CATS, Lectures, Seminars, Moodle, Tabula – HUH??
The first few weeks at university means absorbing a huge amount of new information in a record amount of time and this includes having to familiarize yourself with the administrative aspect of your degree. The law school does an amazing job of introducing all the technical stuff at the beginning of the year but missing a lecture about Tabula for whatever reason might leave you thinking Tabu – what?! whenever someone next mentions it. To avoid all that unnecessary stress here is a quick and concise overview of all things technical you need to know for your Law degree at Warwick!
The academic year is split up into three, 10-week terms. Term 1 and 2 are content-based terms and Term 3 is the revision and exam period. N.B: exams for certain modules take place at the start of term 2, in January. You get four weeks off between term 1 and 2 and five weeks off between term 2 and 3. Don’t be fooled, however! Those weeks are certainly meant to relax a little but you’ll also be glad to have them for revision etc. But that’s a topic for another time.
CATS are basically a way of expressing hours of learning effort. You need to complete a total of 120 CATS per academic term. In your first year (on a three year, straight Law course) you will have two 15 CATS modules and three 30 CATS modules (look out for an upcoming post about these various modules!).
For each module, you will have two lectures a week, each one hour long. Lectures are not compulsory to go to but that definitely doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. I don’t always find I learn best from lectures, but this varies greatly depending on the module, the lecturer and my ability to concentrate and retain information on a given day. Lecturers will often assign reading from the textbook or some other source to complete before the lecture. Again, this isn’t a requirement but meant to help you prepare for the content that week.
- Lecture capture
Some lecturers use Lecture Capture, a tool which allows you to re-watch the lectures online at a later time. I find this really great as it can help with revision and going back over something more slowly if you didn’t quite get it during the lecture. I definitely wouldn’t recommend relying on lecture capture as a substitute for going to the lectures though because technical difficulties are not unheard of and so not always uploaded.
For each module, you will have one seminar a week. At the start of the year, you will be allocated a seminar group (usually about 15 people) and this group will be the same for each module seminar. These, unlike lectures, are compulsory. You will receive the two lectures for each topic before the seminar, which means the seminars usually take place in the week following that of the lectures. You will be assigned a task on the previous week’s topic, to complete in advance of the seminar. In the seminar itself, you will then discuss your prepared answers as a group. I really like seminars as they tend to be more practical and less theoretical, which means you can check whether you’ve understood the theory and are able to apply it to, for example, a problem question or essay question.
- Problem questions
I just mentioned problem question as though they are just another word, but realised I didn’t really know what these were until I got assigned one for the first time. In short, problem questions are made-up scenarios involving multiple people doing multiple, potentially illegal or liable things and at the end, you are asked to advise those involved on their legal position. You will be taught in detail how best to approach these types of questions. Some students aren’t big fans but I personally really like answering problem questions. It’s an opportunity to very systematically go through legislation and apply case law but also gives you room to be creative and consider hypothetical scenarios and how those might affect your answer.
So Moodle is an online tool I would recommend familiarizing yourself with early on as it contains all the resources you need for your modules. Lecturers upload lecture slides and notes to it as well as really useful past-paper exam feedback and other extra reading and information you should take advantage of.
Tabula is the online system you use to, amongst other things, upload your coursework (essays) to. You get your grades and feedback on your work through this portal too so it’s just useful if you have a thorough browse through to know where to find things.
- Reading Week
Weeks 6 in Term 1 and 2 are reading weeks. This means you don’t have any lectures or seminars during this time and can use the time as you see fit. I have written a post about my last reading week, so feel free to check that one out to see how I choose to spend my reading weeks.
For most modules, the lecturer will recommend a textbook for you to buy and use throughout the year. This does mean you will have to spend a bit of money but I have found all the textbooks to be really helpful and I use them regularly. The Law Society holds a book sale at the beginning of Term 1 where you can buy some second hand which is nice. Do be very careful with the edition you buy. Law is an evolving subject which means that new case constantly changes it, requiring textbooks to be updated, many, on a yearly basis. So last years first-year students might not sell you the most recent edition. I have a lot more I could tell you about but the length of this post is getting a bit ridiculous so I’ll stop here for now! I hope this was useful and if you still feel a bit overwhelmed, try to see all this new information as a fun adventure! Just remember, you will get used to everything, an abundance of friendly people are there to help you if you have any questions and you can handle a lot more than you think!