Thoughts from someone who just finished the Cambridge LLM!


knuman
Hi all - as someone who just completed his final exams in the LLM at Cambridge (literally a couple of days ago), I thought I'd add my 2 cents on the whole LLM business. It's been a while since I visited this board, but things haven't really changed from the look of things - from the confident dickheads confidently bragging about themselves in a poorly concealed manner to those genuinely concerned students who think their entire future is dependent on getting into University of their choice. Ahhh, it's all quite nostalgic.

Now that I've been through it all I can honestly advise that it's best not to take everything so seriously. Just enjoy yourself because the time will go by really quickly and it'll be all over before you know it. How hard you want to work will depend on whether you want to do well or just want to 'get through it', because it's virtually impossible to fail. The material taught is not overly difficult, but it's incredibly dense and the readings are astronomical. Don't even try to get through it all because even if you spend every waking second of the course reading you still won't get through everything. That's the way it was intended, so don't freak out. My advice is to do your best to keep up week to week, and make a list of important things you need to catch up on during the long breaks (you'll have 2 five-week breaks in between the semesters, which can be great for catching up or those wanting to travel around Europe). That way when the exams come it won't be impossible to manage.

I can only speak for the Cambridge LLM, but from what I hear from my friends down at Oxford, the BCL is a lot tougher (so I'm glad I made the right choice!). At Cambridge we have 4 two-hour lectures a week (8 hours total), but you can get the additional hour or two here or there. There are only 3 terms of 8 weeks each all up, and really only about half of the final term is used for teaching, with the remaining half for exam preparation. So if you slack off you could find yourself unable to dig out of a massive hole. I hear at Oxford there's a fair bit of face-to-face time, and some subjects require weekly essays of around 3,000 words. Sounds awfully tough to me. Plus while all Cambridge LLM students will finish their exams on 8 June, the Oxford BCL exams won't even start until 1 July.

Anyway, hope all those that made it into the course of their choice will enjoy their year. It'll be a fantastic time and you'd be surprised how 'normal' everyone is. Those who didn't get in, hope you keep trying, but really, it's not the end of the world. Happy to answer any general questions.
Hi all - as someone who just completed his final exams in the LLM at Cambridge (literally a couple of days ago), I thought I'd add my 2 cents on the whole LLM business. It's been a while since I visited this board, but things haven't really changed from the look of things - from the confident dickheads confidently bragging about themselves in a poorly concealed manner to those genuinely concerned students who think their entire future is dependent on getting into University of their choice. Ahhh, it's all quite nostalgic.

Now that I've been through it all I can honestly advise that it's best not to take everything so seriously. Just enjoy yourself because the time will go by really quickly and it'll be all over before you know it. How hard you want to work will depend on whether you want to do well or just want to 'get through it', because it's virtually impossible to fail. The material taught is not overly difficult, but it's incredibly dense and the readings are astronomical. Don't even try to get through it all because even if you spend every waking second of the course reading you still won't get through everything. That's the way it was intended, so don't freak out. My advice is to do your best to keep up week to week, and make a list of important things you need to catch up on during the long breaks (you'll have 2 five-week breaks in between the semesters, which can be great for catching up or those wanting to travel around Europe). That way when the exams come it won't be impossible to manage.

I can only speak for the Cambridge LLM, but from what I hear from my friends down at Oxford, the BCL is a lot tougher (so I'm glad I made the right choice!). At Cambridge we have 4 two-hour lectures a week (8 hours total), but you can get the additional hour or two here or there. There are only 3 terms of 8 weeks each all up, and really only about half of the final term is used for teaching, with the remaining half for exam preparation. So if you slack off you could find yourself unable to dig out of a massive hole. I hear at Oxford there's a fair bit of face-to-face time, and some subjects require weekly essays of around 3,000 words. Sounds awfully tough to me. Plus while all Cambridge LLM students will finish their exams on 8 June, the Oxford BCL exams won't even start until 1 July.

