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How I Prepared for and Passed the QLTS OSCE: Sum LAM, Patent Lawyer — Hong Kong and China

  1. I received my OSCE result from Kaplan in the middle of August 2018 and passed OSCE with 71% above the passing mark 64%. It is not a very high score (but definitely not a low mark either); however, it is a very high score in my circumstances, because I am a patent lawyer which has zero relevance to any of the heads tested in MCT or OSCE; although I am a Hongkonger (a former British colony), I practice Chinese law, which is fundamentally different from common law.
  2. I have taken several difficult academic and professional examinations in the past. For example, there were only two universities in Hong Kong — so we had only 1–2% chance to get into universities. I took China Patent Bar examination, the passing rate of which was only 2.6% (strictly 262 passed out of some 10000 candidates) in the year I sat. I have taken also Chinese Bar examination; the passing rate was about 6–7%. I passed them all each in one go. Although these examinations are, I think, extremely difficult in view of the very low passing rate, I can seriously tell you that they are not as tough as QLTS OSCE.
  3. OSCE assesses mainly six areas, namely property law (actually not only property but property law and conveyance), business law, civil litigation, criminal litigation, probate and tax law. As compared with MCT which tests 14 heads, OSCE does not ”seem” scary. But this is a wrong perception.
  4. Think about that in a written exam, you are given a question. Most likely you do not know the answer instantly. So you may think first, and start drafting the answers on your scratch paper, then make this-and-that amendments or sometimes even have to revamp them. However, in several stations of OSCE Exam, you will be asked a question orally face-to-face. If you do not know the answer instantly, how can you respond to your examiner client? Remember you are a lawyer and are supposed to be able to answer most of, if not all, the questions immediately; otherwise, your client may lose confidence in you.
  5. The difficulty in OSCE is not just the knowledge, but also the “skill” which cannot be acquired by reading books. I bought the OUP book “lawyer’s skill” but I can tell you that you would not satisfy the examiner by just reading the book. The skill performance comprises 50% of all marks. In other words, even if you had memorised all the very thick OUP books by heart like a genius, you could fail if you fail to show you have all the necessary skills.
  6. I would like to summarise the difficulties I have observed in OSCE assessment in one sheet:
  • It is close-book examination — unlike other similar examinations in commonwealth jurisdictions (such as Hong Kong). You are supposed to memorise everything by heart.
  • Some heads are very difficult. Albeit I think most will pick “property law” as the most difficult subject, I believe “probate” and “tax law” are very demanding and tricky. Therefore even if you have extensive knowledge, you must be also smart.
  • As said, just memorising by heart is not enough, because you must be also extremely familiar with the knowledge to such an extent that when your examiner asks you a question you should be able to reply immediately.
  • You must also demonstrate all the necessary skills which you cannot learn from OUP books or notes. Skill amounts to half of overall marks!
  • You must be able to write and speak fluent English like almost a native; otherwise you may fail. Understandably, it is unlikely for SRA to admit you as an English lawyer, if you speak only broken English.
  • Remember Research part is dauntingly tough. You will be given two to three questions and Lexis and Westlaw databases. However, I have found that they work not like Google at all. You must actually know the legal languages of the statutes and case laws; otherwise you would be buried within heaps of irrelevant search results.
  • By intuition, you might think “Interview” is a piece of cake. That is completely incorrect. You must be very familiar with the relevant law so that you would be able to know what questions you should ask.
  • There is no past paper! Kaplan/SRA even does not allow us to tell you what has been examined.

7. I have listed the difficulties, so how I passed the OSCE given that

A. I am foreigner;

B. I am patent lawyer and do not practice any areas of the heads tested in MCT and OSCE;

C. I know only civil law which is very much different from common law.

8. You might think you can pass anyway if you study the books hard. This is only half true. We are adult lawyers working in a busy law firm. We are no longer a young teenager — we do not have the same strong memorising power as before. So it is not uncommon that after you have learned everything in Chapter one by heart and are studying Chapter two, your memories of the contents in Chapter one at the same time start to fade away.

9. I bought courses from [the name of a training provider omitted] and OSCEsmart. I have found their differences. Both do provide notes; however, I have found that [the name of a training provider omitted] notes are too comprehensive to be memorisable. OSCEsmart’s pdfs are much easier to follow. But I think the critical difference lies in the face-to-face mock exams (via Skype). Perhaps [the name of a training provider omitted] has too many students, they do not have the manpower to train the students one by one and subject by subject. In this regard, I think I need to tell you an important story — one day I studied too hard and felt exhausted; however, time for a mock exam with OSCEsmart lecturer (Olga) was approaching. I sent a message to Olga that I wanted to skip this mock. I think if I were the teacher I would be happy (as long as you have paid, who cares if you want to abandon what you have paid?). To my surprise, Olga called me, saying that “how can you pass without practicing?”

10. As I have said, OSCE Exam requires you have abundant knowledge (50%) and skills (50%). It is unlikely you can achieve all these by reading books or notes, because you would forget what you have tried to memorise painstakingly, and you would not learn the enough skills from books. That’s why I prefer OSCEsmart. They solve all these problems by providing easy-to-follow, memorisable pdf notes and video lectures as well as enough mock exams with their teachers face-to-face via Skype from which you can learn skills which you cannot learn from elsewhere.

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