Should you Study for the QLTS Assessments While Working?
“Should I study full-time or squeeze preparation in around work?”
Qualified Lawyer Transfer Scheme (QLTS) candidates across the world regularly grapple with this question. Without doubt, it is one of the most common initial enquiries we receive from those looking to take their legal career to the next level through dual-qualification as an English solicitor by passing the QLTS.
The areas of law covered by the QLTS span both the breadth and depth of fundamental English law. We often point out to international lawyers seeking to become dual-qualified English solicitors that they are undertaking a course of study that is normally one year full-time or two years part-time for domestic candidates, and to approach their preparation accordingly.
You need to not just know and understand English law, but, through the MCT and OSCE, be able to repeatedly and accurately demonstrate and apply the law and skills expected of a newly-qualified English solicitor on the first day of the job.
Unless you are fully versed in the knowledge and skills requirements for the QLTS assessments, you will be unable to make a realistic and informed decision as to how and how long you need to prepare.
Studying full-time for the QLTS assessments
QLTS full-time study may reduce the time you need to prepare for the QLTS MCT and OSCE, as well as eliminating the distraction and uncertainty that the demands of full-time employment can have on even the best-laid study plans.
Sudden and urgent deadlines, late nights and just sheer cumulative exhaustion after a long day’s work and commute can drain the most determined of QLTS candidates, while the prospect of a weekend of equity and trusts or property law can be quite unappealing after five days of hard work just gone.
With full-time study, you have more flexibility to set your own timetable and can enjoy longer periods of more focused preparation. There is less pressure and risk of disruption, and you don’t need to negotiate time off to attend the exams themselves.
Some QLTS candidates study full-time free of distractions as a result of a planned (or sometimes unplanned) employment break, plentiful financial resources or supportive domestic arrangements. For many of our candidates, however, ‘full-time’ study is, in fact, interspersed between full-time childcare duties or even preparation for other exams or qualifications.
A careful assessment of your own needs, time commitments and timelines needs to be undertaken in conjunction with a clear understanding of the course demands, exam dates, registration cut-offs and potential timetable clashes with your other responsibilities.
Many QLTS candidates study full-time for approximately four to sixth months before attempting the assessments.
Studying part-time for the QLTS assessments
The reality of work and finance for the majority of QLTS candidates means that they must fit their study in around their full-time or part-time, as well as meeting family and other commitments outside work.
While careful planning, discipline and time management are needed for full-time study, these factors are even more critical for those fitting study in around employment. You will be under enough pressure as it is, without the need to artificially and unnecessarily bring more on yourself.
Our first piece of advice is to be realistic. Are you really going to be able to sustain preparation for a high stakes professional assessment inside four months, studying four hours a day during the week and eight hours a day on weekends? You would be at serious risk of burnout, which will jeopardise not only your preparation, but your ability to function at work and as a family member. The increased risk of failure at the assessments, and concomitant resits and further periods of study would only exacerbate these adverse effects.
The most successful QLTS candidates – now enjoying the benefits of dual-qualification as an English solicitor – adopted a systematic and realistic approach to their study. Most studied between 6-12 months while working full-time, and in many cases were able to engage the support of their employers to make things a little easier. They also fully utilised the resources available to them, including mock tests and tutor support and guidance.
For some candidates, their day job became unexpectedly busy, their preparation efforts fell behind their timetable, or both. When this happened, rather than trying to add more pressure to themselves by attempting the assessments regardless, many took a step back and reflected, concluding it best to defer their assessment to the next round rather than try and force the attempt and risk failure and waste money.
How best to work out timings for the QLTS assessments
- Understand what is expected of you in the assessments; you want certainty from the outset and don’t want any surprises.
- Work out how much free time you can realistically devote to QLTS study daily, weekly and monthly, in line with your planned assessment date and your own circumstances. Build in some flexibility to account for the unexpected.
- Make a note of the assessment registration cut-off dates. A few weeks before, self-assess your progress by either attempting the practice questions or a mock test. If you don’t feel you have performed as well as you could have, consider whether proceeding with the assessment is a good idea as opposed to giving yourself more time and less pressure by deferring.
- Build in holidays and some downtime into your schedule – foregoing sleep or some leisure activity can be as detrimental as not giving yourself enough time to study.
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