Anyway, hope all those that made it into the course of their choice will enjoy their year. It'll be a fantastic time and you'd be surprised how 'normal' everyone is. Those who didn't get in, hope you keep trying, but really, it's not the end of the world. Happy to answer any general questions.
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libertine
thanks for your insightful thoughts. i was made an offer to Cambridge LLM this year, which pending on IELTS results. however, i narrowly missed the required standard in speaking part, with overall band 7.5 and other elements satisfactory. i'm wondering whether the language condition could be waived or negotiated? thanks.
thanks for your insightful thoughts. i was made an offer to Cambridge LLM this year, which pending on IELTS results. however, i narrowly missed the required standard in speaking part, with overall band 7.5 and other elements satisfactory. i'm wondering whether the language condition could be waived or negotiated? thanks.
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knuman
Hi - I'm afraid I don't know the answer to that question. You'd be better off asking someone from the admission's board.

I do have to say though, if you are struggling in terms of language you may find the course rather difficult. I have a few friends whom I thought spoke excellent English but they told me they were still having trouble because of the language barrier. And in the examinations the examiners won't show you any mercy even if English isn't your first language.

That said, if you are good enough to get in then you should be good enough to do well.
Hi - I'm afraid I don't know the answer to that question. You'd be better off asking someone from the admission's board.

I do have to say though, if you are struggling in terms of language you may find the course rather difficult. I have a few friends whom I thought spoke excellent English but they told me they were still having trouble because of the language barrier. And in the examinations the examiners won't show you any mercy even if English isn't your first language.

That said, if you are good enough to get in then you should be good enough to do well.
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I agree with the post above. I too just finished the cantab LLM. The semesters are very short and the breaks long. However, the amount of work is truly unbelievable. I doubt whether any human being could actually read all the material for each course and prepare to answer exam questions on every topic. The key to the LLM is to recognise the absolute impossibility of the above, and set your mind to carving out a ,limited number of topics from each course and read everything for those. Fortunatley, the exams have lots of choice--typically 8 or more questions, of which only three must be answered. It is possible to read nearly everything for, say, five topics per class, thereby leaving oneself in a strong position for the exams and not going insane with work.

I would humbly advise the above poster with the language issue to think very hard about pursuing the LLM if his English is not at a very high level. No allowance is made for esl students here, and the volume of reading coupled with its very academic nature would surely be a nightmare for anyone whose english is less than excellent. I am a native English speaker and found the LLM very tough.
I agree with the post above. I too just finished the cantab LLM. The semesters are very short and the breaks long. However, the amount of work is truly unbelievable. I doubt whether any human being could actually read all the material for each course and prepare to answer exam questions on every topic. The key to the LLM is to recognise the absolute impossibility of the above, and set your mind to carving out a ,limited number of topics from each course and read everything for those. Fortunatley, the exams have lots of choice--typically 8 or more questions, of which only three must be answered. It is possible to read nearly everything for, say, five topics per class, thereby leaving oneself in a strong position for the exams and not going insane with work.

I would humbly advise the above poster with the language issue to think very hard about pursuing the LLM if his English is not at a very high level. No allowance is made for esl students here, and the volume of reading coupled with its very academic nature would surely be a nightmare for anyone whose english is less than excellent. I am a native English speaker and found the LLM very tough.
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libertine
thank you for the kind advice. i genuinely thought language may not be a problem for me given that i've been taught in english for years. but still i can understand the course must be quite tough and if necessary i may consider taking a pre-sessional language course.
thank you for the kind advice. i genuinely thought language may not be a problem for me given that i've been taught in english for years. but still i can understand the course must be quite tough and if necessary i may consider taking a pre-sessional language course.
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Iowa
Were there many older (35+) students? Thank you for posting.
Were there many older (35+) students? Thank you for posting.
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knuman
Hi...to be honest I don't remember many (or any) that were in their mid-thirties or older in our year. There were essentially two groups - those that just finished their undergraduate degrees (early 20s) and those that have worked for a few years (late 20s). That said, there's no reason why someone in their 30s or any age that can't do it.
Hi...to be honest I don't remember many (or any) that were in their mid-thirties or older in our year. There were essentially two groups - those that just finished their undergraduate degrees (early 20s) and those that have worked for a few years (late 20s). That said, there's no reason why someone in their 30s or any age that can't do it.
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Iowa
Thanks. I guess now it's time for me to put up or shut up.

