The TOLES Foundation Exam

About the Course

The Foundation Exam is the FIRST step in successful professional development with TOLES.

Start here

The Foundation Exam is the recommended starting point in legal English training for international law students. For more experienced lawyers, this may be the correct starting point for those who wish to begin training in professional legal English while continuing to develop English skills in general.


The exam has one paper: legal reading and writing. The focus of the exam is on testing the absolute linguistic accuracy required of lawyers in a modern international office. This means accuracy in two main areas: technical legal vocabulary and grammar. Vocabulary from commercial deals, company documents, commercial contracts, intellectual property agreements, financial documents and forms of business are tested, as well as legal terminology from other areas.

A bridge between university and work

The Foundation Exam has been described by employers as ‘an excellent bridge for international law students between the world of university and the world of work’. As well as testing legal English, the Foundation Exam develops an awareness of the real tasks a lawyer carries out in an international legal office and focuses on real and recent legal developments and cases. For this reason, even learners with advanced general English can benefit from the Foundation Exam.

Level of general English

The level of English needed for this exam is elementary level. The priority at this stage is to make sure that a genuinely strong foundation of legal English is in place in order to allow learners to progress successfully to the next level. This strong foundation includes consolidating basic grammar before moving on to more complicated language structures. The exam is based on absolute accuracy in written English, not fluency. This means that when learners answer questions we expect their use of English to be very good and they will lose points for imperfect grammar as well as for vocabulary mistakes.


  • Time allowed: 90 minutes
  • Skills tested: Legal reading and writing (90 minutes)
  • Focus: Practical legal vocabulary in authentic situations; consolidation of basic grammar
  • Appropriate level of general English: Elementary-Advanced
  • Training materials: ‘The Lawyer’s English Language Coursebook’ and other legal English books/materials available at an introductory level
  • Score: The maximum score possible at Foundation level is 100
  • Certificate: TOLES Foundation with grade explanation

Find a TOLES examination centre in your country

Download a sample FOUNDATION paper

Buy a book of practice papers for the FOUNDATION Exam

Buy individual practice papers for the FOUNDATION Exam

Get Adobe

Foundation Syllabus

‘The problem for us is that law graduates come for job interviews and they have many certificates proving that they can speak and write English very well. Actually, they are not prepared with the English they need for commercial law. They are fluent, but they are not accurate. They know academic vocabulary but not the terminology of the real job’.
Human Resources Office, commercial law firm, MILAN.

About the TOLES Foundation Syllabus

The aim of the Foundation Exam is to ensure learners are equipped with a strong basis upon which to build the skills required by employers. We have analysed the drafting and general writing skills of thousands of international lawyers when working on office-based tasks and devised a step-by-step programme to help them eliminate mistakes and reach the standard required. The TOLES Foundation materials and exam ensure that serious learners will be successful and won’t make the very common mistake of attempting more advanced tasks before mastering the basics.


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 begin with this Stage 1 exam. Learners are challenged to recognise their own common mistakes in English as well as being required to identify accurate prepositions and collocations within a legal context, particularly within the context of written contracts. The TOLES Foundation Exam is modern and up-to-date. It takes account of significant language reforms in the English legal system and the legal profession’s continued movement towards a plainer use of English as recommended on Legal Practice Courses at all leading UK training centres and on CPD courses for qualified UK lawyers.


The TOLES Foundation Exam requires little or no knowledge of British or American law. It requires knowledge of useful, international legal terminology, a strong, active use of basic 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

Study Material

The following materials are useful for learners who are preparing for TOLES Foundation:

The Lawyer’s English Language Coursebook

ISBN: 978-0-9540714-6-2
Author: Catherine Mason
Publisher: Global Legal English
Description: A specialised coursebook in preparation for TOLES Foundation and TOLES Higher. Contains Audio CD and answer key.
Price: £34 (plus P&P)

Practice Papers for TOLES Foundation and Higher: Practice Book One

toles practice book one

ISBN: 978-0-9540714-5-5
Author: Global Legal English
Publisher: Global Legal English
Description: A book of 5 Foundation papers and 3 Higher papers for the TOLES exams. This book has a complete answer key, contains audio CDs and listening scripts for each Higher Exam. It also has an explaination of your exam score. 159 pages.
Price: £20 (plus P&P)

An Essential A-Z of Business Law

az legal english

ISBN: 978-0-9540714-7-9
Author: Catherine Mason
Publisher: Legal Fox
Description: Essential to you as an introduction to many of the most important words a working lawyer needs. 52 pages.
Price: £10.00 (plus P&P)

Dates 2019

The TOLES Foundation Exam is offered to training centres on the following dates in 2019:

21 March

27 June

22 August

21 November