Important: The ILEC exam will be discontinued by Cambridge English after December 2016.

The 5 W’s of the ILEC exam

Who takes the ILEC test?

The International Legal English Certificate exam, better known by its initials ILEC or as the Cambridge English: Legal, is a high-level English proficiency qualification that was developed through a partnership between Cambridge ESOL, a part of the world-renowned University of Cambridge, and the TransLegal Group, a world leader in Legal English products and services. As the name implies, the ILEC exam is designed to demonstrate that candidates have the English language skills necessary for successful coursework and/or careers in international law. Accordingly, it is taken mainly by law students and practicing lawyers in pursuit of opportunities in an international legal environment. Many students take the exam as a certification of their English proficiency when they are applying to study law at English-language law schools or when they are seeking employment in an international legal context. Similarly, practicing lawyers use the certification when changing fields, seeking promotions, or learning English as part of a legal training program.

Why should you take the ILEC exam?

Because of its unique focus on legal skills, the ILEC is ideal for would-be international legal scholars. Moreover, as the exam itself is based on the kind of real world legal scenarios that candidates would encounter in their professional lives, organizations and institutions around the world know that high scoring applicants will be able to use English in practical situations such as: meetings and discussions; opinions and briefs; and correspondence and memoranda.

Also, because Cambridge English: Legal is the part of the Cambridge ESOL family of exams, it ensures candidates and organizations alike that their skills are also aligned to the broader, internationally recognized, requirements of the Common European Framework of Reference and can certify candidates with English speaking abilities ranging from B2 to C1.

As a result, the ILEC exam is widely recognized by governmental organizations like The Council of Europe, Ofqual, and the UK Border Agency as well as international lawyers’ association such as the European Law Students Association, the International Association of Young Lawyers, and the European Young Bar Association.

What exactly is the ILEC test like and what can I expect to see on it?

The ILEC is a paper exam that covers the four language skills of Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. All four sections are weighted equally and all aspects of the exam use realistic legal situations and contexts as the basis for their assessment. Despite these similarities, however, their lengths and formats vary. Importantly, for example, while the Reading, Writing, and Listening exams are taken together, the Speaking exam is scheduled separately.

Reading Test 75 minutes

The 75 minute Reading test has 54 questions divided out over 6 parts and includes English-language legal texts such as contract clauses, corporate documentation, commercial statutes, and legal opinions.

Writing Test 75 minutes

The Writing test is also 75 minutes long but its sections are divided out over only two parts. The first part, a 120-180 word letter, and the second part, a 200-250 memorandum, nevertheless also assess the skills employees need in a legal environment.

Listening Test 40 minutes

The shorter, 40 minute, Listening test is comprised of 4 parts and 30 questions on audio excerpts as diverse as interviews, meetings, telephone discussions, and recorded messages.

Speaking Test 16 minutes (scheduled separately)

The separate Speaking test, on the other hand, has 4 parts over 16 minutes, and tests the ability communicate effectively in face-to-face legal situations. A proctor (or “interlocutor”) will facilitate the exam by leading a pair of candidates through real world scenarios like contract negotiation and legal discussions which may alternately require responses be made directly to the examiner or between the two candidates.”

After the assessment, candidates who achieve a Level B2 or above will receive a formal proficiency certification. Students who achieve a Level C1 or above will be recognized as passing with merit.

Where and When can you take the ILEC exam?

The Cambridge English: Legal test is administered in authorized Cambridge ESOL test centers around the world. Dates and fees vary by location, so candidates should contact their local testing center for more details.

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