When I was a law student, I thought the nontraditional students to be a strange breed. Now that I'm older I understand.
Thanks. I guess now it's time for me to put up or shut up.

When I was a law student, I thought the nontraditional students to be a strange breed. Now that I'm older I understand.
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Dice
Hey libertine,

I was in the same boat. I was asked to retake an IELTS exam since the one I submitted was expired in March 2009. I got 7.5 again but 6.5 in writing and they simply did not accept it and did not offer a pre-sessional either. Apperantly, Law faculty does not allow LL.M applicant to take pre-sessional course in order to substitute the IELTS exam. Finally, I got 8 and met the language condition.

I hope this shed a little light on how strict they are in terms of conditions.
Hey libertine,

I was in the same boat. I was asked to retake an IELTS exam since the one I submitted was expired in March 2009. I got 7.5 again but 6.5 in writing and they simply did not accept it and did not offer a pre-sessional either. Apperantly, Law faculty does not allow LL.M applicant to take pre-sessional course in order to substitute the IELTS exam. Finally, I got 8 and met the language condition.

I hope this shed a little light on how strict they are in terms of conditions.
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libertine
thanks, dice. i hope i could make it by the deadline. actually i've tried to seek help from the language centre. but no reply yet - so yes, u're right, they seem to be very strict on the conditions.
thanks, dice. i hope i could make it by the deadline. actually i've tried to seek help from the language centre. but no reply yet - so yes, u're right, they seem to be very strict on the conditions.
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hada
great post, I must thank you both for posting here!

If you wouldn't mind, I have a few general questions.

How much work did you all do? 7 days a week - always to keep on top of it? Was it a case of consistent work, with a few nights out with friends? Which leads me onto the next question - did your class gel well together? i.e. was there a bit of socialising and if so, what did it revolve around? Law Society events? Class events? Or just random banter!

What was the standard of the exams? Were they quite hard? Very specific questions or?

Oh and finally - while this may vary greatly - what are the lecturers like? Is there much interaction/focus on the LLMers?

Many many thanks guys!
great post, I must thank you both for posting here!

If you wouldn't mind, I have a few general questions.

How much work did you all do? 7 days a week - always to keep on top of it? Was it a case of consistent work, with a few nights out with friends? Which leads me onto the next question - did your class gel well together? i.e. was there a bit of socialising and if so, what did it revolve around? Law Society events? Class events? Or just random banter!

What was the standard of the exams? Were they quite hard? Very specific questions or?

Oh and finally - while this may vary greatly - what are the lecturers like? Is there much interaction/focus on the LLMers?

Many many thanks guys!
quote
Thank you for all your insight! It has cleared up so many points I was confused about in terms of the academic calendar and how the terms work.
I got a package from my College informing me about accommodation. It is my impression that most graduate students stay in college accommodation, is this correct? Also, the price quoted per room for college accommodation is per quarter. Do I calculate my accommodation based on 3 terms (time that I will actually be in Cambridge) or are we obliged to pay for 4 terms.
Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you!
Thank you for all your insight! It has cleared up so many points I was confused about in terms of the academic calendar and how the terms work.
I got a package from my College informing me about accommodation. It is my impression that most graduate students stay in college accommodation, is this correct? Also, the price quoted per room for college accommodation is per quarter. Do I calculate my accommodation based on 3 terms (time that I will actually be in Cambridge) or are we obliged to pay for 4 terms.
Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you!
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knuman
To answer the latest post first, as I understand it, most graduate students stay in accommodation provided by the college either inside the college grounds or nearby (except for some students who have partners). The quoted prices I think are for each term, and there are 3 terms in total. I stayed in married accommodation so it was a bit different for me (perhaps someone else is better equipped to answer this), but you may have to pay extra to stay in the accommodation during the breaks.

