Unique to students applying for Cambridge, the Cambridge Law Test (CLT) is an essay-based exam that Law applicants must sit.
Testing your ability to cope with the demands of the Cambridge Law course, the CLT is used to complement the other elements of the admissions process.
These questions are designed to test your academic and intellectual rigour, so knowing how to answer a CLT question will demonstrate your suitability to read Law at Cambridge.
How Is The CLT Different To The LNAT?
Students applying for Cambridge will not have to sit the LNAT unless they are applying for a course at another university that requires it.
The main difference between the two is that the LNAT has a multiple-choice section, and then an essay question with the exam lasting two and a quarter hours. In comparison, the CLT is just an hour-long, and candidates are required to answer one question out of the choice of three.
The questions candidates have the choice of in the CLT, differ from Section B of the LNAT as they tend to skew more towards legal questions as opposed to general current affairs questions.
Another significant difference between the CLT and the LNAT is when they are sat. The LNAT can be sat from the start of September till the middle of January. Those sitting the CLT would traditionally sit the exam the same day as their Interview when they are in Cambridge.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, students are currently not being invited to Cambridge for their Interviews so will instead sit the CLT online. It is currently unknown whether Cambridge will return to the traditional format.
Choosing Your Question
Selecting your essay is crucial, make sure you are comfortable with the topic rather than posing yourself an even greater challenge. If you are unsure what the question is really asking, it is a clear sign that you should not choose that one.
Make sure you take the time to read all three of the questions, before deciding on which one to answer. One might originally seem easy, but if you have not thought through it, you could quickly find yourself running out of ideas.
On the other hand, a seemingly difficult question might offer you a good opportunity to make some interesting points. If you perform well in a difficult essay as opposed to writing an average essay for an easier question it will reflect better on you.
Examiners tend to give credit to students who attempt questions that are more challenging and successfully write a strong essay for it. However, you should not risk doing this if you do not fully understand the question and should stick to topics you are comfortable with.
How To Write Your CLT Essay
Not only is the content of your essay important, but you also must ensure that the structure is clear and easy to follow, your arguments are made succinctly and coherently and that you have truly engaged with the question and shown critical analysis.
Planning is essential to ensure that you do not go off on a tangent or forget to address the question directly. Do not fall into the common mistake of getting carried away writing an essay and forget to refer to what the question is asking.
You should allocate your time, to best utilise the hour that you have:
First 5 minutes –
Read carefully over the questions and choose your question wisely -only pick something that you are familiar and confident with. Make sure you have fully understood what the question is asking.
Next 10 minutes –
- Plan out your essay by thinking about your structure.
- Set out your main arguments on a rough paper in point form so you do not forget them as you go along.
Next 35-40 minutes –
- Write the essay and make sure you always answer the question being asked and do not get carried away.
- Always make sure what you are writing is clear, coherent and provides a good analysis of the question.
Last 5-10 minutes –
- Give yourself ample time to check through your answer to ensure that there are no grammatical and spelling mistakes.
- Giving yourself ample time to finish will also ensure that you do not hand in a rushed essay with no conclusion.
Since no legal knowledge is needed before the CLT, you do not need to worry about trying to incorporate precise legal terms in your essay. You are also not expected to construct any technical arguments.
Whilst it is good if you are aware of the terms and how they are used precisely, avoid using them if you are unsure about their exact meaning as this might backfire especially if you use a complex legal term wrongly and skew the whole meaning of your essay.
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Example CLT Essays
It bears repeating that a good structure and adequate planning goes a long way in writing a successful CLT essay, and make sure you have sufficient points to make to write a good essay with a good level of legal analysis.
You should focus on reading as widely as possible about the Law so that you will not be thrown by any of the potential questions – which can be on very specific topics.
You are not marked based solely on the content. The structure is important. The marker will be reading any of these essays, a strong introduction can make up for a weak essay.
An ideal introduction will set out clearly the points you will be making and direct the examiner accordingly. It is better to have a shorter essay that is clear and to the point than an essay that is confusing and all over the place.
As the saying goes, quality over quantity.
An example of a question that could be asked of you in the CLT is as follows:
“Who should not be allowed to serve on the jury and why?”
A strong response would directly answer the question and provide an in-depth analysis on what is a topic that has many issues surrounding it.
Competent candidates may provide an answer such as the below:
“This essay will argue that the following individuals should not be allowed to serve: (1) individuals who are at risk of undermining the public confidence of the criminal justice system and (2) individuals who are likely to not exercise independent judgment when serving as a juror.
The former includes individuals who have a conflict of interest. For example, a police officer who has worked on a similar case before might have a vested interest. The latter includes individuals who have shown that they possess a certain prejudiced viewpoint, such as being more sceptical of certain religious groups.
It might be argued that we should ban all individuals who are connected to the criminal justice system from serving as jurors. This would include several members such as judges, magistrates, police officers, solicitors, and barristers.
However, we run the risk of depriving many of these individuals who might be willing and able to serve as jury members. While the concern that they will allow their legal knowledge to influence their decision is valid, the idea of a jury system is to let the jury members assess a case based on its facts, with the judge directing the jury accordingly as to what the law is.
However, this is a broad generalisation and there are individuals connected that can exercise independent judgment. This is especially true if they are legally trained as they are expected to know the role of the jury and how they should go about deciding the case as a jury member.
