Planning, programming and assessing legal studies

Resources to help you plan, program and assess legal studies in Years 11–12.

Students of legal studies learn about the rule of law, justice and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

Legal studies offers students an opportunity to:

  • learn about Australian and international law
  • the rule of law and how both Australian and international legal systems work
  • inquire into and analyse legal issues and communicate in structured arguments.

Legal Studies Stage 6 Syllabus (2009) contains the syllabus and support materials including a sample assessment schedule, specimen paper, HSC exam rubrics, standards packages and past papers.


Use the resources below as stand-alone or to supplement your existing programs. They can also provide ideas about a variety of teaching strategies, feedback, integrating the themes and challenges of the course, and ways to approach teaching controversial issues.

Legal studies HSC revision resource (DOCX 82 KB) – support students in their studies as they prepare for the HSC exam. The included activities can be used as part of classroom learning or set for independent study. The resource is designed to be used in part or in full to fit the contextual needs of your teaching.

Watch – Legal studies – exam preparation

Watch 'HSIE – Legal Studies – Exam preparation' (18:37).

Tips for studying and completing the written examination


Welcome to the HSC hub presentation for legal studies. This presentation will take approximately 25 minutes to view. A supplementary document with key details from this presentation is also available to view or print. Before we commence proceedings, I would like to pay my respect and acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which this meeting takes place and also pay respect to elders, both past and present.

Welcome to this HSIE HSC hub video for Legal studies. This recording is designed to introduce the exam layout and structure, and to provide some hints and tips on how to best prepare for the exam. Each section of the exam will be explained with reference to the 2019 examination paper, using the questions and feedback from the marking centre.

Before the exam day, download your HSC timetable and highlight all of your exams. The 2020 examination timetable has already been released and can be found on the NESA website. In 2020, the Legal studies exam is scheduled for day six, Tuesday, the 27th of October. The exam commences at 9:25, and students should arrive to the exam venue 30 minutes prior to the commencement time. Plan your schedule to match up with your exams. You should have a regular study routine that you are following to keep up with coursework. Continue to study and revise each of your subjects. However, in the days before the exam, you may need to give a little more emphasis to the exams you will complete first. As you complete these exams, the times you would have spent on those subjects can then be allocated to exams yet to come. Get a good night sleep before each exam. Late nights will harm your performance. Last minute cramming is okay, but not at the expense of sleep. Your brain needs time to rest, and you will be able to engage better with the question if you are not physically and mentally exhausted. Eat your breakfast. Studies have shown that eating a healthy, high-protein breakfast and remaining hydrated during the exam will help to improve your examination results. Make sure you have all of your equipment ready. Pack it up in a clear pencil case or plastic sleeve the night before so that you aren't rushing and forget something on the morning of the exam.

Materials, what can I bring to the exam? NESA allows for the following items to be brought to all HSC examinations: black pens, bring spares. Black is important as exam papers are scanned to allow for onscreen marking. Lighter coloured pens may make reading your response difficult. In the instructions on the front of the examination paper, it clearly states black pen only. Rulers are allowed in your exams and are useful when drawing diagrams and for the completion of some questions.

Highlighters may be helpful in identifying directive verbs or for key terms in the question. 2B pencils are to be used for the multiple choice section of your paper, for completing diagrams, and it's also easier to correct mistakes. A sharpener should be bought in case the pencil breaks. Bottles of water in clear plastic bottles are also permitted in the exam room. All of these items can be found relatively cheaply at stationary stores or even news agents. Don't wait to the last minute to find these items.

Exam layout. In Legal studies, the exam consists of three sections. Section one is multiple choice, which includes 20 questions, each with an equal value of one mark. Section two is into parts. Part A are short answer questions relating to the human rights topic. Part B is an extended response relating to crime. Section three of the paper are extended responses. These cover the options that you have studied in class. Students select one question from the two provided for each option studied. Each question has an equal value of 25 marks with a total of 50 marks awarded in this section. The total examination time is three hours and five minutes. The first five minutes is allocated to reading time. During this time, you will not be able to write or mark your paper in any way. Use this time to ensure that you have each of the sections and that no pages are missing from your exam booklet. You should also ensure that you have several writing booklets that you will use for your extended responses. At the end of reading time, you will have three hours of writing time. During this time period, you are to complete the paper to the best of your ability. Follow the directions at the beginning of each section to ensure you remain on track to complete the paper within the set time. It is strongly advised that you remain for the entire duration of the examination period. Once you leave the exam room, you will not be permitted to re-enter.

Section one is made up of 20 multiple choice questions. Each question is allocated a one mark value. Instructions are given at the start of the section and include an indicative time. You may finish sooner than the 30 minutes indicated. However, it is not advisable to go beyond this timing. You can always come back if you have time left after completing the rest of the paper. In this section, you will be tested on content knowledge. A number of the questions will require you to examine a scenario or stimulus. Read all instructions on the paper carefully to avoid making a mistake. Your answer in this section is not marked on the question paper, but on a multiple-choice answer sheet attached to the examination. Multiple choice questions from past HSC papers can be tested in online quizzes on the NESA website. The link to these quizzes are found at the end of the presentation or ask your teacher to direct you.

