TOLES: English skills exam for lawyers

From handling international cases to communicating with clients from other countries, lawyers will often need to work in English at some point in their career. Being able to show off your skills with an internationally recognised certificate will give you the advantage when applying for new jobs or a promotion and will reassure clients that they are in safe hands.

What is TOLES?

The Test of Legal English Skills (TOLES) is a qualification specially designed for lawyers to certify that they can manage legal tasks and situations in English.  A TOLES certificate is valid for life and is recognised by law firms and organisations worldwide. 

Who is it for?

The TOLES exam was developed to enable qualified lawyers demonstrate that they have the practical English skills to perform legal tasks competently. The exam is suitable for lawyers working in commercial law and students who are studying Law at a university in an English-speaking country.

What does the exam test?

The exam tests the full range of communication skills needed by legal practitioners and covers a range of areas including contracts, real property, employment, sale of goods, competition law, business associations, negotiable instruments, intellectual property and aspects of international law.

How difficult is it?

There are three certificates:

Foundation (Level 1):

Suitable for candidates with a beginner level of general English. The focus is on practical legal vocabulary in authentic situations and consolidating of basic grammar.

  • Time allowed: 90 minutes
  • Skills tested: legal reading and writing
  • Candidate level of general English: elementary to advanced
  • The maximum score at Foundation level is 100

Higher (Level 2):

Suitable for candidates with an intermediate level of general English. The focus is on practical reading, writing and listening skills in authentic legal situations.

  • Time allowed: approximately 135 minutes
  • Skills tested: legal reading and writing (90 minutes), legal listening (30-45 minutes)
  • Candidate level of general English: intermediate to advanced
  • The maximum score at Higher level is 100

Advanced (level 3):

Suitable for candidates with an advanced level of general English. The focus on near-native level grammar and vocabulary. This level is the gold standard exam for commercial lawyers.

  • Time allowed: 120 minutes
  • Skills tested: legal reading, writing and drafting, knowledge of register and business idioms
  • Candidate level of general English: upper intermediate to advanced
  • The maximum score at Advanced level is 500

What is the ‘pass mark’ for each level?

The TOLES exam is an assessment of your level of Legal English, therefore instead of pass or fail marks, the examination provides a series of grades depending on how many points have been achieved.

For the Advanced level, you will be assigned a colour band depending on your score.

  • Gold (451-500 points) This candidate has excellent general English skills and is assessed as having excellent legal English skills.
  • Orange (401-450 points) This candidate has very good general English skills and is assessed as having very good legal English skills.
  • Red (301-400 points) This candidate has well-above average English skills and good legal English skills.
  • Purple (201-300 points) This candidate has good general English skills and is assessed as having satisfactory legal English skills.
  • Blue (101-200 points) This candidate probably has an above average level of general English and is assessed as having approaching satisfactory legal English skills.
  • Green (0-100 points) This candidate may well have a good knowledge of general English but is assessed as having only basic Legal English.

Do I need to complete levels 1 and 2 before I can take level 3?

No, you can go straight to level 2 or 3.

Where can I take the exam?

The exam can be taken at recognised exam centres in the UK and globally.

Are there any other legal English exams I can take?

The TOLES certificate is the only internationally recognised legal English exam. Until 2016 you could also take the Cambridge International Legal English (ILEC), but this has now been discontinued.

Does The London School of English teach TOLES?

Yes! We have an Advanced TOLES exam preparation course. This is a 1-week course for people aged 20 or over. It is taught in face to face classes Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm (London time). The course covers everything you need to know to help you achieve your best possible result. Many of our clients add this 1-week TOLES preparation course to a Legal English 20-30 course or to the Legal English: Commercial Lawyers course.

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