Students of English generally have a lot of choice when it comes to an exam or test programme. Depending on why you need, or want, a certificate to show your English level, there will probably be something for you. Alongside the Cambridge English suite of exams, which most people know about, there are other alternatives, such as IELTS, TOEFL, and TOEIC, among others.

However, when it comes to legal English, the choices are now very limited. Until the end of 2016, ILEC (International Legal English Certificate), which was a Cambridge ESOL exam, was one option. ILEC was discontinued at the end of 2016 and, as yet, Cambridge English have not introduced a replacement or alternative.

As with all things, there is good and bad news. The bad news is that if you want to obtain some kind of legal English certificate to show your ability, you now only have one choice: the Test of Legal English Skills (or ‘TOLES’). TOLES offers three exams: the ‘Foundation’, ‘Higher’, and ‘Advanced’ exams, with the Advanced exam being the ‘gold standard’.

The good news is that TOLES Advanced is an incredibly comprehensive programme and exam – if you are primarily interested in legal English for commercial purposes. We will say more about this later. In order to do well in the exam, you will need a very wide knowledge of both legal vocabulary and fundamental legal principles of English law.

There are several reasons why people might choose to take this exam. They may simply wish to have some idea of their level of legal English. Alternatively, they may wish to demonstrate to a potential recruiter or employee that their English and knowledge of English legal vocabulary and basic principles is good. If you are in that second category, doing a TOLES programme and the Advanced exam will certainly help you.

More bad news is that it is a very difficult exam to do well in and takes a lot of hard work. However, if you are really interested in getting that job or internship, and succeeding in your legal career, hard work should not be a problem.

In the next post in this series, we will look at some general tips for doing a TOLES programme and how to approach the Advanced exam, which is the exam most junior international lawyers and law students should be aiming for.

See you next time.

If you are interested in taking the TOLES Advanced exam, we offer a programme to help you maximise your chances of doing well. For more information, contact

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