How Long Does it Take to Prepare for the QLTS Assessments?
When you first decide to dual-qualify as an English solicitor via the QLTS, you know what’s generally involved – such as the MCT, the OSCE and the areas of law covered.
But when you start to look at the specifics of preparation – the logistics, time commitment and study schedule – the question inevitably arises that will underpin your entire preparation effort: “How long will it take to prepare for the QLTS assessments, and how much time should I allow for study?”
The answer – with typical lawyer-ly equivocation – is: ‘it depends’.
QLTS Preparation Time: Some Perspective
You may find some context helpful:
- the equivalent of the MCT course content is often taught to domestic students through the qualifying law degree or Postgraduate Diploma in Law (known as the GDL) students with some pervasive subjects over the course of a year for the GDL, on a full-time academic basis; and
- OSCE course material and assessment preparation can be compared to a one-year full-time Legal Practice Course (LPC), the current vocational training element of qualification for domestic candidates, which is followed by a two-year training contract.
So that’s at least two years’ study on a full-time basis – longer for part-time study.
The key difference, however, is that there is no experience or training requirement under the QLTS, meaning that QLTS candidates are held to a higher standard than domestic law students. The OSCE assessments also include ‘standardised clients’: actors trained to enact a particular scenario in the role of a client; more law than the LPC, a higher level of skills and marking criteria designed for an outcomes-based assessment.
Yet, many of our QLTS candidates give themselves 6-8 months to prepare for the assessments, and often pass first time. In fact, a typical timeline we see for most candidates is to commence study 3-4 months before the MCT, spending approximately 15 hours per week, then prepare for and attempt the OSCE assessment that immediately follows the MCT. For the OSCE, our candidates are advised to study for approximately 15 to 20 hours per week over a 3 to 4 month preparation period.
Compare this with the minimum two-year timeline for domestic candidates, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the QLTS is easier or requires less effort. However, you should remember that unlike domestic candidates for whom a law degree or the GDL may be their first encounter with any study of law, you have already studied and qualified as a lawyer in your home jurisdiction, so at the very least have a working knowledge of law as a general concept.
That being said, the scope of the syllabus is comprehensive, being based on the same standards expected of a newly-qualified English solicitor who has qualified through the domestic route in England and Wales. In fact, you can spend days just trying to figure out what is covered by the syllabus and understand the SRA requirements.
How Long to Prepare for the QLTS: Preparation Factors to Consider
Beyond the very general observations above, the reality is that you have to weigh up your own circumstances and factor in your current and past experience with English law in general and legal practice in particular to get an idea of how long you can and should commit to preparing for the QLTS. Some things to consider include:
- What are your timelines? If you have a set goal to become dual-qualified by a certain date, check to make sure that this is realistic – qualification within a year of starting out is possible and many candidates do this, subject to assessment timetables, but be you should be under no illusion: preparation for the QLTS involves a challenging and intense period of study.
- Do you have employer support? If your employer is supporting you with time off, protected preparation time or a quiet place to study if you need it, this may allow for more conducive study than trying to fit fragments of preparation in and around the day job.
- How much time can you commit each week? We would recommend a minimum of 15 hours per week for study if you are looking to attempt the MCT within 4 months and at least the same amount of time, if not more, for the OSCE, which requires enhanced legal knowledge as well as developing your legal skills to the level required by the assessments. If you are able, however, to start preparing for the MCT 5-6 months in advance (or even earlier if you can), then 10 hours per week may suffice.
- Are you qualified in a common law jurisdiction? The concept and operation of a common law system can be quite unfamiliar and challenging for lawyers in civil law jurisdictions, but as common law underpins all aspects of English law, familiarity will speed up your understanding of the fundamental tenets of many practice areas.
- Do you have experience of English law? Even if you are not qualified in a common law jurisdiction, if you have prior experience of an area of English law covered by the QLTS assessments, such as through work or a Masters, this will help you with a standing start and may help inform your other areas of study.
- How good is your English? Native English speakers can skip this one. The SRA removed a certified level of English language proficiency as a condition precedent to attempting the QLTS assessments. But don’t be fooled; you need a strong command of English to even understand the course material, let alone attempt the assessments. In the OSCE, you need to demonstrate your proficiency to a level such that you can take accurate instructions from, and give clear and accurate advice to and advocate for client, understand and draft legal documents in English and to exercise rights of audience. No concessions are given for non-native speakers.
- How do you learn? Learning styles differ, and the MCT alone requires you to absorb, understand and demonstrate legal knowledge and application across 11 different areas. If you need time to become completely comfortable with a topic without undue pressure before moving on to the next one, you may want to allow yourself more time than someone who studies well under pressure and can tackle multiple discrete topics in fairly quick succession.
- Are you eligible to apply for exemptions from certain elements of the assessment? Some candidates, such as those qualified in any of the European Union Member States or who have completed the Legal Practice Course, may be eligible to apply to the SRA to have their legal knowledge and experience assessed. However, the evaluation process can take some time and is not always advisable.
- What are your other commitments? Work, family and hobbies can all impact and be impacted by your preparation efforts. The majority of our candidates are busy professionals working long hours; some prefer to start preparation earlier and study for fewer hours each week, while others use the flexibility of QLTS School course materials to, for example, play a video on contract law over breakfast. You want to fit the QLTS preparation around your commitments in life and ensure that none of these suffer due to lack of time, excessive pressure or losing focus on what’s important.
QLTS Preparation: Additional Resources For You
As you can see, there’s no real yardstick for how long to allocate for QLTS study and preparation. The fact is that becoming an English solicitor through the QLTS will require a lot of discipline and commitment in order to pass the assessments to the required standard. You therefore owe it to yourself and those around you to ensure that you carefully consider and plan your study timetable accordingly.
One recent development that will make things easier for you is that you can now take the MCT at a computer test centre in one of many countries worldwide. If you are not based in the UK, this will save time and cost in flying to London and attending the test centre, which often eats into a preparation schedule and requires additional time off work post-test in order to fly back from the UK and recover.
At QLTS School we can help you work out how long you need to spend preparing for the QLTS assessments, and help reduce that time where needed. The MCT Premium course offers a personalised initial consultation, in which you complete a questionnaire and have an interview with a tutor, who will prepare a personalised study plan and timetable for you with study direction and recommended completion dates so that you can hit the ground running and track your progress. Meanwhile, our flexible course delivery and multimedia content means that you can prepare and study in your own time, even during the daily commute, ensuring you squeeze the most out of your available time and no opportunity for study is wasted.
Preparation for the QLTS assessments includes reading through textbooks, watching video tutorials, answering hundreds of self-assessment practice questions and attempting mock exams, which, according to past candidates who have passed the QLTS assessments the first time, is the most important element in the preparation and key to success in the assessments. Sample training material for the MCT and OSCE assessments are also available free of charge on our website.
Course packages for the QLTS vary by features and fees so you can choose the preparation and material that’s right for you.
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