With the most important exam in the lives of young lawyers-to-be around the corner, Legally India have compiled advice from those who know how to get you there. Please send this to your younger friends and relatives and add your advice and thoughts to help them on their way to Common Law Admissions Test (CLAT) success.
"It's not a matter of life and death," says Law School Tutorials (LST) 2008 academic head Kunal Mehra. "Stay calm and believe in yourself; breathe."
That is probably far easier said than done when your adrenaline is on overdrive on your way to the CLAT exam room. So, heed the advice from those who know to help you get there.
"Before you even plan to take CLAT you must be fully and correctly informed or else you will end up being a sailor without a navigator," says the product manager of the IMS Learning Resources Law program Rajneesh Singh.
A good place to start is to look at previous years' entrance papers of different law schools as sometimes questions get repeated from old papers, advises Paradygm Law Tutors course director Anita T.
And ultimately make sure you keep the finish line in sight and tell yourself constantly that each and every hour of effort is going to be worth it, says current LST national anchor Karn Jani.
Read on and learn how to tackle each of the 2010 CLAT's sections, which is being conducted by NLIU Bhopal this year.
Legal Aptitude/ Legal Awareness (LA) - 45 marks
Since times immemorial LA has been every law aspirant's Achilles Heel. And that hasn't been helped by CLAT authorities dilly-dallying on whether to include legal reasoning questions or not.
The faculty members at Paradygm believe that legal reasoning will be a part of the LA section this time around.
LST programme director and LA faculty Saurav Datta is also "pretty sure" that CLAT 2010 will have a legal reasoning component. "CLAT authorities came in for a lot of flak for their excluding legal reasoning last year."
"Legal reasoning is about logic with law thrown in. You have a principle which is a premise and which you apply to a legal problem" he explains. "I see students form ideas about ethics and law when doing legal reasoning problems… It is a must have section." Datta also believes that introducing legal reasoning will bring down the cut off of grades.
He also supports the recent decision taken by CLAT authorities to consider marks obtained in LA as a tie-breaker. "We all know how various Indian boards differ in doling percentages," he says.
Singh of IMS has a caveat: "Now many students will give undue importance to legal reasoning questions - it is better to maximise the total score than trying to increase your LA scores."
The lengthy nature of the legal reasoning questions also lends weight to Singh's other argument: "Attempt easier questions which will fetch you marks quicker."
Prof. A Raman of the Sriram Law Academy believes that having the Indian Constitution at one's finger tips and thorough knowledge of general legal terms, maxims and theories will hold the candidate in good stead. "Basic legal components such as the law of torts and law of contracts should also be studied," he says.
Ramanuj Mukherjee who teaches LA at IMS and has founded an online forum called CLATHacker says: "The CLAT 2009 paper is publicly available. It is for anyone to see that the standard of the questions in LA is steadily rising."
"The popular books available in the market are now proving inadequate. Students must supplement this by reading basics on subjects like Jurisprudence, family law and CPC from the internet," he adds.
With around four weeks to go for CLAT he advises solving the past year papers to see what areas need special consideration.
General knowledge (GK) and current affairs - 50 marks
Datta has some useful insights to offer. "Concentrate on law, governance and polity issues. If it's a river dispute or even if you are reading on Mughal history, etc., these areas must be carefully perused."
Raman of Sriram Law Academy says: "One should build solid knowledge of static GK especially economics, history and geography."
Anita T. recommends to students that they go through year books like Competition Success Review, Manorama or the Pearsons Year Book to brush up their current affairs.
According to Jani reading newspapers and magazines is imperative but mere reading will not help: one must make sure that the information being accumulated is explored and converted into knowledge.
"A law aspirant has to go through a complete change of worlds: from the board exams, where one mugs and leaves no space for fresh inputs, to an exam wherein an open mind comes in handy," he elaborates, adding that this requires indefatigable discipline and commitment.
Maths - 20 marks
Mehra, who taught maths and logical reasoning at LST says: "Focus on key areas such as arithmetic - i.e. time-speed questions, work, mixtures, ratios, percentages, etc."
He also advises aspirants to take each question as a puzzle and not to get lost in the maze of formulas.
Singh of IMS puts forward a different approach. "Those good in maths should try to develop speed by innovative short cuts and other techniques."
Anita T. believes that a lot of students face a mental block when it comes to maths. She advises aspirants not to practice high-end maths problems. "The maths section in the previous CLAT papers has never been tough."
Well, even the CLAT website reads 'Elementary Mathematics' with 'numerical ability in brackets.
"This is one section where a student can get a twenty on twenty, if they set their mind to it," adds Anita T.
Logical Reasoning (LR) - 45 marks
This cake contains two slices: critical reasoning (CR) and analytical reasoning (AR).
"CR is generally difficult for many and preparing for this will take time," says Singh, adding that AR skills are picked up by students easily with practice.
According to Mehra it is important that one uses only the information provided in the question and not let any bias or prejudice cloud one's thinking, "Make a conscious effort towards getting rid of your prejudices," he advises.
Anita T. says: "The more one practices this section, the more comfortable he or she will get with it."
Mehra further adds: "While practicing, go through the answers and explanations carefully to understand the flaw in your reasoning."
Mehra also advises eliminating wrong answers and when in a dilemma over some options, "go with your hunch and don't waste time".
Singh believes that a strong grasp over English language is helpful in solving the CR questions. Raman concurs: "Good comprehension skills will help the candidate understand the nuances of a CR question."
English - 40 marks
The English section of CLAT is of a moderate difficulty level. Generally our respondents have recommended reading Norman Lewis's now famous book 'Word Power Made Easy' for vocabulary and revise the grammar basics from the legendary Wren and Martin series.
A word of advice from the coaches
According to Anita T, a student must not become overconfident on getting high scores in mock tests as this can lead to complacency in preparations.
She is all for taking mocks on an OMR. "This allows students to get used to shading the OMR correctly."
And Mehra quips that CLAT is one of the very few exams in which mothers should not tell their kids to sharpen their pencils - a dark pencil with a blunt lead is what you ideally need.
And finally, be in a positive frame of mind as you enter the examination hall. "When shading the ovals, think: 'Harvesting is on in CLAT-Ville. What a pleasant moment,'" posits Singh.
"While taking the exam I would tell my head to move quickly and not waste any time on difficult questions," concludes Mehra. "To my heart I would say: 'Don't Stop.'"
Please send this to your younger friends and relatives and add your advice and thoughts in the comments to help them on their way.
Picture by umjanedoan
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