How to answer Legal Studies Section II Part A short answers remains one of the biggest unresolved mysteries of the HSC.

Of course, many other HSC subjects have short answer responses. But funnily enough, how to respond to them with those subjects is also outlined clearly and taught in class.

That being said, I have yet to meet anyone who has been properly instructed on how to answer short answers in Legal.

So in a bid to save you all from unnecessary cortisol-overdrive, this article will demonstrate, step by step, how to absolutely nail the short answer questions for HSC Legal Studies. 

You can check out our practice questions and master list of past papers here if you want to follow along and have a go yourself!

Let’s dive in!

Short Answer Example 1

Step 1: Highlight the keywords

Let’s highlight the key words first!

HSC Legal Studies Short Answer Question

Keywords highlighted:

Explain how: you will need to outline the processes and methods of either the AHRC or another independent statutory authority

Australian Human Rights Commission: Use them as an example (or another independent statutory authority) in your response

Promotes human rights: you need to link these processes to the promotion of human rights

Step 2: Use the mark worth as an indicator for structure

The mark of each question is a good indication of how much to write. Students tend to write too much for short response questions. Save the time for your essays!

There is no real structure for 2-3 mark questions, and can be answered in 2-4 sentences. The longer does not mean the better. All that is required is you hit the two key points we highlighted above.

In this question, I would list 2-3 processes of the AHRC or another independent statutory authority, and link each one to the promotion of human rights.


HSC Legal Studies Short Answer

Let’s take a look at the NESA sample answer above for why it would receive the full 3 marks.

As we established in the question analysis, each sentence has:

  1. Example of a process
  2. How that is related to human rights

The example question does this twice. This is sufficient. But to be on the safe side, I always recommend to give 3 examples for 3 marks if you can think of another.

It’s preferable to veer on the safe side, in case one of your examples aren’t spot on!

Short Answer Example 2

Step 1: Highlight the keywords

HSC Legal Studies Short Answer

Outline: explaining the process of law reform which the abolition of slavery has seen in the past

Role of law reform: use this as an example/key focus in your response.

Abolition of slavery: how this has affected slavery abolition

Step 2: Use the mark worth as an indicator for structure

5-6 mark questions should have an argument, or ‘point of view’. This means you need to think of your position on the statement.

Think about how has law reform affected the abolition of slavery? Did it assist the abolition of slavery? Hinder it? Had no effect?

After establishing your argument, you will need to provide examples or real-life cases which support your point of view.

Unlike in English, there is no structure to integrate these examples in your response. With Legal Studies, the focus is more on your knowledge of the legal world rather than your command of essay-writing.

In terms of length, it should generally be the length of the spaces provided. However, the size of writing differs. So a rough word count should be 150-200 words.

Try it yourself!

Give this question a try! Give yourself a rating of 1 – 3 (1 being terribly, and 3 being you slayed it) of how well you addressed the following in your answer.

  • Have you got a strong position statement?
  • Have you identified what legal reform occurred?
  • Have you identified an actual case?
  • Does this case prove that the reform assisted in the abolition of slavery?
  • Have you provided an assessment of how effective the reform was?

Mostly threes? You’re doing well! Mostly ones? Keep practicing!


HSC Legal Studies Short Answer

Let’s take a look at this sample answer which received the full 5 marks.

We’ve colour coded the sample answer by argument, examples and explanation. 

The first green sentence is the argument. This doesn’t have to be English-essay level specific. Just your general answer to the question, in one sentence. Usually, of a ‘yes or no’ nature. In this case, we have a ‘yes’ response – an affirmation of the effectiveness of law reform.

All the blue are examples given. For a 5 mark question, here there are 5/6 responses (depending on if we count the last two conventions as one example). This is a good number to include.

The red underlines the explanatory parts. As you can see in the example, each of the examples (blue) are supplemented by an explanation (red).

The red describes the link between the historical events (blue) and the eventual abolition of slavery. They explain the relation between these examples of law reform and slavery abolition. This is clear when we read into what the purple describes: “changing social values”, “worldwide movement”, “changing community standards” and “ratification”.

The last green sentence makes a short comment on slavery today. This isn’t entirely necessary, but ties together this longer short response.

Good luck!

I want to add a caveat here and say that the short answer part of Legal Studies HSC papers have been the same structure for the past few years. However, no one can guarantee that this exact same structure will be used in the years to come – so the most important parts to absorb is:

  • How to ‘break-down’ a question
  • The correlation between the marks for a question and how much to write
  • Structuring your responses
  • How to use evidence, and the frequency of using evidence

I hope that cleared up Legal Studies short answers for you!

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Sophia Zou considers it her mission here to help students make the most of their final years at high school. Her interests include political science, Simon and Garfunkel, and pretending to be a tea aficionado. Alongside tutoring at Art of Smart Education, she spends her time playing the piano and studying Government & IR and Languages at the University of Sydney.