Before starting to prepare for the OSCE, I spent a lot of time looking for sources to ‘understand’ it better. However only after starting to study for it and going through OSCEsmart’s sources providing detailed information about each assessment, I started to feel confident.
With hindsight, I think the complexity of the OSCE does not only require candidates to know their learning preferences but also their strengths and weaknesses really well. So my main advice would be to not waste time on comparing yourself with others; focus on understanding each assessment, learn about the law and practice to apply your knowledge with illustrating the tested skills.
In this post I am sharing some guidance, solely drawing from my own OSCE experience, as to how to approach the OSCE preparation in order to pass it on your first attempt. I guess the aspiring solicitors, who will go through the SQE route, could equally benefit from my general tips for SQE 2 given its similarities to the OSCE.
Enjoy the OSCE Prep process!
Perhaps for some it would be difficult to even use OSCE and enjoy in the same sentence given that it consists of eighteen assessments testing your legal knowledge in five different subjects and a series of skills within six days.
But I think, changing your mindset and approaching this period as an opportunity to learn the foundation of one of the most influential legal systems, could go a long way and help you enjoy this journey which is crucial to stay motivated.
At least this is what I did, and I feel like in general, learning about another legal system and acquiring some new (transferrable) skills have widened my horizon and made me a better lawyer overall.
I personally do not believe that there is a magic one-fits-all method to be successful in the OSCE as this clinical assessment is actually very intricate and as mentioned above, requires you to find your own way.
My advice is that do not compare yourself with anyone at any stage and instead, spend your valuable time to ‘learn’ starting with understanding how you need to apply the legal knowledge in each assessment.
For instance, I started to prepare by jumping into the OUP Civil Litigation book and I was totally lost. Even though I was reading, there was always this voice in the back of my mind asking, ‘How will you apply this knowledge?’.
Then I started to go through OSCEsmart’s sources explaining the marking criteria, which I prefer to think as the ‘rules’ of the game, and what to do to score high. This was a very critical point in my preparation as with a good understanding of the marking criteria, I could finally start to study mindfully.
You need to play the game by its rules
We all have different habits as professionals, shaped by different factors like jurisdiction and culture; you can benefit from some of those in the OSCE but be cautious about the habits that could possibly work against you. Also professional experience is definitely advantageous in the OSCE, but rather than solely relying on your experience, it is better to treat it as a game that you need to play by the rules. These rules (i.e. marking criteria) could be categorised in two main groups; legal knowledge and skills.
I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to master your skills. You need to use these skills while applying your legal knowledge, and scoring high on these could significantly improve your odds of passing the OSCE.
This brings me to the issue of mocks which are essential to practice the skills to illustrate them during the assessments. Perhaps this is the area that I benefitted from OSCEsmart the most; thanks to several mocks that I had, particularly for Part 1, I did not have any surprises on the assessment days. I knew what to do step by step in each assessment and believe me, stressing about one less thing is a big deal in those six days.
Be mentally ready for the assessment period
The period that you will take the OSCE is actually quite long and you need to be prepared for it mentally and logistically. You will be taking assessments in different subjects back-to-back which I think for most of us, means that after finishing the assessment of the particular day, going back to revise for the next. So think about how you will do these revisions and what to do to make your life easier in this period.
For example in Part 1, being able to recall the necessary information instantly (and during interviews, while communicating with a client) is crucial and Olga advised me to prepare very brief notes that I can quickly skim through to be able to do this.
I prepared these notes summarising the key points of several topics and combining those in a page considering the nature of each assessment. That definitely helped me a lot! You can even spice things up by using some colours and visuals, particularly if you are a visual learner.
Finally I need to thank Olga and the OSCEsmart team as they provided all the necessary tools and resources to pass the OSCE on my first attempt and they were always there for me.
They were also so understanding and accommodating at the time (i.e. 2020) where there were so many uncertainties surrounding the OSCE. I hope this piece will be useful for OSCE candidates and remind them that they are actually so lucky to have the skills, experience and the means of sitting this assessment.
P.S. If you have not done so, I suggest you read The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken which talks about the real-life application of most of the tested Criminal Litigation concepts and it is a very good read!
Brief background information
Cansin is a Turkish and English qualified lawyer and worked for the biggest IP law firm of Turkey for five years after completing her masters in QMUL.
She has expertise in IP law, particularly patents and very good understanding of EU and UK competition law.
She has a strong technology and information law foundation. Since 2017, she is a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, School of Law and working on standard essential patents (SEP).
She also has lecturing experience in higher education. She is a RET Associate Fellow which is a teaching qualification recognised by the UK Professional Standards Framework.