on 18 September 2015
Like many students I bought a Nutshells guide for each of my law subjects. Further, like many students, I did very little work throughout the year and then attempted to cram madly in order to pass my exams (for the record I did an intensive 1-year law conversion course which consisted of 7 three-hour exams. I do not recommend this technique for such courses. Or any course for that matter). I am going to write this detailed review as I would have found it helpful myself when buying the guides.
The quality of the Nutshells books does vary depending on the author(s). Whilst they can be a little sloppy at times, with some typing errors and poor spelling, I can categorically state that I would not have done well in my exams (commendation/2:1) without them. The HUGE course books which students are given at the beginning of the year are both terrifying and extremely hard to effectively revise from. Whilst this information is useful and necessary for extended essay writing; for revision they are unhelpful. The fact that the Nutshells books are short and concise means you can very quickly obtain a broad understanding of a topic. However, usually teachers will warn you that whilst this can be useful, you should always be more thorough in your revision.
The question you want to know is, of course, could I pass my exams by JUST learning the Nutshell guides? Despite what teachers may tell you, the answer is 'yes'. Your grade will not be exceptional, but providing you learn your topics well and ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND the law, you will certainly pass and could quite possibly get a 2:1/commendation (this, frankly, will depend on where you study). However, if you want to get higher marks (firsts, distinctions etc) you will have to go beyond the content in these guides and do in-depth case law and academic reading. Their brevity sometimes (not often) means important cases are ignored or only mentioned in passing and once or twice in my exams I really was caught out here. Therefore I would recommend you return to your personal syllabus and look at past papers to see which questions may come up that are not thoroughly covered by the book. As the books cover a lot of cases briefly, I found them especially helpful for problem-style exam questions. On the other hand, due to the comparative lack of analysis and academic opinion, they were not so helpful for essay questions. Another limitation I found is that the guides are not particularly up-to-date with recent case developments. The Land Law and Equity & Trusts books were from 2013, for example, so make sure you check the publishing date of the books you buy as you definitely do not want to revise from a 5-year old textbook.
In conclusion, the Nutshells series really saved my behind, and I only wished I bought them at the beginning of the year and not at the end. They are certainly NOT perfect (hence 4 stars), but they really are a very effective way to learn a lot of information quickly. If you supplement them with good all-round revision, you can achieve strong marks. But if you don't, your understanding of the law should still be good enough for you to comfortably pass.
Finally, I will say that this specific book by Robert Duxbury is undoubtedly the best in the series, and I achieved a distinction in contract law by pretty much completely learning the contents of 4 or 5 chapters.
Best of luck with your revision!
on 18 April 2015
This is exactly what I was looking for. I could not imagine a better revision book for contract law. Friendly, concise and, with only weeks to go until my university exams, truly helpful in every way. I have even tried to find contact details for Mr Duxbury to write to him and thank him personally for what I think is the best revision guide I've yet purchased!