Yesterday I had my first exam at Maastricht University and it was on EU law. Now, those of you who have had to deal with EU law in the past can probably understand why I decided to write a whole blog post about it. It’s a hard nut to crack! The EU law module that I took here is a condensed one, and it only lasted for about 7 weeks. But don’t rush underestimating the amount of stuff we were supposed to know by the end of it. So, for those who decide to take an EU law course and exam in the future, especially as political scientists (so outsiders of the field of law), here are some pieces of advice. Hope you’ll find them useful!
- Know the Treaties by heart.
Well, not exactly by heart, but since you are probably going to be allowed to take with you in the exam the two founding Treaties of the EU (Treaty on the European Union and Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), make sure you know how to use them wisely. By that, I mean learn the numbers of the most used articles and make sure you know the structure of the Treaties. It’s much easier to explain how the European Commission President is elected if you have a rough idea where in the Treaties you can find described the procedure.
- Know your cases.
The course coordinator is definitely going to tell you which cases you should read and be familiar with. Make sure you know them! A tip here would be that you don’t need to read through a full case in order to be able to use it in an exam. You just need to know: its title, the year in which the judgement was published, the main context of the case (the facts), and what was the Court’s main decision, which generally also explains the main interpretations of the Treaty and ideas that the case has established in EU law.
For most political science students, solving a law case is not easy – at least in the beginning. It is not something we are used to do and, at first, you won’t even know how to go about it. So, if you know that cases are going to come up in the exam, make sure you practise how to resolve them. Solving cases instead of reading through tens of pages of notes, which are probably only going to get you bored, it is going to be way more useful. By doing so, you actually get to practice the theory as well, you learn how to use the Treaties and the case law, and you get a sense of how to apply practically your theoretical knowledge.
- Use the background information.
When solving a case, don’t overlook any of the information that is provided to you as background of the case. This is the most useful information that you have and it is going to point out, in most cases, what the examiner is expecting you to write. Also, make sure you work with that information and not with presumptions that you make based on it. It is easy to fall into the trap of making an assumption just based on a small detail that is given as part of task – this can often mislead you and make you waste a lot of time trying to find an answer that you are not even supposed to find.
- Pray to pass.
Quite a self-explanatory piece of advice! 😛
Having said all this, I wish you best of luck with your courses. And now, since the exam has passed, it’s time for me to celebrate!