What I look for when I grade the Cambridge Law Test

Please note that there have been some changes to the format of the Cambridge Law Test in 2017. Because of this, the information below is no longer fully accurate.

Instead, please see the updated version of this article for the most recent information on the CLT.

Claire Fenton-Glynn, a University Lecturer and a fellow of Jesus College, explains what she looks for when she reads and marks student responses to the Cambridge Law Test.

The Cambridge Law Test is just one of a number of pieces of information we use to decide on a student’s application to Cambridge. It is meant to give us an idea of how a student can understand a piece of text, how they reason through an argument, and how they express themselves.

The test is divided into two parts: The first part is on comprehension of the passage; the second, requires applicants to give their own views on the topic being discussed.

For example, after reading an extract from a case, the test might ask the following questions:

(i) Explain in your own words the reasoning of the court in this case. In particular, what interpretations of the Act are considered in the course of the judgment, and why did the Court reach the conclusion that it did?


(ii) The Court says that H’s preparations did not amount to an attempted murder. What were those preparations? Do you think that the law of attempted crimes should be amended so that H would be guilty of attempted murder at an earlier stage in his plan? Give reasons for your answer.

When I am grading the first part of the paper, I am looking to see not only that the student has understood the passage that was set, but that he or she is able to explain it in their own words. What I want to see is that student is able to write in a very clear manner that is easily understandable, and follows a logical pattern. This means that I don’t necessarily want long, flowery prose, but instead I want to see things expressed precisely and succinctly. I am looking for the ability to pick out the most relevant ideas from the passage, and to present them for the reader in a coherent manner.

For the second part of the paper, I am also looking for clarity of expression, and whether the student has produced a well-structured and balanced argument. This means that I don’t want to just see a one-sided essay — part of the skill of being a lawyer is recognising that there are other opinions out there, and being able to produce counter-arguments to them. It’s important to remember that there is no “right” answer to this part — we are looking for students to express their own views and opinions, and produce clear, logical and well-reasoned arguments in support of them. We don’t expect any prior legal knowledge for the Cambridge Law Test — we want to see how you reason through ideas, not whether you know what the law is in a particular area.

One of the areas where a lot of students have difficulty is timing. They spend far too long on one part of the paper, and don’t have time to finish the rest. Students need to make sure that they allocate enough time for each section, so that they don’t leave an answer unfinished — which to me would indicate lack of organisational skills. This doesn’t necessarily mean that students have to spend equal time on part of the question — one part might demand more time and attention. But it does mean that you should produce a finished answer for each.

Ultimately, the Cambridge Law Test is meant to give us a more detailed picture of the ability of the student, and their potential as a law student. It’s important to remember that we’re don’t expect any prior legal knowledge for the Cambridge Law Test — we want to see how you reason through ideas, not whether you know what the law is in a particular area. The best way to prepare is by looking at the sample tests online, and practising answering them within the one hour time limit.

The Cambridge Law Test is an assessment that students are asked to complete when they come to Cambridge to interview in December. You can find more information about the assessment on our website, including sample tests and the marking criteria. You can also contact the college you have applied to for answers to specific questions.

The information in this article is considered correct at the time of publication.

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