Judicial Appointments – Qualifying Tests

I try and update this blog when new information becomes available but the JAC are consistently inconsistent! I have updated this in February 2021 and it is simply an attempt to explain how the JAC qualifying tests work, what to expect, some advice and links that may help candidates.

The JAC feedback reports used to give you invaluable insights about how these tests worked and were scored. Several years ago their reports gave you the questions and answers as well as analysis of the scoring. They were incredibly helpful. However, since they have mainly moved away from multiple choice testing of jurisdiction specific sitting scenarios. Their tests have become more nuanced and their feedback reports not as useful.

However, there are still some real nuggets of information and in effect advice you can glean from them. Do have a poke around: (while you are their the sift reports will give you some very useful tips on how to evidence your competencies in your application).

The JAC seem to have settled on 3 main tests which they use in competitions for most fee paid posts and some salaried posts.

1: Multiple choice testing Situational Judgement;

2: Multiple choice testing Critical Analysis;

3: A narrative scenario-based test requiring written answers.

 Typically they combine the multiple choice tests to be sat on one day and then those who pass are invited to sit the narrative test a few weeks later.

****  My Mock On-line Multiple Choice Tests Available here  ****

The JAC accepts that short-listing via qualifying tests is sub-optimal, but given the number of applicants in some competitions, it has become their default position. Whether the pass mark is relatively low or high is immaterial; there is a very fine line between success and failure and many candidates, who would make great judges, don’t even make it to the selection days.  The qualifying tests are a brilliant way of identifying people who are good at doing qualifying tests but not necessarily the best judges!  I’ve argued before that a lottery would produce a similar pool of candidates as multiple-choice tests. However, these tests are here to stay and will continue to evolve – so how should you approach them?

 Hurdle 1 Multiple-Choice Tests

The situational judgement questions are set by judges and are similar to these ones on the JAC website – Are You Ready?

A few years ago the JAC ran a “system familiarisation exercise for Recorder applicants” – if you’d like a copy of the questions and answers I’m happy to send it to you.

The critical analysis section is likely to be based on the transcript of a speech or judgement (often now sent to you in advance) and will ask questions based on your interpretation and analysis of it. There tends to be an element of time pressure on these multiple-choice tests so keep a clock handy and manage your time carefully. These are marked automatically with the correct answers scoring 1 mark (but some questions can attract 2 marks for the preferred answer and 1 for an acceptable alternative)! More recently, in 5 option questions they have asked candidates to select the most appropriate and least appropriate responses.

As mentioned, the JAC do not now publish previous tests, although I do have a copy of some old tests which are probably better than nothing! Please just e-mail me (  and I’ll send them and the answers to you.

I discussed the possibility of developing some mock qualifying tests with a number of judges and practitioners and was intending to develop crime, family and civil tests. However, it seems the JAC are unlikely to use specific jurisdictional situational judgement tests. This led to my development of a short non-jurisdictional on-line qualifying test along with a critical reasoning test.  Details about my Mock Qualifying On-Line Tests can be found here.

 Hurdle 2 On-Line Narrative Scenario Test

These tests have presented candidates with a scenario and then asked them to give written answers within a strict word and time limit. These tests are marked by judges and like many exams will have a tight marking scheme. You may be able to anticipate some potential answers/directions and prepare these in advance.  The challenge is to address all the key points, succinctly, within the time limit. Many candidates fall at this hurdle either because they make it more complicated than it is or struggle to adapt their style to the tight format required.  In this section they are looking to test your analysis, decision making and ability to communicate simply and clearly under time pressure.

e.g. Recorder Competition guidance: “ In the test you will be presented with a scenario concerning case management and procedural issues that may arise in any judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings to which English law applies. You will be required to provide a narrative response to 6 questions.”

In some competitions the JAC also use a telephone interview to enable them to make a final short-listing decision. It seems that they proved to me too time resource consuming for most competitions and at the moment only seem to be deployed in s9(4) Deputy High Court Judge competitions.

 Hurdle 3 – Telephone Screening Interview

This has required candidates to make a presentation on a topic and to answer some supplementary questions.  These can prove to be a real challenge and deceptively difficult!

I offer mock telephone interviews and further specific advice to candidates about these but fortunately this hurdle is unlikely to be used to shortlist DDJs, FTT fee paid or Recorders.

Your Application

The JAC switch between asking candidates to provide evidence of their competencies before the qualifying tests and in others they create a window after the results for successful candidates to submit their competencies.  This short video may be helpful in developing your evidence of the competencies.

 Further Help

I have developed a simple sheet of advice and guidance that I make available to my clients and I’m happy to share it. Please do also keep an eye on my Twitter and LinkedIn feeds for any urgent updates, sometimes I’ve had to post mid-competition when the JAC have had technical problems.  I hope this has been of some help but if you have any questions please just e-mail or call me > 0796 999 7335