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QLTT Exam Advice (for Foreign Lawyers taking Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test)

  • 10-01-2016 5:03pm
    Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 7 qlttlawyer

    I sat the QLTT exams in two sittings across 2013 and 2014 and I’m currently working as a Solicitor in Dublin. Recently I was talking to someone who sat the QLTT exams in 2015 recently and found that they shared a lot of the issues I experienced.

    Personally I found the lack of information about the exams pretty annoying though so I’ve decided to post as much info as I can here to help anyone else.

    The Law Society are very helpful when it comes to giving you details about the deadlines, forms needed and how to get exemptions.

    What is frustrating though is the lack of information about the actual exams themselves. Because not many people take them there actually isn’t very much helpful information out there. Crucially there aren’t any sample answers either. All the courses and material the Law Society recommend are geared towards people taking FE1 exams (that Irish people take to become Solicitors and which are expensive) which means it’s extremely frustrating trying to gauge the level of work needed (not to mention the standard expected in the exam).

    One of the main problems with the QLTT is that it’s very hard to predict. While the FE1 exams tend to have more questions, this means they are easier to predict what will come up. The QLTT on the other hand reduces the number of questions (in many subjects you’re only answering 2 questions a subject) but this means it’s actually much harder to predict what topics can come up. In subjects like Constitutional Law, Tort Law and Company Law it becomes very difficult, as they tend to ask very specific questions on areas of topics rather than on the topic outright. So for instance on the Tort exam they might ask a negligence question which is all well and good but then they’ll word it so that you have to specifically know about “liability for injuries to prisoners while in prison.” Simultaneously the recommended study material as well as the FE1 courses don't tend to go into enormous amounts of detail that the QLTT demands. What this means is that even with all the study in the world, there’s still a lot of luck involved when it comes to the actual question wording.

    I’ve sat quite a few law exams in my time but these are definitely the most incoherent. You often get the sense in some subjects that the examiners are setting the exams with absolutely no regard to the other papers, so different exams actually tend to overlap a lot (as will be discussed Probate Law usually makes up two questions on the Land Law exam as well as the four questions of the Probate exam) and so ridiculous shortcuts emerge (as well as the Probate loophole you can also choose to do either Criminal Law or Company Law while exams like Land Law and EU Law tend to be structured very similarly year in and year out). At the same time there are some subjects (like Solicitor’s Accounts and Taxation) in which it feels like the examiners have decided to just incoherently cobble together their own syllabus which makes the actual calculations very easy but determining the standard very hard as there aren’t any accompanying material or sample answers that can help. This combined with the reoccurring spelling & grammar mistakes in the papers, the general reluctance of the Law Society staff when it comes to explanations and the overall sense of purposeful incompetence (one year's paper just used some of the same questions again) give the overall impression that there isn’t much oversight over the QLTT which is both a blessing and a curse for people seeking to take it.

    I've uploaded the past papers to imgur here:

    The exams cost around €2,000 all in. This includes the certification of eligibility, all exam fees and all the other bull**** administration fees the law society want to squeeze out of you.

    The exams are set as follows:

    1) Constitutional & Criminal or Company (4 hours long, you have to do 2 questions out of 4 from Constitutional AND 2 questions from the 4 Criminal questions OR 2 from the 4 Company questions- although apparently you can’t do 1 from each Company and Criminal. I saw "apparently" as I received two different answers when I asked this question from two different Law Soc staff).

