Judicial Appointments – Qualifying Tests

I try and update this blog when new information becomes available but the JAC are are consistently inconsistent! But the feedback reports  give candidates invaluable insights and how these tests work and are scored.  Below you will see some of the issues that have arisen during tests and some initial guidance.

Employment Tribunal Report: here

DDJ Civil test report: here – very useful especially for part 3 test.

1st Tier Tribunal qualifying test report

The Employment Judge competition will have a 3 part test on 17 July following a similar format as explained below. Although I expect that the situational judgment test will be more focused on Employment Tribunal scenarios. The Recorder 2018 test will, I think, have the first two parts on the 19 July and those passing these will be invited to sit the narrative scenario test on 11 September.

What could possibly go wrong?!


***** UPDATE 23 April 2018 *****

JAC server problems and seems like a repeat of the Recorder shambles last year. Candidates being advised to try again and test window extended until 11pm this evening (17/04). If you have hit problems, make a note of the issues and e-mail  [email protected] – they will surely have to make allowances for candidates effected. Some candidates may see it as a free dry run and have gained an advantage, others have been left totally frustrated and have now lost their opportunity to take the test.

Because of last week’s technical problems some candidates are being invited to re-sit DDJ tests on either 24/04 or 26/04 > raises more questions than answers?!


***** UPDATE 22 February 2018 *****

Following the Recorder competition debacle, the JAC believe they have now fully resolved their technical issues.  They will be using one test with three elements to shortlist candidates in the First Tier (06/03) and DDJ (17/04) competitions:

“The test is 2 hours long and is divided into three parts:

  • Part 1: 40 minute multiple choice test with 31 questions (testing Situational Judgement)
  • Part 2: 40 minute multiple choice test with 18 questions (testing Critical Analysis)
  • Part 3: 40 minute scenario-based test requiring 2 written answers.”

Hurdles 1 & 2 Below


****  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 selections 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 JAC seem to have dropped the straight legal knowledge element they had used in some earlier competitions. And it looks like they are settling on two strands to this first test: situational judgement and critical reasoning.  These questions are set by judges and are similar to these ones on the JAC website – Are You Ready?. The 2017 Recorder test will not examine criminal or family situations and will be generic so lawyers from all disciplines can apply. Future tests in other competitions may continue with jurisdictional scenarios or they could have a quota as in the last DDJ Crime competition.


The JAC ran a “system familiarisation exercise for Recorder applicants” – if you missed it, a PDF of the questions and answers can be found Recorder FEx


The critical analysis section is likely to be based on the transcript of a speech or judgement 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. This is 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)!

The JAC do not publish previous tests although I do have a copy of the 2014 DDJ Civil competition which will give you a feel for how they can look. Please just e-mail me ([email protected])  and I’ll send it 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, in is unclear whether the JAC will use specific tests in the future, so I have developed 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

Recently these tests have presented candidates with a scenario and then asked them to give a written ruling/decision within a strict word and time limit. These tests are marked by judges and like many exams will have a tight marking scheme. You can anticipate some potential answers/direction 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 2017 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.”

Hurdle 3 – Telephone Screening Interview

As with the other two sections this element is evolving and increasingly being deployed in competitions for fee paid posts. It is being used to test candidates’ communication skills. Most recently it has required candidates to make a presentation on a topic and to answer some supplementary questions. Receiving no visual feedback can be very disconcerting and I think many candidates are drawn into repeating the points they have made and waffling.  Listen carefully to the questions and give concise, focussed answers. Peter Marquand offers some excellent advice on managing the screening interview in his JAC podcast here.

I have done dozens of mock telephone assessments with candidates and the feedback has been very positive including: “I am quite sure I would not have made it this far without your excellent advice.”  “I have managed to get through the Recorder telephone assessment and to the selection day stage.  This was undoubtedly thanks to the guidance you gave me in relation to preparation and presentation; I would have approached it very differently otherwise – so thank you!”

On 15/12/16 the JAC posted some excellent guidance for the DHCJ – telephone assessment.

The JAC have reverted to asking all candidates to provide evidence of their competencies even though they will only be considered for those who pass the test and make it to the selection days. This short video may be helpful in developing your evidence of the competencies.


As a competition progresses I will  aim to share some further guidance and help – keep an eye on my website, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds. Any questions please just e-mail or call 0796 999 7335