxed regimen than their forebears, some students may get a harder ride than others.

Despite providing a 24 hour window in which to take exams, a spokesperson for the University of East Anglia said that the "recommended duration of the exams (i.e. the time that students are expected to work on their exam) will be two hours". However, as the UEA wasn't intending to actually enforce its suggested time limit, its students still look set for a civilised and restful experience.

A spokesperson for Oxford Brookes said that "some of our assessments for GDL students involve online exams with a 24 hour submission window", but referred RollOnFriday to its exam guidance which stated that "online exams will be time-constrained", suggesting that its students may have a smaller window in which to undertake the exams. 

The short straw goes to Nottingham Trent students, who don't sit their exams until May, months after many of their peers have had a whole day to pontificate, research and fashion the ultimate response to each essay question. As such, "we don’t currently have any plans to change the mode of examination", said a Nottingham Trent spokesperson.

BPP declined to reveal what it had in store for its students, and the University of Law was unable to provide an answer within RollOnFriday's 24 hour window. 

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Octonaut Brian 07 January 22 09:36

Jammy dodgers. That week of 2 three hour exams every other day was the worst of my life. Shattering. Far harder than my degree exams.

Pilar 07 January 22 09:38

On balance, I'd rather not. They had to spend the last two years locked in a room, whereas we all got smashed every other day and went to discos.  

Bernard George 07 January 22 09:59

Cheating will surely be universal. Mates will submit answers almost identical to each other. This is what used to happen on the LPC, when the Law Society demanded "in course assessments" and everyone worked as a team on them.

Teamwork is a good thing normally, but in this context it simply allows the dim and idle to pass exams without bothering to learn.

Anonymous 07 January 22 10:14

Reminds me of finals where I had to do multiple exams spread over a week or so.  Think it was something silly like 14 or 15 assessments over 3 weeks under timed conditions ranging from minutes to 3 hours. 

Thank goodness those days are over. 

24 hours is more reflective of work, but on the proviso the marking scheme is rigorous.

Anon 07 January 22 10:28

ULaw is keeping the three hour exams though you get 15 min on top to download and upload answer booklets 

Tuka 07 January 22 10:53

Wow, yet more lowering of standards, given that this is happening across the universities, we're really going to notice the decline in quality when the cohorts of the last two years or so graduate

TopDaawg 07 January 22 11:16

There is a London South Bank Uni? Also, that uni does the GDL?


I have yet to see it on any of the TC apps I have reviewed but if I do, those apps will not be getting accepted...

Anonymous 07 January 22 11:20

Some pros and cons to both models, I think:

Apart from understanding the topics, timed conditions depend on powers of recall and memorisation - what is that really testing that prepares future lawyers for contemporary working conditions? 

The extended 'take-home' model still requires a thorough understanding of grounding principles, application of the law, coherent written expression and (presumably) a more thorough use of case law referencing and statute to support arguments. 

I appreciate those who had to do the grueling roundabout of invigilated exams will feel others should be put through the same but, as with many things that have evolved in the pandemic, perhaps this is an opportunity to interrogate what is actually being tested under timed conditions and whether those are short-term skills. In the same way that people who are comfortable in job interviews aren't necessarily the best candidates for the job - they might just be the people who have a better aptitude for the interview itself - does the timed environment actually provide the best environment to assess? 

Anonymous 07 January 22 11:30


There is a London South Bank Uni? Also, that uni does the GDL?

I have yet to see it on any of the TC apps I have reviewed but if I do, those apps will not be getting accepted...

I don't want to come off all Good Will Hunting here (apologies to younger readers for 90s film ref) but I know a few folk who went through the LSBU GDL programme - it's meant to be great and certainly less of a factory line than some of the bigger private providers. Given it is significantly cheaper and that firms/chambers are generally agnostic as to where you get your GDL from, you need to ask yourself why you wouldn't do it at LSBU...

stressed student 07 January 22 11:48

Worth noting though that part of the reason for this (at my uni at least) is travel restrictions. Normal 3-hour exams can unfairly detriment international students who are unable to travel to the UK and may have to sit an exam in the middle of the night. Examination requirements are generally confirmed at the beginning of the course so September 2021 - it makes sense for unis to play it safe when things can and do change so quickly.

Lydia 07 January 22 12:30

Last year 100% BPP's GDL was online due to the pandemic. The exams as far as I remember had to be taken within a much shorter time eg between 10 and 1pm or something of that kind although you could start at the start of the time slot or an hour after it got going or something like that.


Not relevant to this thread but the LPC in contrast(as it is SRA regulated to a greater extent)  last year and this has proctored examinations where you are observed on the webcam, have to scan the room, show ID, strict time scale etc,  have your photo taken, need to be silent and not leave the desk (for those choosing online rather than in person exams - next week's final core subject exams for BPP LPC give students a choice - in person in exam hall in Waterloo or at home observed/proctored).  The only reason I know all this was yesterday both twins were doing the one test you are allowed of the special software and system. It has already meant one needed to buy a later version of windows and web cam. I suppose doing it in the exam hall is a lot simpler.

There are pros and cons to each option - in person or proctored. I think University of Law this year for the LPC are 100% in person exams. BPP had permission from the SRA to continue both.


If you have a choice the problems with in person ones are obviously covid and not just the disease but the travel and train drivers being off sick and that kind of thing. However at least your internet won't go down and spoil the exam or your lap top crash or someone bursts into your room and the big issue with the online exams is scrolling between documents as you are not allowed to print out the exam paper or documents provided in the exam and it takes much longer to move up and down between question and materials on the one lap top or computer with one screen allowed in the exam than with pieces of paper in the in person exam. The reason the LPC exams next week are split into two one morning and one afternoon is to deal with the issue of toilet etc breaks which are not allowed - although I don't think they were surely allowed in in person LPC exams anyway... as they think people can manage 2 hours but not longer so students have ended up with the exams divided into two - I am not sure that is better as you have it all dragged out into 2 exams instead of one.

Anon 07 January 22 13:17

This sounds awful. Best thing about an exam is telling yourself that whatever happens at least it will be over in a few hours. Imagine second guessing yourself, constantly re-writing answers over a 24hr period (I would be a wreck). 

Anonymous 07 January 22 18:29

Also gives a fantastic opportunity for students to line up more intelligent people to complete the exams on their behalf during that 24 hour period. 

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