    2) Contract & Tort (4 hours long, you have to answer 2 from 4 Contract questions)

    3) Land Law & Conveyancing (4 hours, answer 4 from 8)

    4) Probate & Taxation (4 hours, answer 3 out of 4 for probate, 3 out of 4 for taxation)

    5) Solicitors Accounts (3 hours, answer questions 1,2 and 3 and either 4 or 5))

    6) EU Law (3 hours, 4 questions)

    7) 30-minute oral exam on Solicitors Ethics

    EU Law: I found this one of the more difficult subjects. You get 8 questions on the exam and have to answer 4, although some are two or three-parts where you choose one. Unlike the other exams this one is three hours rather than four. Using the past papers you can usually make accurate predictions that there’ll be a question on Direct Effect/Supremacy, another on deportation, another on Article 102/101 and usually an Article 267 question. Even with these predictions however they tend to ask very specific questions. I took an EU law class in college and so was familiar with some of it but I found this exam to be one of the toughest in terms of material. The only advantage here is that unlike some of the other subjects you can get good sense of what you need to know from the past papers and the standard expected (must know the principle cases, some academic quotes and generally show you understand the byzantine legislative methods of the EU). Here’s some past papers:


    Probate: This is a relatively easy subject but there isn’t really any adequate preparation material. The Law Society just point towards an endless list of legislation and out-of-print textbooks. Most of the Land Law books have a chapter or two on Probate which is helpful for the big picture stuff but I found the most helpful method was to just run through past paper questions and google anything I got stuck on. I bought a book on Inheritance and Succession in Ireland that was somewhat helpful but clearly written for laymen thinking of writing their own will. Also on the day they let you bring in the 1965 Succession Act (that has all the probate rules) which means if you’ve done at least some background reading and familiarised yourself with the Act the exam should be fine. You do have to answer three questions though so just make sure you stick to your timing. There’s not much difference between the questions though: person dies, either they have a will or don’t have a will. Complications ensue.


    Land Law & Conveyancing: This is a strange one as they usually ask 5 land law questions, 2 probate questions and 1 conveyancing question. If you’re taking the Probate exam (which is usually scheduled the day after the Land Law exam) I can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t just answer the two Probate questions on the land law exam (and therefore get half the exam out of the way) as you’ve done all the probate study already. As I said there doesn’t seem to be much oversight of the QLTT. This shortcut allows you to save a lot of study time. The 5 land-based questions are also usually very predictable -mortgages, landlord/tenant duties and adverse possession have all shown up without fail on every paper I could find. So really if you study for the the two probate questions, you just need to prep 2 other questions (and maybe 1 safety). Only takes a few weeks with the right material (I used a 2009 Nutshells book on Irish Land Law but made my own notes on the changes brought in by the 2009 act). By far the easiest paper on the QLTT due to the shortcuts and predictions.

    Taxation: This is where it gets difficult. It took me a long time to realise how simple some of the actual questions on this exam were. They really only test Corporate Tax, Stamp Duty, CAT and CGT and VAT. The problem is finding material to help you study. As the Law Society recommended in their reading list I bought some very expensive Taxation Institute of Ireland books. But after two weeks of study I still couldn’t work out what they were testing. So I consulted with a few accountant friends who explained that the exam has been simplified to such an extent it has actually become confusing. For instance I had spent a long time studying the 200+ pages of the Corporate Tax chapter in the recommended textbook but from analysing the past questions I saw that you actually only need the first 5 pages of the Corporate Tax chapter. It's exceedingly basic to the point it becomes unsettling ("is this all they are asking?" I often found myself thinking). They really only ask the same questions with slight variations year in and year out. There were no tricks or detailed explanations needed. This makes it quite hard to work out the level of study for taxation, as from their reading list the Law Society seem to say you need to study volumes and volumes of tax books. In the end I mostly used the Irish Tax Collector's website ( ) “taxation explained” 1-page summaries. They also let you bring in a ton of tax law legislation (which is totally unnecessary as they only ask the same 5 questions. The legislation is also very expensive as usually only corporate firms buy it). As one of my accountant friends said “this exam reads like a lawyer trying to do an accountant’s job.”


    Contract: Much like Tort this exam is very difficult as it’s very hard to predict. Usually there’s a promissory estoppel question (but worded awkwardly) and usually there is one on exemption or exclusion clauses. There’s really no way around the amount of work needed for this one, just find some material (there are a number of good books on the law of contract in Ireland such as Treitel's and Robert Clarke's) and get studying. I will say that coming from a foreign jurisdiction, this subject (along with Tort, Criminal and Company) didn’t depart that much from what I’d learned back home. It’s also one that I know from talking to other QLTT takers that is relatively easy to get an exemption in if you’ve done any type of commercial work. Never hurts to try! (although I understand that you will need an employer/supervisor to sign off on a letter saying you've worked with a lot of contracts in a common law jurisdiction).

