By Dr Irene Rudique
With the business life worldwide being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the results of the November 2019 QLTS OSCE seem to be past history now.
November’19 QLTS OSCE: numbers and opinions
If we look at the results released by Kaplan QLTS, there is nothing indicating the November’19 exam was any harder than those conducted earlier. The pass mark averaged 61.67 - though insignificantly, but lower than in the previous years, where it fluctuated between 63 and 67. The OSCE pass rate of 73 is even higher than on average (between 57 and 80.45). To some, that may suggest the November 2019 OSCE was almost a piece of cake - but that’s jumping to conclusions too soon.
Let’s listen to what is said by OSCEsmart candidates with the previous experience of sitting the OSCE. When asked about the complexity of the November’19 OSCE, our students doing the survey voiced the unanimous opinion: it was more demanding compared to the exam they took earlier. Among the new challenges, prospective solicitors identified a more complex structure of the tasks - with questions including several sub-questions, longer instructions, less straightforward and more detailed assignments in Part 1, as well as the much discussed technical issues with the databases. With the latter though, Kaplan’s instructions are absolutely clear: in case of technical problems with one database during the exam period candidates are expected to do the legal research on the other database, full stop.
OSCE Part 2: pitfalls and opportunities
When asked about the harder of the two parts of the OSCE exam, almost half the lawyers surveyed named Part 2 (40.4%), as compared to 29.8% opting for Part 1, and the rest selecting Both - 26.3% or Neither - 3.5%. OSCE Part 2 is frequently considered a more difficult element of the exam - in the candidates’ success stories, blogs or professional forums.
One of the major reasons for that is surely a significant time constraint imposed on this component of the QLTS OSCE. There are studies proving students tend to perform worse in timed examinations than under the untimed condition. That was especially true for high-anxious students (Onwuegbuzie, Seaman).
At the same time, let’s not forget the OSCE assessment is not a college exam - its structure may be a far cry from how they tested you at the university. That is to say, coming to terms with it is much easier if you know the ground rules - particularly those that apply to legal writing, legal drafting and legal research. To this, we could also add writing an attendance note/ case analysis assessed in OSCE Part 1.
In view of the above, one major step that we considered a potential enhancement of OSCE preparation we delivered to our clients, was adding all the three types of mocks included in OSCE Part 2. We started small, with just a writing and a drafting exercise, gradually growing that to a fully fledged study resource and including it in all OSCEsmart packages. The results were fully justified: 100% of OSCEsmart students taking the survey answered Yes when asked if they thought doing OSCEsmart Part 2 mocks helped them in the exam.
That fully agrees with our experience of conducting and assessing the lawyers’ submissions in all Part 2 exercises across all the practice areas. More specifically, we have observed a rather limited understanding of what to focus on in the attendance note written by hand immediately after the client interview, and in the legal writing mock conducted as a computer based exercise within Part 2 of the Assessment. A tendency quite common among legal professionals qualifying via the Qualified Lawyers’ Transfer Scheme is to disregard the legal component of the assessments above - while it is in fact the deciding factor.
The good news however is that these mistaken assumptions are effectively eliminated by means of practice. We have noted a remarkable improvement in the lawyers’ writing skills after 2-3 written mocks. Through comprehensive feedback and detailed assessment which they receive after submitting a completed Part 2 task, prospective solicitors learn to provide comprehensive analysis of legal issues involved, while balancing that with a non-legal component of the assessment.
OSCE Part 1: learn to beat stress
In parallel with that, we advise not to underestimate Part 1 of QLTS OSCE. Though considered by many a less complex part of the Assessment, it is certainly not the least stressful one.
First, it requires you to multitask - engage in:
- close reading (no scanning or skimming!)
- while also interacting with a mock client both verbally and non-verbally, and
- advising him/her on the issues raised.
Second, your performance in Part 1 activities, in the interview particularly, is strongly dependent on the client. Human factors are widely regarded to be contributing to lower concentration and a higher chance of error. That’s especially true for Part 1 of the QLTS OSCE. Here the candidate’s stress, burnout and fatigue are combined with those of the assessor - which can have a dramatic effect on the lawyer’s performance. Consistent practice with a variety of mock clients and an extensive pool of scenarios is found to help prospective solicitors training with OSCEsmart build up their skills of:
- obtaining relevant information
- identifying the client's expectations and needs
- establishing an effective professional relationship with the client
- providing the client with appropriate legal analysis and advice.
This conclusion proves to be totally in line with the opinion by QLTS OSCE candidates participating in our survey. Three fourths of the respondents (76.8%) indicated real-time mock exams as the most crucial component in their preparation for the OSCE.
Read before you think (Fran Lebowitz)
That is not to diminish the value of the other - and by far the most fundamental! - component of successful exam prep: good old reading. We firmly believe that books and manuals constitute the main source of theoretical knowledge, and no summary notes can ever substitute them. What the latter can do however is facilitate the candidates’ preparation for the QLTS OSCE, and provide them with a better understanding of this highly demanding exam.
With that in mind, you will be fully equipped for a meaningful and successful ride to your goal. Ride smart!
OSCEsmart is a QLTS training provider offering a training plan with a strong focus on the candidate’s practical skills. Among a variety of QLTS preparation materials, OSCEsmart provides access to OSCE Part 1 and Part 2 mocks. Part 1 mocks are conducted online via Zoom by qualified solicitors and interviewers who follow up the individual mock sessions with detailed feedback and analysis. OSCEsmart Part 2 mocks are conducted online and receive individual marking and feedback. Boost your OSCE preparation without leaving the comfort of your home or office, and at any time you find suitable.