Exams

FOUNDATION

The TOLES Foundation Exam

The Foundation Exam is the FIRST step in successful professional development with TOLES.

The Foundation Exam is the recommended starting point in legal English training for international law students. For more experienced lawyers, this may be the correct starting point for those who wish to begin training in professional legal English while continuing to develop English skills in general.

The exam has one paper: legal reading and writing. The focus of the exam is on testing the absolute linguistic accuracy required of lawyers in a modern international office. This means accuracy in two main areas: technical legal vocabulary and grammar. Vocabulary from commercial deals, company documents, commercial contracts, intellectual property agreements, financial documents and forms of business are tested, as well as legal terminology from other areas.

The Foundation Exam has been described by employers as ‘an excellent bridge for international law students between the world of university and the world of work’. As well as testing legal English, the Foundation Exam develops an awareness of the real tasks a lawyer carries out in an international legal office and focuses on real and recent legal developments and cases. For this reason, even learners with advanced general English can benefit from the Foundation Exam.

The level of English needed for this exam is elementary level. The priority at this stage is to make sure that a genuinely strong foundation of legal English is in place in order to allow learners to progress successfully to the next level. This strong foundation includes consolidating basic grammar before moving on to more complicated language structures. The exam is based on absolute accuracy in written English, not fluency. This means that when learners answer questions we expect their use of English to be very good and they will lose points for imperfect grammar as well as for vocabulary mistakes.

  • Time allowed: 90 minutes
  • Skills tested: Legal reading and writing (90 minutes)
  • Focus: Practical legal vocabulary in authentic situations; consolidation of basic grammar
  • Appropriate level of general English: Elementary-Advanced
  • Training materials: ‘The Lawyer’s English Language Coursebook’ and other legal English books/materials available at an introductory level
  • Score: The maximum score possible at Foundation level is 100
  • Certificate: TOLES Foundation with grade explanation

HIGHER

The TOLES Higher Exam

Our Higher Exam is the SECOND step in successful professional development with TOLES.

The Higher Exam builds on the language skills and knowledge of practical legal vocabulary acquired at Foundation level. The Higher Exam moves learners to the next stage and requires the ability to deal with more complex authentic legal documents and scenarios while also continuing to focus on a strict attention to detail and grammatical accuracy.

The exam has two papers: a reading and writing paper and a listening paper. The reading and writing paper requires a more active use of language than the Foundation Exam, and requires learners to deal confidently with complex and recent commercially-relevant case studies, extracts from contracts and a professional letter. It continues to test practical and useful legal vocabulary and requires the ability to provide precise definitions for very common words from commercial practice. It also demands a good knowledge of the register of language, and asks learners to improve informal English and make it more appropriate and professional.
The listening paper consists of listening to conversations between two or more lawyers or a lawyer and a client and answer questions based on understanding. The topics covered are very current and deal with situations that working lawyers frequently experience or topics that are of international interest. This continues the idea of the TOLES exams encouraging commercial awareness rather than an academic or theoretical knowledge of law.

The level of English needed for this exam is intermediate-upper intermediate level. The tasks at this level all use authentic, challenging general English and we recommend that exam candidates study some additional grammar as well as our training in legal English in order to score highly.

  • Time allowed: 135 minutes approximately (depending on variations in the listening test)
  • Skills tested: Legal reading and writing (90 minutes); legal listening (30-45 minutes)
  • Focus: Practical reading, writing and listening skills in authentic legal situations
  • Appropriate level of general English: Intermediate-Advanced
  • Training materials: ‘The Lawyer’s English Language Coursebook’ and other legal English books/materials available at an Intermediate level. Additional grammar study recommended
  • Score: The maximum score possible at Higher level is 100
  • Certificate: TOLES Higher with grade explanation

ADVANCED

The TOLES Advanced Exam

Our Advanced Exam is the THIRD step in successful professional development with TOLES.

The Advanced Exam was created and then developed in consultation with leading commercial law firms and is considered to be the gold standard of legal English achievement. TOLES Advanced was initially created at the request of a major commercial law firm in London who required a method of testing the English of international interns and new associates in its international offices. This required researching the tasks international lawyers were required to carry out in English and making a careful analysis of how best to test proficiency in those areas. The result was the TOLES Advanced Exam. Since its creation it has been trusted by legal employers everywhere as a measure of a lawyer’s commercial legal English skills rather than his or her academic legal English skills.

The exam has one paper: legal reading and writing. The exam measures a candidate’s skills against a native English-speaking lawyer. In other words, any candidate scoring in our ‘Gold’ category genuinely has very similar legal English skills to a native English-speaking solicitor, barrister or attorney. The exam has a heavy focus on the vocabulary and grammar required for contract drafting. It also encourages knowledge of the plain English style of writing favoured these days by leading commercial law firms. A working knowledge of the difference between ‘legalese’ and ‘plain English’ is essential to doing well in this exam. The candidates who score very well at Advanced level show an appreciation of the huge importance of absolute accuracy when working in law, as well as having a strong grasp of technical legal vocabulary. The exam also requires sensitivity to register and an understanding of how formal and informal English is used in a professional workplace.

The level of English needed for this exam is Upper Intermediate-Advanced level. The exam measures a candidate’s legal English skills against the standard required of native English-speaking lawyers.

  • Time allowed: 120 minutes
  • Skills tested: Legal reading, writing and drafting, knowledge of register and business idiom
  • Focus: Practical reading, writing and drafting skills in authentic legal situations
  • Appropriate level of general English: Upper Intermediate – Advanced
  • Training materials: ‘The Lawyer’s English Language Coursebook’ and other legal English books/materials available at an advanced level. Some study of commercial contracts and standard terms and conditions is recommended at this level.
  • Score: The maximum score possible at Advanced level is 500
  • Certificate: TOLES Advanced with grade explanation

Official exam dates

  • August 25, 2016
  • November 24, 2016 - Enrol now
  • January 26, 2017
  • March 23, 2017
  • June 22, 2017
  • August 24, 2017
  • November 23, 2017