How To Get A Distinction in your LLM (Postgraduate Law)

So today was results day for my semester 1 modules for my LLM degree, and I am proud to announce that I received a distinction, what does this mean, it means that I am on track to attain a distinction overall in my LLM degree. The marking for a postgraduate degree is very different from an undergraduate but also in a way similar.

Marking of a postgraduate degree

Firstly, a postgraduate degree is assessed in terms of Distinction to Fail, with the percentages required to attain those levels expressed below.

Distinction       70+

Merit                  60-69%

Pass                    50-59%

Fail                      0-40%

So, as you can see it is not quite the same as an undergraduate (UK) degree, which is marked 1st (70+), 2.1 (60-69%), 2.2 (50-59%), 3rd (40-49%) and Fail (0-40%). I received a 2.1 in my undergraduate degree of LLB, a mark of 2.1 is necessary to actually get onto a Postgraduate programme in the UK. Whilst a postgraduate degree is a stepping stone to a PhD for many, it is also a way to discover your personal interests and develop your academic abilities.


Unfortunately, there is no secret potion and no magic spell you can cast or drink to obtain a distinction in your postgraduate degree. I obtained a distinction through LOTS and LOTS of late nights and additional and wider reading. On average I have about 150 footnotes for my 5,000-word coursework, I also had 72 secondary sources. Yes, this may be a lot to some but for me honestly, it was just enough and clearly worked. I have a dissertation due this September for my LLM and it is 10,000 words, therefore I would double the number of secondary sources required to truly attain strong and extensive research for my dissertation. Because I have only two modules per semester, I am required to do a significant amount of work myself, both prep work and additional work for my seminars and coursework.


It goes without saying that your grammar and spelling have to be PERFECT, you will notice that your grades will improve if your spelling improves too. This means knowing the differences between, ‘then’ and ‘than’,’ their, there and they’re’, ‘where, we’re, and were’. I use Grammarly on top of spell check as well as my sending my coursework to my family members to read over to do a “third check” of my work, spell check on my computer doesn’t always pick up my mistakes!


I have become quite proficient in separating different points, basically, whenever I write about something different I separate it. What I mean by this is, for example…

Title: When can parents give or refuse consent to medical treatment on behalf of a child under 18, and what limitations are placed on this law? Illustrate your answer with case-law examples.

  • Introduction
  • The Common Law Position
  • Who knows best [interests]?
  • Do parents know best?


Whenever I make a point I use a case to back it and I also include legislation and an ethical question. This means using what you learnt in GCSE English, PEE(L)C (Point, Evidence, Explanation, (Link) and Conclusion).  This was my introduction to my coursework that received 72 (Distinction). I have included it as an example below of the use of PEEC. (DO NOT COPY, IT WILL BE CONSIDERED PLAGIARISM AND HAS ALREADY BEEN USED ON TURNITIN).

Screenshot 2019-02-12 at 18.01.28 1.png


Read the question and identify what it is asking for you and answer only that, sound easy? That’s because it is supposed to be rather straightforward so long as you actually read the question, make sure to read it twice, highlight the important works and then write them down and then make notes from your textbook relating to the question. Make sure everything links and corresponds to the question, do not include information for the sake of it and if you do footnote it. P.s. Footnotes in postgrad and undergrad do not go towards the word count. I tend to write bullet points of potential points that I want to make, then I use my textbook, seminar and lecture prep to justify and give evidence to my points. I then do LOTS of additional reading on Westlaw, LexusNexis and BBC among other sources. I then make sure my points link to my other points and write a mini conclusion at the end of each point sort of summing up what I have already written.


I was informed by one of my lecturer’s that to reach the higher marks of above 70 that you had to have an opinion and explain it, so that’s what I did. I developed my own opinion on the topic and used ethical and philosophical judgments to back up my own opinion. Reading widely helped me to form an opinion partly because I sometimes questioned that of the person who wrote that article or book.


5,000 words is a lot to write, it’s tough, hard and I often found myself questioning whether I knew enough words, but trust me when you start using quote, legislation, judgments, additional reading then the word count soon goes up.


I am not one to believe in myself, but my recent successes in both my undergraduate and now my postgraduate prove me wrong not only should you believe that you will pass but think positively and good things will happen.

I hope this post helps you make sure to leave a comment below if any of this helps you and leave your top tips for attaining a first or distinction.



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