As for the earlier post, how much work you want to do is up to you. I know some people that studied every day, some studied long hours for 3 or 4 days, some spread things out over 5 or 6. It depends on your subjects and topics. Some topics/subjects I may only do 2 or 3 hours a week, but some may require 10 hours or more. On average I'd say I did around 20 a week (but my wife thinks I did less!). Some people did very little all term and tried to catch up during the breaks, but I wanted to travel so I tried to keep up as best as I could (though I couldn't and ended up falling further and further behind!). Though when exam time rolled around everyone studied all day for at least 3 or 4 weeks.

Socialising - all up to the individual. If you want, there's an endless amount of activities you can do, whether it is at college or through certain clubs. Graduates usually organise their own things and there's usually at least a couple a week. No pressure to do anything though - if you want to be left alone that's your choice. Most of the stuff is done through colleges and clubs; very few activities are organised through the LLM - perhaps except for smaller classes (eg 10 or less) which might have the occasional lunch or dinner at the end of a term or after exams. There's formal dinners at all colleges I know of and some are just for graduates. Often you can bring guests to these dinners, so if you can, try to attend as many dinners at different colleges as you can. There's also movie nights, pub crawls, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I find the graduates are generally less insane than the undergraduates though when it comes to partying. And of course, there's the end of year May Balls (held after exams) which are like the biggest social events for students. Personally I am closer to my fellow LLM students than other grads at my college, but that's because I participated very little in college activities. Again, up to you.

Exam difficulty depends on your subjects, but in general I found them harder than my undergrad ones because some of them were ridiculously long (especially problem questions), and they required proper application of the law rather than simply regurgitating your notes as fast as you could. Some subjects have open book and others have closed book exams, so that may make a difference as well. All my exams involved doing 3 questions in 3 hours, and you usually have a bit of flexibility in the number of questions to choose from. We have a nervous wait ahead of us as no one really knows how they compare to the other elite students. You may be a top student at your home university but at Cambridge it's anyone's guess!

Note all students must choose 4 subjects, and you have an option of doing a thesis instead of an exam for ONE of your subjects. Most people I know who did it ended up regretting it because it takes up a lot of your time. Another option is to do an 8,000 word essay and instead of doing a 3 hour exam, you do a 2 hour exam for one of the subjects. No one ever chooses that option.

At the start of term there is an introductory session which goes through all subjects on offer, and you don't have to make your final decisions on subjects until a few weeks in, so you can go to a few extra lectures to see which subjects and lecturers you like the most. Most lecturers are experts in their fields (and probably wrote the textbook you'll be using) so you'll get quality teaching, but some of course are better than others. Some like to discuss, while some just teach. Some are more theoretical while others are more practical. All my subjects had at least 3 lecturers (+ guest lecturers) who taught different topics and while I liked some more than others, they were generally all pretty good. So it's important to choose your subjects wisely.
To answer the latest post first, as I understand it, most graduate students stay in accommodation provided by the college either inside the college grounds or nearby (except for some students who have partners). The quoted prices I think are for each term, and there are 3 terms in total. I stayed in married accommodation so it was a bit different for me (perhaps someone else is better equipped to answer this), but you may have to pay extra to stay in the accommodation during the breaks.

As for the earlier post, how much work you want to do is up to you. I know some people that studied every day, some studied long hours for 3 or 4 days, some spread things out over 5 or 6. It depends on your subjects and topics. Some topics/subjects I may only do 2 or 3 hours a week, but some may require 10 hours or more. On average I'd say I did around 20 a week (but my wife thinks I did less!). Some people did very little all term and tried to catch up during the breaks, but I wanted to travel so I tried to keep up as best as I could (though I couldn't and ended up falling further and further behind!). Though when exam time rolled around everyone studied all day for at least 3 or 4 weeks.

