The TOLES Higher Exam

About the Course

Our Higher Exam is the SECOND step in successful professional development with TOLES.

Building on a strong foundation

The Higher Exam builds on the language skills and knowledge of practical legal vocabulary acquired at Foundation level. The Higher Exam moves learners to the next stage and requires the ability to deal with more complex authentic legal documents and scenarios while also continuing to focus on a strict attention to detail and grammatical accuracy.


The exam has two papers: a reading and writing paper and a listening paper. The reading and writing paper requires a more active use of language than the Foundation Exam, and requires learners to deal confidently with complex and recent commercially-relevant case studies, extracts from contracts and a professional letter. It continues to test practical and useful legal vocabulary and requires the ability to provide precise definitions for very common words from commercial practice. It also demands a good knowledge of the register of language, and asks learners to improve informal English and make it more appropriate and professional.
The listening paper consists of listening to conversations between two or more lawyers or a lawyer and a client and answer questions based on understanding. The topics covered are very current and deal with situations that working lawyers frequently experience or topics that are of international interest. This continues the idea of the TOLES exams encouraging commercial awareness rather than an academic or theoretical knowledge of law.

Level of general English

The level of English needed for this exam is intermediate-upper intermediate level. The tasks at this level all use authentic, challenging general English and we recommend that exam candidates study some additional grammar as well as our training in legal English in order to score highly.


  • Time allowed: 135 minutes approximately (depending on variations in the listening test)
  • Skills tested: Legal reading and writing (90 minutes); legal listening (30-45 minutes)
  • Focus: Practical reading, writing and listening skills in authentic legal situations
  • Appropriate level of general English: Intermediate-Advanced
  • Training materials: ‘The Lawyer’s English Language Coursebook’ and other legal English books/materials available at an Intermediate level. Additional grammar study recommended
  • Score: The maximum score possible at Higher level is 100
  • Certificate: TOLES Higher with grade explanation

About the TOLES Higher Syllabus

The major aim of the Higher Exam is to build on the skills and knowledge learners have acquired at Foundation level and take them on to the next level. Legal vocabulary acquired at Foundation level is now tested in a series of very challenging tasks and learners are asked to deal with extracts from documents based on the types of examples suggested to us by leading law firms.


The focus of all of the TOLES exams is absolute accuracy, a strong legal vocabulary and familiarisation with modern legal style. All of these elements continue with this Stage 2 exam. Learners are challenged to deal with information concerning current and relevant legal topics and cases and to be absolutely accurate in areas such as collocation, preposition and legal terminology. They are also asked to deal with short yet complex extracts from contracts and to demonstrate a close understanding of them as well as providing their own definitions of specific legal terminology. Sensitivity to appropriate register is essential for the section dealing with a formal letter. In the listening section of the exam the focus is on a totally accurate understanding of conversations based on relevant legal topics.


The TOLES Higher Exam requires little or no knowledge of British or American law. It requires knowledge of useful, international legal terminology, a strong, active use of authentic grammar and a sensitivity to use of register in the following general areas:

  • basic legal negotiations
  • pre-contractual documents
  • commercial contracts
  • banking
  • companies
  • other forms of business
  • bankruptcy and insolvency
  • employment law and contracts
  • the litigation process
  • essential contract law
  • the law of tort
  • intellectual property
  • real estate
  • oral contracts
  • an introduction to the common law
  • letter writing skills