Practical goal setting for students

Study Skills Goals

In another blog (the link to it is here) ….

I outlined how you can use SMARTER goal setting for your own specific purposes and I said I provide an example of how you can use it.

I will use an example from my own subject area of expertise – Law -and let’s pick a specific subject within that –

Statutory interpretation

So let’s say for the sake of sake of argument that you have a test coming up which will be the usual – a practical application of a fictitious statute with a few sections.

Although unseen, you know that it will be made up in such a way to test your knowledge and practical application of statutory interpretation.

You also know the date and time of the test.

So, taking it step-by-step, how can you apply the SMARTER Goal setting process to this particular task?

It begins with being…


Questions to ask yourself

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Well – You want to pass the test.
  • How well do you want to pass the test?
  • Do you need absolutely top marks?….

let’s say for the sake of argument you’ve got a lot of other things going on in your life right now and you are aiming to get say, a middle grade – a comfortable pass at say, about


What do you need to achieve it?

Write all o fthis down. You might want to say that you need to know all of the rules and apply the rules to a practical problem ‘averagely’ well.

What might stop you?

Perhaps you have a few friends birthdays coming up for other things that might get in the way. Although you can’t anticipate everything that happens in life there are some things you can anticipate. Think about what may have happened in the past also.

This is where keeping an up-to-date schedule diary is critical even before beginning to apply your smart goal.

This is an invitation to get your diary out. Whatever

diary you use – blank out definite days where you know you won’t be able to do any or very little work on it.

What with achieving this do for you?

Presumably, you’ve committed yourself to this course and you’re wanting to do it to wanting to achieve your best in this course to take the next steps to move on in life?

What are those steps? What do you have in mind for the future?

Is it a degree, a further vocational course, lots of money? This is all about values and what you want from life – more on this in another blog post coming up soon.

Moving on now to dealing with parts 2, 3 and 4 of the SMARTER goal setting process that is –

measurable specific and achievable

Remember what I said about to be achievable?  It must be measurable 

and to be measurable,

it must be specific,

so let’s begin.

I will know I have achieved this when…

I get my test results back with 60% or more grade.

… Look at that from moment…

Why wait for your tutor to tell you through an assessment how well you know statutory interpretation?

Why not consider the possibility that you might be to do it yourself?!!!


By assessing yourself as part of the learning process so that you almost know (barring disasters!), more or less, what you will get in the test even before you have taken it.!

This will also help with knowing how much you need to do if you don’t think all this is possible, then read on.,,

It follows, then, that every aspect of the topic area, in this case – statutory interpretation, means

you must know it to quite a competent level of knowledge, understanding and application.

Task – why not use the assessment criteria that your tutor would use to mark a similar test? How do you do this?

Go to your Exam Board’s website and find some assessment criteria (which should be plentifully available)!

One past test is pretty much the same as another.

Take a look at the assessment criteria and how they are applied through the answers to past assessment questions

That way, you are learning for a specific purpose – working backwards if you will, doing what your tutor would do. T

Secondly, this will help you understand not only what you need to know and apply, but how you know and apply it!

In other words, the assessment criteria, competencies of knowledge and understanding.

If you like, you are working on right now to work out how measurable and specific it is.

Chunking it

So, the thing you do next is to dissect the topic of statutory interpretation into bite -sized chunks.

Use the syllabus and course specification and assessment criteria I’ve mentioned to do this.

Gather it all together. Print it off. If you haven’t got a printer invest in one. Print of the documentation and put it in the relevant part of an A4 lever arch file.

This way of doing things, also avoids another pitfall which is – learning what you think needs to be learned rather than what you actually in fact, need to learn.

Get all the information ‘from the horses mouth’ so to speak – from the assessment body’s website. Some tutors are good at doing this for you already, some are not. You might want to think about which category your tutor falls into…

Okay – so having got this far, you now know and have listed all the component parts of the particular topic of statutory interpretation.

Things in that list will include things like:

Statutory rules of interpretation

  1. The literal purpose of approaches – literal, golden, michief Pepper v Hart 1993.
  2. Aids to construction – internal and external
  3. presumptions

Each of these heads above will also have set up headings – but it’s important to note that this is the general roadmap of where you’re going

To continue this examination of statutory interpretation. Let’s begin with the first one –

The rules of interpretation e.g.

literal approach to statutory interpretation

– what the legislation actually literally this is a skill that is applied by lawyers (that includes you!) – rules of language are very relevant here as well because they help to navigate around the literal rule

Cases, including:

  • Hinchy 1960,
  • McGuinness 1987,
  • Goodwin 2005.
  • Owens V Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council 2011

… This will form the basis of your notes for knowledge –

but there is still a crucial, if not more important part to this …

practical application

Just reading through the questions and answers can give you a much deeper understanding right now – even at this early stage, of how it all works – so do it!

You repeat this process for all the other topics and subtopics within the list that I outlined and started for you above


Find a way of recording the work you’ve done – I find spreadsheet can really help here.

Of all the different subtopics that you need to learn and in another column put the amount of time it will take you to learn each of these and in another, Also leave aa column for notes.


Let’s say that you’ve just completed learning about the literal, golden and mischief rules.

You’ll find that you can actually be quite honest with yourself on how well you know it

So mark yourself now…

How well do you think you now know these rules?

– give yourself marks out of 10.

Be honest with yourself on this question – have you succeeded enough to achieve your goal – that is, of passing this test?

When you’ve tested yourself highlighting a different colour.

For example, what you didn’t know or you are still hazy on – make sure you put this on your list for returning to for going over again next time

In other words, if what you know now about the literal, golden and mischief rules the level and practical application of it  – Do you think you will achieve 60% or more?

Once you’ve had a study session and you have assessed yourself on how well you have learnt this:

– what have you learnt from it?

What are you confident about?

What needs more work? – Write it down, make a record of it, perhaps on the spreadsheet or another list that I mentioned earlier and when (date and time) when you revisit this area.

Does it need to be revisited?

How important and how often, does this kind of information get assessed?

Can you afford to let it go, or not?

If not, what is level of importance in terms of learning the whole subject? Give it a 1, 2, or a 3.

If it’s a priority area 1 – that it definitely known, then you that you need to prioritise it some more.

If it’s not too important then you should put it down at the bottom of the list for now – remember, don’t get wrapped up with the finer detail of everything – because you’re  only targeting for 60% anyway, aren’t you?

So instead of agonising about a detailed piece of information/detail that you don’t quite understand…

if it’s not that important, then go on to the next big topic area.

For example, other external aids to interpreting a statute.