Socialising - all up to the individual. If you want, there's an endless amount of activities you can do, whether it is at college or through certain clubs. Graduates usually organise their own things and there's usually at least a couple a week. No pressure to do anything though - if you want to be left alone that's your choice. Most of the stuff is done through colleges and clubs; very few activities are organised through the LLM - perhaps except for smaller classes (eg 10 or less) which might have the occasional lunch or dinner at the end of a term or after exams. There's formal dinners at all colleges I know of and some are just for graduates. Often you can bring guests to these dinners, so if you can, try to attend as many dinners at different colleges as you can. There's also movie nights, pub crawls, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I find the graduates are generally less insane than the undergraduates though when it comes to partying. And of course, there's the end of year May Balls (held after exams) which are like the biggest social events for students. Personally I am closer to my fellow LLM students than other grads at my college, but that's because I participated very little in college activities. Again, up to you.

Exam difficulty depends on your subjects, but in general I found them harder than my undergrad ones because some of them were ridiculously long (especially problem questions), and they required proper application of the law rather than simply regurgitating your notes as fast as you could. Some subjects have open book and others have closed book exams, so that may make a difference as well. All my exams involved doing 3 questions in 3 hours, and you usually have a bit of flexibility in the number of questions to choose from. We have a nervous wait ahead of us as no one really knows how they compare to the other elite students. You may be a top student at your home university but at Cambridge it's anyone's guess!

Note all students must choose 4 subjects, and you have an option of doing a thesis instead of an exam for ONE of your subjects. Most people I know who did it ended up regretting it because it takes up a lot of your time. Another option is to do an 8,000 word essay and instead of doing a 3 hour exam, you do a 2 hour exam for one of the subjects. No one ever chooses that option.

At the start of term there is an introductory session which goes through all subjects on offer, and you don't have to make your final decisions on subjects until a few weeks in, so you can go to a few extra lectures to see which subjects and lecturers you like the most. Most lecturers are experts in their fields (and probably wrote the textbook you'll be using) so you'll get quality teaching, but some of course are better than others. Some like to discuss, while some just teach. Some are more theoretical while others are more practical. All my subjects had at least 3 lecturers (+ guest lecturers) who taught different topics and while I liked some more than others, they were generally all pretty good. So it's important to choose your subjects wisely.
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martin008
hi knuman,

thank you very much for your insights to the Cambridge LL.M. Maybe you can say a little more about the thesis option? (which I'd like to take for the Int. IP course)
I thought that doing a thesis would at least release me considerably from the burden of keeping up with reading for this course (though I understand that doing a thesis is a lot more time-consuming than keeping up with reading). Or is it an unspoken no-go to come badly prepared to a course?
hi knuman,

thank you very much for your insights to the Cambridge LL.M. Maybe you can say a little more about the thesis option? (which I'd like to take for the Int. IP course)
I thought that doing a thesis would at least release me considerably from the burden of keeping up with reading for this course (though I understand that doing a thesis is a lot more time-consuming than keeping up with reading). Or is it an unspoken no-go to come badly prepared to a course?
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PUCCA
Thank you very much for all your advice!!! very helpfull!
Thank you very much for all your advice!!! very helpfull!
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knuman
Hi there. Since I didnt do a thesis Im not 100% sure on the details. I just remember that it was at least 20,000 words (or so), and you had to decide within the first couple of weeks whether you want to do it, though you can drop out later (if you realize its not such a great idea). Youll need to submit a general title pretty early on and then look for a supervisor. As I understand it youll arrange regular periodic meetings with your supervisor and you have to submit drafts at various stages. And it is due several weeks before the exams. The good thing is that you only have to do 3 exams instead of 4, and if the exam times end up being close together that can be a life saver. However, it is a lot of work and you need to really keep on top of it all year. If you are confident you can do that then it can be better than doing 4 exams, especially if you arent good with exams!
If you do a thesis then theoretically you dont even need to attend any classes for that subject, though as I understand it people do like to go to learn anyway, especially if it can help their thesis. The level of discussion in class depends on the subject, though it is generally advisable to do your readings so if you do get picked on you dont end up looking like a complete idiot (not all lecturers pick on people though and its not unusual for people to have no idea!). As someone who did International IP, I can tell you that if Jane Ginsburg teaches trademarks then you better come prepared because she makes you write down your name in the first lesson and then picks names randomly off a list to answer questions!
Hi there. Since I didn’t do a thesis I’m not 100% sure on the details. I just remember that it was at least 20,000 words (or so), and you had to decide within the first couple of weeks whether you want to do it, though you can drop out later (if you realize it’s not such a great idea). You’ll need to submit a general title pretty early on and then look for a supervisor. As I understand it you’ll arrange regular periodic meetings with your supervisor and you have to submit drafts at various stages. And it is due several weeks before the exams. The good thing is that you only have to do 3 exams instead of 4, and if the exam times end up being close together that can be a life saver. However, it is a lot of work and you need to really keep on top of it all year. If you are confident you can do that then it can be better than doing 4 exams, especially if you aren’t good with exams!
If you do a thesis then theoretically you don’t even need to attend any classes for that subject, though as I understand it people do like to go to learn anyway, especially if it can help their thesis. The level of discussion in class depends on the subject, though it is generally advisable to do your readings so if you do get picked on you don’t end up looking like a complete idiot (not all lecturers pick on people though and it’s not unusual for people to have no idea!). As someone who did International IP, I can tell you that if Jane Ginsburg teaches trademarks then you better come prepared because she makes you write down your name in the first lesson and then picks names randomly off a list to answer questions!
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If I may...could I kindly ask you as to what your conditional offer was as such?