    Tort: This is another one that could go either way on the day. The questions are so specific you just have to hope for the best. Question 1 is usually an optional “write a note on” format that gives a list of cases or legislation. This was one of my better subjects in college and I enjoyed studying it again. However I still usually only found I could recognise (let alone write about) one of the four listed cases in Question 1. The next two questions are usually wildcards- things like liability for fire, child trespass, solicitor’s negligence, product liability causing death etc. Sometimes you can get lucky but it really does feel like a lottery. The last question is usually a negligence problem question which, if all else fails, you can usually bull**** your way through provided you have a passing knowledge of the right lingo. Like Contract this is just one that you have to find some good material for (like FE1 course notes or nutshells book) and study it till it’s learnt.

    Solicitor’s Accounts: This was hands down the most frustrating exam in the QLTT. It appears initially to just be basic double entry bookkeeping except the Law Society have decided to kind of invent their own version of it. They want you to answer the questions in their own bizarre way on their own horizontal books (you get sent a copy in the mail a week or two before the exam. It is crucial you practice with it). Again this was one I showed to accountant friends who couldn’t make head or tail of it. I think at it’s heart it’s quite simple but because the Law Society refuse to release sample answers it becomes near-impossible to decipher. I passed despite not knowing what I was doing and I talked to a girl who had passed the previous year (despite she said, only answering half the questions) who said that no one really fails this one as she suspects the Law Society don’t want anyone scrutinising this exam too much. I certainly felt from the few questions I asked someone in the Education office that no one at the Law Society wanted to talk about the Solicitor’s Accounts exams much. Even the reading list is woefully out of date with books that are either out of print or decades buried in irrelevancy. I ended up getting a UK solicitors accounts book from amazon as I couldn’t find any Irish ones and the Law Society were less than helpful in recommendations. It was frustrating to study for though obviously as the UK have their own rules.

    Solicitor’s Ethics: This wasn’t that bad. Just a 15-25 minute discussion with two solicitors about ethics. They presented me with a few scenarios and asked me about a few rules after a welcoming chat about my career. I wouldn’t discount this exam as the questions were quite difficult, it’s just a lot easier in comparison to the other parts of the QLTT and is administered by two practising solicitors. I’d recommend reading up on the Law Society’s Guide to Ethics but also studying in detail the legislation on Money-Laundering (which seems to be updated every year). Also make sure to dress smartly for this. One guy rocked in wearing shorts and was horrified to find the rest of us in suits…

    Constitutional Law: I have a feeling this is one they relish making difficult for foreign lawyers as Irish Constitutional Law is probably the most complicated (but fascinating) part of the course. It requires the most work but is actually one of the more interesting areas to study. Again it’s very hard to predict as they don’t tend to follow patterns when setting questions. There tends to be a a preference for problem questions on this exam though which can be an advantage as you can usually interpret the problem in a number of ways. A course or good book (I used JM Kelly’s book together with Oran Doyle’s book). You can bring a constitution into the exam as well which helps for the quotations. However from the past papers, especially in comparison to the easier FE1 constitutional law exam, it's clear they like writing horrible trick questions for the QLTT to trip up the non-nationals so I'd recommend reading each question ultra-carefully before picking which two to do.

    Criminal Law: Procedurally there isn’t a whole lot of new stuff in Irish Criminal Law in comparison to other common law jurisdictions. There is usually a sexual offences question, usually a fatal offences question and usually a criminal procedure question (arrest, bail, access to solicitor). It’s a lot of material but it’s relatively straightforward and there’s a ton of good material out there (Conor Hanley’s book is a good one). I didn't end up taking this one in the end but having read through some of the initial stuff and having a passing familiarity with Criminal Law (my previous firm does some criminal work) it didn't seem like the hardest exam by any means.

    Company Law: This was all changed by the 2014 companies act but again this is one that is straightforward. I was studying for both Criminal and Company (on the day you get a choice which one to do) but then ended up getting an exemption for Company law based on my past work experience (which meant I didn’t have to do Criminal law either. I know this doesn’t make sense but this is just one of the many wonderful incompetencies of the QLTT you can exploit). Again from looking at the past papers though it didn’t seem too difficult. Probably an idea to just focus on either Criminal or Company though rather than both if you can’t get an exemption. I'd say from the amount of legislation alone Criminal might be the easier option.

    Exams: They are held in the Law Society and are extremely casual. We weren’t searched for phones or anything which meant a girl I took it with was constantly making “bathroom trips” with her phone. She even joked about looking stuff up she forgot in the stalls after the exams were over (I'd say she probably passed her ethics exam with flying colours too). They also don’t stop you going to the bathroom in pairs. They also made several mistakes about what legislation we were allowed to bring in which meant one exam was made SHOCKINGLY easier thanks to the proctor making a mistake and handing out the wrong legislation (even when some fastidious German pointed out to him he'd given us the wrong one and that the exam had just become much easier if we were allowed this particular act he didn't seem to care). Adding to the general nonchalant atmosphere is that you're allowed calculators, sweets, water, soda pop, sandwiches (a guy brought his lunch, which was soup, in every day) and really whatever else you want. They even stopped getting us to put our bags outside eventually and just let us tidy our notes away under the table. In the Taxation exam a girl's calculator broke and she was told she could just use her internet-enabled iPhone as a calculator. That probably made recalling all those tax rates considerably easier…Although saying my friend who sat the 2015 ones and he said they were actually given a booklet of all the different tax rates on the day (which kind of makes the weeks of studying them pointless).

    Standard: Unlike the laid-back exam conditions they appear to be marked extremely hard. I know personally that a lot of the subjects I thought I had aced it turned out I had barely passed. In other ones that I thought I'd done poorly in I ended up scoring really well. I’m normally quite good at predicting how I’ve done in tests so this was surprising to me. Honestly I initially thought there might be a chance they had mixed mine up with another candidate's (probably still is a possibility). I wrote a minimum of three to four pages per answer (except in taxation which was mostly figures and therefore less writing) and found I did best in the subjects where strained my wrist and wrote more (6-8 pages per answer) which I thought would mean I would be penalised for bull****ting but turns out the opposite happened. Also be sure to have quotes from academics or judges and be referencing at least 2-3 cases per page. That said all of this could be entirely subjective as the whole examination process struck me as very incoherent. My marks were all way off what I had predicted even though I passed and from talking to other QLTT takers this seems to be the norm. Certainly for the Solicitor's Accounts exam having spent a few weeks trying to work out how they wanted me to do it I was convinced I had gotten it all right, but then the final score indicated I'd barely gotten half of it right...I'm still lost as to what they wanted.

    Courses: A lot of people opt to do the FE1 courses to get the material. I didn't because I simply couldn't afford it (courses run at 3-5k in euro) and I figured I'd just buy some books and rent some from the library. Although I passed there were times I'd regretted not doing a course in a few subjects (solicitor's accounts, EU law) but at the same time I'd point out that because so few people take the QLTT there aren't actually any specifically designed courses. All the FE1 ones and Blackhall Place ones are geared towards totally different outcomes and are pretty expensive to boot.

    I’ve heard rumblings that they might reformat the QLTT and to be honest as someone who has been through it I think this is desperately needed. The main thing I think could be helpful would be the inclusion of sample answers.

    Nevertheless the QLTT is a good qualification to get if you're planning on a legal life in Ireland. It actually practically qualifies you in the UK too if you take an English Land Law class (which I did). While I certainly don't regret doing it, I'm very glad it's behind me...

    Hope this helps!


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