So now let's take the time to look at an example. In the 2019 HSC paper, question four gave a scenario. Pat does not have a criminal record. He pleads guilty to a charge in the Local Court. The questions then states, which of the following is true? A, Pat is very likely to go to prison. B, Pat's case will be heard by a jury. C, a judge will determine an appropriate penalty. Or D, a magistrate will determine an appropriate penalty. The majority of criminal cases commence in the Local Court. One of the most important functions of the Local Court is to conduct committal hearings for indictable offences, that is more serious offences. A committal hearing is a hearing to determine whether the prosecution can establish that there is sufficient evidence of a case against the accused person for the prosecution to proceed to trial in a District Court or the Supreme Court before a judge or judge and jury. In the case of summary and minor criminal offences, the Local Court may be responsible for determining the guilt or innocence of the offender, as well as determining the appropriate penalty for the crime. Local Courts are presided over by a magistrate and no jury is present. As Pat is having his case heard in the Local Court, no jury will be present. A magistrate, rather than a judge, will determine the penalty, and it is likely that Pat will not go to prison as this is likely a minor offence, and he has no previous convictions. For question four, the correct answer was D, a magistrate will determine an appropriate penalty.

Section two includes short answer and one extended response question. Instructions are given at the start of the section and include an indicative time. Section two should be completed in approximately one hour. Read the instruction section carefully before you start answering the questions. Ensure that you answer all questions. In part A, questions relate to the human rights topic. Answers should be supported by examples, case studies and legislation appropriate to the question. The marks and space allocated to each question are a guide to the expected length of the response. Part B relates to the crime topic. It has a clear statement outlining how your response will be assessed. Use this to frame your response and ensure that appropriate terminology, concepts and examples are evident throughout your response. The points identified in this statement will form part of the marking criteria for your response. Spaces provided within the section two answer booklet for your response. If further space is required, use a writing booklet and clearly identify the question number on the front cover.

Let's look at some examples. In the 2019 HSC exam, question 22 asks students, how does the United Nations promote human rights? In order to fully answer this question, respondents should include a definition of the United Nations, its role in promoting human rights, and supporting evidence which demonstrates how this has been achieved and/or the result of their actions. A sample response may be constructed as follows. The United Nations is an intergovernmental body which seeks to play an important role in the promotion of human rights. For example, the General Assembly provides a forum for all member governments to raise human rights issues and concerns. The Assembly passes declarations condemning human rights abuses. In contrast, the Security Council passes binding resolutions, authorising humanitarian interventions. The Human Rights Council can investigate human rights abuses and hear individuals responding to violations. All of the actions promote human rights by increasing awareness and promoting international laws and compliance with these laws.

Let's look at some examples. In the 2019 HSC exam, question 24 asks students, explain how post sentencing considerations seek to balance community interests and individual rights and freedoms. The following may be included in a response. Security Classification, adverse impact on the individual while seeking to keep communities safe. It also increases risks to community if the prisoner is radicalised or traumatised while in high security, then released, it is very expensive to keep prisoners in maximum security.

In contrast, minimum security classification is designed to promote rehabilitation and successful reintegration into society for the offender. This is balanced against an increased risk of escape. Protective custody, provided to offenders vulnerable to attack from other prisoners. It is expensive, but needs to be balanced against the prisoners human rights. Parole, the conditional release of an offender after completion of the minimum term of their sentence. It seeks to minimise the chance that the prisoner will fail to reintegrate into society and not re-offend. This helps to keep the community safe. The parole board needs to assess the risk of re-offending while on parole against the individual's right to re-join society. Preventative detention is highly controversial because an individual's liberty is denied on the basis of the risk they pose. It restricts the rights of the offender, but aims to protect the community. Preventative detention is used mainly in terrorist matters. Continued detention is the ongoing detention of a sex offender due to their high risk of re-offending in society after they have served their sentence. It aims to balance the protection of society against future crimes with facilitating the rehabilitation of the offender. Sexual offenders registration, a database of offenders who have been convicted of certain sexual offences. This post-sentencing consideration aims to assist police to have updated information in order to protect society. There is debate about whether the database should be made public. Deportation, the Minister for Immigration can deport a foreign national after they have served an Australian prison sentence. The future risk to society is balanced against the negative impact of deporting somebody.

Better extended response questions are well-structured and contain appropriate terminology, concepts, legislation, and examples. It may be advisable to take a moment to plan your response before you commence writing. This will ensure you are able to present a cohesive and well-supported answer.

Section three, extended responses. Instructions given at the start of the section and include an indicative time. Allow about one hour and 30 minutes for this section. A clear statement outlining how answers are assessed is written at the start of the section. Please read this carefully as it forms part of the marking criteria for your responses. Two questions are provided for each option in this section. However, you were asked to attempt only one for each option studied. You should carefully select the questions based on your level of confidence and ability to construct a logical and cohesive response supported by examples. Your essays are to be written in writing booklets that will be provided at the start of the examination. Please ensure you use separate booklets for each response and clearly identify the question number and number of booklets used on the front cover. If you run out of booklets, simply ask the exam supervisors for more.

Let's look at an example. In the 2019 HSC exam, question 27b asked, assess the role of law reform in achieving just outcomes for family members. In your response, refer to at least one contemporary issue. Past HSC papers are useful revision tool to practice timing, structured, writing, and increase your familiarity with the exam structure. Attempt the question and mark your own response using the marking criteria provided. Once you have a well-written response, consider seeking additional feedback from your teacher. You may then choose to rewrite your response, incorporating the feedback given.

We have now come to the end of the presentation for Legal studies. Please remember to ask your teacher for further assistance, including where to find other resources and webinars for Legal studies, how to access the HSC exam timetable, exam packs, and the HSC equipment list. Also, consult with your teacher for more hints and tips for your exam and how to study most effectively for this subject. They are the expert you have access to every day and you should make the most of them.

[End of Transcript]

To support your teaching of this topic, access the legal studies – success in the written examination (DOCX 73 KB).


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