How ILEC (International Legal English Certificate) pretesting can benefit your Legal English students
Matthew Firth teaches Legal English at the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland), the University of Liechtenstein and the Management Centre, Innsbruck (Austria). He is also involved in Legal English publishing and research. Matthew shared with us his experiences regarding pretesting for the International Legal English Certificate (ILEC):
“One of the things that first got me involved with working for TransLegal was my belief that an ILEC-based syllabus can form the basis of an excellent Legal English course. This belief was further strengthened as I began developing a number of ILEC courses for both lawyers and law students. The teacher’s handbook is a great resource, offering insight into both the ILEC exam and the practical language skills needed by lawyers working in English as a Lingua Franca.
For the past five years I have taught a six-month long ILEC evening course at the University of Liechtenstein. This course is usually attended by around sixteen lawyers, judges, trustees and legal secretaries. My contract with Liechtenstein states that I have to provide a mid-term test during the course. As it is an ILEC course, I decided that rather than attempting to cobble together my own exam – it would make sense to run ILEC pretests. This would give the students both useful exam practice and the opportunity to get feedback on their current level of Legal English from Cambridge ESOL before registering for the ILEC.
These pretests have proved very popular. As the pretesting invitation from Cambridge ESOL says, pretesting gives learners a chance to practise taking a Cambridge English exam using genuine questions under exam conditions. It also saves me having to prepare my own mid-course exam! Pretesting works like this: you complete this form and submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org in order to become an approved Pretesting Institution. Once this is complete, you can request pretests by logging onto www.cambridgeesol.org/pretesting using your username and password. Cambridge ESOL will then send you a pretesting pack, you run the pretest under exam conditions, send the exams back to Cambridge (at their expense) and a couple of weeks later you will get extensive feedback on each of your students’ performance (including written feedback on the writing tasks and details on how they did in each individual task on the reading and listening papers). You can then go through the feedback with each learner and give them informed suggestions as to what they should focus on during their out of class self-study.
Pretesting is useful for Cambridge ESOL as trialling exam materials with students before they are used in exams allows them to make certain our exams are accurate and fair, with each individual item pitched at the right level. It is also a way of making sure that test content is appropriate and people from different countries and cultures do not widely differ in the way they perform on a test, or that neither male nor female candidates are disadvantaged. It is useful for the students because it gives them the opportunity to experience the exam under exam conditions, and at no cost. No matter how often I model an exam task type in class, there is nothing that quite compares with completing a task during an actual exam. Pretesting allows the students this opportunity, and the feedback they get from Cambridge ESOL then helps them focus as they approach the exam.
As well as providing useful exam practice and feedback, I have noticed that many more of my students now go on to take the ILEC exam. At the start of the course, maybe five or six will tell me that they definitely intend to take the exam. Once they have all taken the pretest, this number usually doubles. I have noticed that those students intending to take the exam tend to be more focused as the ILEC provides them with a real aim. The free ILEC pretest is now part of the course description, and several students have reported that the prospect of a free pretest helped persuade them to take the course. So only does offering a pretest make sense pedagogically, it also makes good business sense as far as language schools and freelancers are concerned.
As the pretests have been so popular during my evening classes, I am now also running a yearly pretest for the law students on my Legal English courses at the University of St Gallen. Ten of them took the pretest a couple of weeks ago, and all of them have said that they would like to take the ILEC exam at the end of the course. I find this very encouraging, as I really do think that the ILEC is an extremely useful certificate for lawyers to have on their CV.”