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.
The aim of the Foundation Exam is to ensure learners are equipped with a strong basis upon which to build the skills required by employers. We have analysed the drafting and general writing skills of thousands of international lawyers when working on office-based tasks and devised a step-by-step programme to help them eliminate mistakes and reach the standard required. The TOLES Foundation materials and exam ensure that serious learners will be successful and won’t make the very common mistake of attempting more advanced tasks before mastering the basics.
The focus of all of the TOLES exams is absolute accuracy, a strong legal vocabulary and familiarisation with modern legal style. All of these elements begin with this Stage 1 exam. Learners are challenged to recognise their own common mistakes in English as well as being required to identify accurate prepositions and collocations within a legal context, particularly within the context of written contracts. The TOLES Foundation Exam is modern and up-to-date. It takes account of significant language reforms in the English legal system and the legal profession’s continued movement towards a plainer use of English as recommended on Legal Practice Courses at all leading UK training centres and on CPD courses for qualified UK lawyers.
The TOLES Foundation Exam requires little or no knowledge of British or American law. It requires knowledge of useful, international legal terminology, a strong, active use of basic grammar and a sensitivity to use of register in the following general areas:
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.
The major aim of the Higher Exam is to build on the skills and knowledge learners have acquired at Foundation level and take them on to the next level. Legal vocabulary acquired at Foundation level is now tested in a series of very challenging tasks and learners are asked to deal with extracts from documents based on the types of examples suggested to us by leading law firms.
The focus of all of the TOLES exams is absolute accuracy, a strong legal vocabulary and familiarisation with modern legal style. All of these elements continue with this Stage 2 exam. Learners are challenged to deal with information concerning current and relevant legal topics and cases and to be absolutely accurate in areas such as collocation, preposition and legal terminology. They are also asked to deal with short yet complex extracts from contracts and to demonstrate a close understanding of them as well as providing their own definitions of specific legal terminology. Sensitivity to appropriate register is essential for the section dealing with a formal letter. In the listening section of the exam the focus is on a totally accurate understanding of conversations based on relevant legal topics.
The TOLES Higher Exam requires little or no knowledge of British or American law. It requires knowledge of useful, international legal terminology, a strong, active use of authentic grammar and a sensitivity to use of register in the following general areas:
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.
The major aim of the Advanced Exam is to equip lawyers who do not have English as a first language with the skills they need to work in a modern commercial legal environment at the very highest level. The training for TOLES Advanced together is the final step in our programme in achieving the standard employers require.
The focus of all of the TOLES exams is absolute accuracy, a strong legal vocabulary and familiarisation with modern legal style. All of these elements come together at the highest level with this Stage 3 exam. The priority of the TOLES Advanced Exam is to give learners an opportunity to genuinely test themselves at the most challenging level possible and to provide employers with a certificate they can trust.
The TOLES Advanced Exam requires little or no knowledge of British or American law but learners who do well at this level usually have a strong awareness of commercial realities when dealing with the UK and the USA. Commercial awareness is an essential skill when it comes to scoring well in the TOLES Advanced Exam and some background reading and knowledge of current events in the international legal market is vital. Extra material on best practice in the profession in key areas is highly recommended. The exam requires knowledge of essential, international legal terminology, a mastery of complex grammar and complete sensitivity to use of register in the following general areas: