MCQ Advice: Know The Enemy!

SQE Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) are high quality multiple choice questions that have been written and checked by qualified solicitors according to an established pedagogy to ensure they are fair, valid and reliable. This means that they do not simply test basic recall or knowledge of the law but the application of the law to demonstrate the competency of a newly qualified solicitor of England and Wales.

90 sample question are available on the SRA SQE website which will give you an idea of the style of questions that will be used to test your ability to apply fundamental legal principles and rules but in essence a SQE MCQ will consist of three parts:

i. The Scenario or Fact Pattern;

ii. The Question; and

iii. The 5 Options (i.e. answers).

The Scenario or Fact Pattern will be concisely written and not include any irrelevant facts or words. Remember it is not a trick question. Kaplan want you to understand the scenario and apply the law to a realistic client based problem or situation.

The Question will be carefully worded to ask you a single focused task that leads you to 5 possible Option answers.

All 5 Options will seem plausible but only ONE is the single best answer to the question asked. The tighter the wording of the Options, the harder the question. Single best answer questions may literally turn on a single word or phrase – it is a sophisticated legal word game which is all about precision, therefore, accurate recall of the law is necessary. For example, if the test is for ’substantial grounds’ the assessor may use distractor answers like ‘reasonable grounds’ or ‘satisfactory grounds’ to mislead you into selecting the wrong answers. Also, avoid answers which use absolutes like ‘always’ and ‘must’.

Hopefully from the 5 possible options you will be able to narrow it down to 2 answers of which ONE will be the single best answer. If in doubt, trust your instinct which will rely on your subconscious learning that you have been doing over many months of hard work and study. Also, it is advised not leave MCQs unanswered. It is best to answer the question and make a note to come back to it later. Do not mark more than one answer. On average you have 1 minute and 42 seconds per MCQ, therefore, it is important to stay on track, stay focused, answer all questions and don’t panic. As the saying goes “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast!”.

Lastly, the IRAC method may help you when approaching an MCQ:

i. Identify the ISSUE;

ii. Remember the RULE;

iii. APPLY to the scenario;

iv. CHOOSE the single best answer.

You should also be aware that the SRA website provides the following information about the range of MCQ style used to test Functioning Legal Knowledge:

i. A question may require the candidate to both identify and apply a fundamental legal principle or rule;

ii. A question may identify the relevant legal principle or rule and require you to identify how it should be properly applied and/or the outcome of that proper application;

iii. A candidate may be required to demonstrate that they understand whether a client can legally achieve a desired outcome and offer appropriate explanatory advice;

iv. Where the legal result of a client’s action is already established by the question, the candidate may be required to identify why the application of a legal principle or rule produces that result in law and/or what the relevant legal principle or rule is;

v. A question may require a candidate to perform a calculation by applying rules, rates, percentages and thresholds to identify a correct figure.