The GDL, or the Graduate Diploma in Law, covers the seven core LLB law modules. The main difference between the law conversion course and the LLB is that with the GDL, you study these topics over ten months rather than three years. But just how hard is the GDL? This page will give you advice on GDL grades, and give you tips on getting a GDL distinction, information about GDL exams and more.

How Hard Is the GDL?

Essentially, you’ll be condensing three years worth of LLB course content into just ten months, so yes, the conversion course is likely to be difficult!

Passing it takes huge commitment and academic talent, so graduating with the qualification is a great achievement.


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What Is the GDL Pass Rate?

While the percentage needed to achieve specific GDL grades may vary between universities, the following generally applies:

If you score below 40% overall, this is a fail. The GDL pass rate is 40%.

A score of between 60-70% will earn you a commendation, and 70% and above will gain you that coveted distinction.

Please check with individual course providers, such as The University of Law, to be sure that you know exactly what to aim for.

Do GDL Grades Matter?

In short, yes. GDL grades are important, and many of the top UK law firms will seek a distinction from those applying for training contracts.

Getting a distinction is a sign that you’ve got the intellectual talent and work ethic required to succeed at a top law firm or chambers.

While getting a commendation doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll miss out on opportunities, it’s important to put in as much effort into your GDL result as possible to give yourself the best chance of getting a training contract.

Wondering how to get a distinction on the GDL? Read our tips below to help boost your GDL grades.

How to Get a GDL Distinction

Revise smart

Bear in mind that you don’t have to answer all of the questions that come up in the GDL exams. Choose the ones you are most confident about and for which you have put in the most revision.

If you’re aiming for a GDL distinction, read plenty of past papers. Choose five or six topics that have popped up regularly in the last six years’ worth of past papers and revise them into the ground.

Know the cases

It is so, so important to know every case mentioned in the lectures and revision notes you’ve been given on your chosen topic.

Make flashcards, write lists, sum every single case up in a 12-word sentence and memorise it. Do whatever works for you. You will need to put in the hours to get a GDL distinction.

GDL Exam Tips

Think about the GDL test questions

A common tactic when facing a GDL exam is to memorise six or seven essays word for word and tailor them to the question or slice and dice them for problem questions.

Making sure you tailor your essays to the GDL exam questions will take your answers to distinction level, so really read the questions properly and think about what they are actually asking you to do.

If you can take the cases bursting out of your brain along with the arguments you’ve so carefully memorised and corral them into a clear, interesting, concise argument, you’re home and dry.

Master problem questions and essays

In some of your GDL exams, you’ll have a choice between problem questions or essays. You’ll have a preference as to which is better for you and, in an ideal world, you’d never have to go near the other option.

However, if you follow the ‘revise smart’ tip above, you will most likely have to do a mixture of both. So practice both. Find a past problem question, do it in timed conditions, and then think about how an essay could have covered the same ground, write a plan and do the essay.

Show off your in-depth knowledge

Before your GDL exams, go through your lecture notes, your handouts and textbooks, and find four or five academic articles in the topics you’re working with.

Read the abstract (and maybe the introduction and conclusion) of each article. Then, write a two-sentence summary of the article’s main argument and a short direct quote.

If you can work that summary, the quote, and the academic author in your essays or problem question answers that instantly elevates you above the competition. You’ll look authoritative and enthusiastic about the law.

It will be a relief for your examiner, who may be facing the 126th script of her week on exactly the same Secret Trusts essay, to come across a student who has done further in-depth research, remembered it, and deftly deployed it to bolster her argument.

Helpful Textbooks and Resources

There are several excellent textbooks you can purchase to help you through your studies in addition to the compulsory books that your chosen law school requires you to read.

GDL & LLB: Cases and Materials on Lawn LawEmily Allen£8,99
Oxford Dictionary of LawJonathan Law£10,00
Public Law Concentrate: Law Revision and Study GuideColin Faragher£11,99
Law Express: Contract LawEmily Finch£11.99
Law Express: Tort LawEmily Finch£11.99
How to Write Law Essays & ExamsS I Strong£19,99
GDL & LLB Cases and Materials on Criminal LawDeborah Davies£5,00

In addition to GDL books, GDL Answered is a highly-recommended website helping non-law students with exam preparation.

Tips from Oliver Jackson

Learn more about the Graduate Diploma in Law:



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