Published on September 10, 2019 by Lauren Wade

Serena Chang is a future trainee at Freshfields and in part two of her GDL survival guide, she discusses her experience with the BPP GDL assessments and her suggestions for preparation before the course starts.

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Getting GDL ready – before you start

Registration for the full-time GDL is at the end of September, which means there is some time to get yourself on the front foot after your summer holiday. On Registration Day, you will receive your timetable and meet the staff and other students.

It’s worth familiarising yourself with your schedule and any key dates right at the beginning. And of course, do also note down the contact details for your tutors and start a Whatsapp group with your course mates!

BPP doesn’t send too much information until a few weeks before the course, but when they do, they will give you access to the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and send a nice healthy portion of pre-reading materials.

This is compulsory, and consists of online lecture recordings, PDF files of notes and handouts, and some self-assessment questions. BPP will upload material in this same way throughout the course, so it is useful to be able to begin to navigate your way around the VLE early on.

In the preparation materials, there are four topics; the English Legal System, Statutory Interpretation and Analysis, Case Analysis and Study Skills. This content will still be assessed in part of the extra exams at other points of the course.

I found it most helpful to focus on answering the questions and self-assessments. This is for two reasons:

  1. You will go through these in your classes at the beginning of the term
  2. It gives good structure and focus to your notes that will eventually be useful for revision

Finally, as the preparation materials do not actually cover any of the substantive modules, it is quite useful to stay disciplined with how much time you spend on it.

Make sure you feel fully prepared for the sessions and try to understand the basic concepts. If you are unable to dedicate a bit of time to getting ahead on the core modules, it will be extremely useful later.

Summary of survival tips for before the GDL begins:

  1. Keep an eye on your timetable right from the beginning
  2. Take a bit of time to learn how to navigate the VLE
  3. Go through the materials to the extent that you feel prepared to discuss what you have learned in a class setting
  4. Try to get ahead when and wherever possible

The extra bits of the GDL

As well as the core modules, there are four other assessments which you will need to get through during the GDL.

These are: European Union Law, the Independent Research Essay, the Case Analysis test (“CAT”) and the Statutory Analysis test (“SAT”).

European Union Law

The European Union Law assessment is in January of the September-start full-time course. It is multiple choice and taught throughout the first term with the other substantive modules.

Top tips for EU law:

  • Don’t underestimate multiple choice – it still needs practice and can be quite tricky!
  • Extract key information – EU legislation and case law can be wordy, but often the main points can be summarised in a sentence or so;
  • Make mnemonics because sometimes case names can be hard to remember!
  • Understand the basics. If you are unsure, maybe look for explanatory videos online.

Independent Research Essay

The Independent Research Essay (IRE) is 4,000 words maximum and is handed in around Easter time. There is a list of questions from which you can pick the one to answer, or you can make up your own questions if you submit a request early enough in advance,

Top tips for the GDL IRE:

  • Plan your essay as much as possible
  • Structure is key, and there are plenty of resources on the VLE which give guidance;
  • Think about how you would explain the issue to your friends and family. This will be useful when you write the essay, as you want to use succinct and engaging language.


You might have noticed these are first introduced right at the beginning of the course in the preparatory materials, though they are not examined until the very end of the GDL, after the substantive modules.

Top tips for the CAT and SAT:

  • Watch all of the videos on the VLE
  • Make the most of the fact that they are open book! Know how to highlight your statute. Put post-it notes throughout your case, so that you can find the quotes you need easily
  • Explain the key issues of the case/statute to a friend to make sure you’ve got the basic understanding of what they are about.


I hope you have found this guide useful. Don’t forget to check out part one of my GDL survival guide (if you haven’t already) for my tips and tricks to deal with the main substantive modules and exam technique.

Words: Serena Chang

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