I gave an IELTS before starting my undergraduate course at Nottingham and obtained an 8.0. Would that be of any avail?

Thanks again for that wonderful insight.
If I may...could I kindly ask you as to what your conditional offer was as such?

I gave an IELTS before starting my undergraduate course at Nottingham and obtained an 8.0. Would that be of any avail?

Thanks again for that wonderful insight.
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Cedric
If I may...could I kindly ask you as to what your conditional offer was as such?

I gave an IELTS before starting my undergraduate course at Nottingham and obtained an 8.0. Would that be of any avail?

Thanks again for that wonderful insight.


Knuman is a native speaker so IELTS is irrelevant. I have a 8.5 IELTS results. I feel that 8.0 or above implies your English is good enough to succeed at a top level uni. One also needs to adjust to the academic English and gets better at it by reading and going to lectures.
<blockquote>If I may...could I kindly ask you as to what your conditional offer was as such?

I gave an IELTS before starting my undergraduate course at Nottingham and obtained an 8.0. Would that be of any avail?

Thanks again for that wonderful insight.</blockquote>

Knuman is a native speaker so IELTS is irrelevant. I have a 8.5 IELTS results. I feel that 8.0 or above implies your English is good enough to succeed at a top level uni. One also needs to adjust to the academic English and gets better at it by reading and going to lectures.
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martin008
hi knuman,

again, a big thanks for your detailed answer to my particular question. There's another issue which I (probably other people going to Cambridge as well) am especially interested in:

Are there any LL.M.-courses at Cambridge which (considering your own exam experience and the gossip you've heard from others at Cambridge) have so hard exam questions that a prospective LL.M. student would be wise not to choose :-).

Your answer would be much appreciated!
hi knuman,

again, a big thanks for your detailed answer to my particular question. There's another issue which I (probably other people going to Cambridge as well) am especially interested in:

Are there any LL.M.-courses at Cambridge which (considering your own exam experience and the gossip you've heard from others at Cambridge) have so hard exam questions that a prospective LL.M. student would be wise not to choose :-).

Your answer would be much appreciated!
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knuman
Mmm...what one thinks is difficult another may think is easy. I would advise choosing subjects based on interest rather than difficulty. That said, I heard Commercial Equity and WTO were pretty tough. The consensus was also that Competition was difficult but the exam was okay, whereas IP was manageable but the exam this year had hard questions. A lot depends on the particular examiner for the year, so some luck is involved.
Mmm...what one thinks is difficult another may think is easy. I would advise choosing subjects based on interest rather than difficulty. That said, I heard Commercial Equity and WTO were pretty tough. The consensus was also that Competition was difficult but the exam was okay, whereas IP was manageable but the exam this year had hard questions. A lot depends on the particular examiner for the year, so some luck is involved.
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