The only exception we should make are individuals who might have a vested interest in the case, such as a police officer who has worked on a similar case before. This is because the police officer might be tempted to decide the current case similarly.
Such individuals should not be allowed to serve as a jury member on that specific case (as opposed to a general ban), to uphold the public’s confidence in the jury system as the public expects the jury system to be independent.
There are also arguments that we should have a proportionate representation in the jury so that minority groups are well-represented. For example, we should ensure that the jury system is not just made up fully of a certain race, religion, or social background.
However, whilst this is a valid sentiment, this is largely unworkable as we will have to create an artificial situation where out of 12 jury members, we will have to ensure that there is one member of each minority group.
The purpose of the jury system is to ensure that the public is represented in the jury system and the jury can exercise independent, value-free judgement to decide upon a defendant’s guilt based on the facts of the case.
If the defendant is part of a minority group, it is a valid concern that the jury might not be sensitive to the defendant’s background if they are comprised entirely of a different racial or religious group.
However, the solution to this is to ensure that jurors are adequately informed and prepped beforehand. This ensures that they know that any judgments made in favour or against the defendant should never be based on prejudice or stereotype.
If it is discovered during the initial screening process that a certain potential juror exhibits a strong tendency to have a biased opinion, then such a juror should be removed.
In conclusion, we should only disallow someone from being a juror member if there is a significant risk of conflict of interest, such as a member who has worked on a similar case before, or if there is a significant risk of a biased opinion, such as an individual who has exhibited a strong tendency to have prejudicial opinions.”
This answer shows a level of maturity and inside that goes beyond what is expected. This essay will likely score an 8 or 9 on the grading scale that Cambridge uses across the Interviews and the CLT. Therefore, the candidate stands a strong chance of getting an offer.
Looking at the essay we can assess each section individually and see what has been done successfully:
Introduction: The introduction directly answers the question and tells the examiner immediately what the author’s thesis will be. It sets out nicely what will be expanded on in the main body. It has focused on the thorny issues raised by the question instead of wasting time talking about the less controversial issues such as age and mental capacity.
Main Body: The main body shows a very high level of analysis of the two thorny issues raised by the author in the introduction. Even though there are only two main paragraphs, this is a perfect example of quality over quantity. It is better to have two main paragraphs which are analysed in detail than to have four paragraphs which are merely glossed over without showing an in-depth analysis. The author is not afraid to lay out his/her opinion in controversial issues such as the issue of proportionate representation in the jury, and they tackle the counterarguments well to bolster their argument. There is no right or wrong answer. As long as you have made a good attempt at addressing the counterarguments and defending your own opinion, this will result in higher marks being awarded beyond the ‘safe’ range.
Conclusion: The conclusion once again nicely wraps up what has been argued thus far and provides a good summary to remind the examiner of the main argument being put forward in the essay.
In comparison, a weaker response will likely sit on the fence and not have any real direction as to where the answer is going.
“The jury has been traditionally made up of laypersons randomly selected in order to represent the public in deciding a case. Whether someone should be selected as a juror or not is a subjective question and this will require us to examine all the circumstances of the case. We will have to look at factors such as someone’s age, mental capacity, profession, family background, racial and religious background, and sexuality.
Firstly, if someone is too young, they will not be a good fit for a jury because they will lack the necessary experience and the ability to evaluate a case with enough maturity. On the flip side, if someone is too old, this might impinge on their ability to pay close attention to their entire trial process, especially if their memory is not as good.
We also should not allow people with mental illnesses to serve on the jury as they will not have enough mental capacity to handle a trial process. Ideally, someone serving on the jury should have a sound mind, capable of exercising independent judgment.
Members of the public serving in certain sensitive or regulated professions should also be excluded from serving in the jury. For example, police officers and judges may have a conflict of interest by serving in the jury. They should be excluded to uphold the public’s confidence in the jury system.
Similarly, solicitors and barristers should also be excluded if they are likely to be affected by their pre-existing knowledge of the law instead of evaluating the case based on the facts and evidence presented before them.
We must also ensure that the jury accurately reflects the general public, hence there should be a diverse range of jurors from different family, religious and racial backgrounds. If all the jurors only represented one group, this might result in a strong risk of biasness and result in either an unfair outcome or the public losing confidence in the jury system.
This is especially the case if the defendant happens to be from a minority group that is underrepresented.
Overall, the selection of a juror is very context-specific, and we will have to look at several factors and criteria in order to decide whether someone should be part of the jury.”
This is a valid essay, there are no major errors (e.g., not answering the question, grammatical or spelling errors). The main issue is that it is a ‘safe’ essay. It does not answer the question directly, and this is clearly shown in the introduction and conclusion. It does not analyse the points raised in enough depth.
Subsequently, this will not receive a high mark and the candidate is unlikely to receive an offer.
Breaking down each section we can see that:
Introduction: The introduction does not explicitly answer the question, which is made up of two parts – ‘who should not serve in the jury’ and ‘why?’. It is perfectly fine to define the jury system and explain how a juror is selected in the current system, but it is preferable for you to start your introduction by answering the question directly so that the examiner knows straightaway what your stance is and how you are going to defend it in the subsequent paragraphs. Sitting on the fence, such as saying ‘it depends on the circumstances’ or ‘we must look at the facts’ generally indicates a very ‘safe’ essay that does not answer the question directly. It will result in a ‘safe’ mark, meaning one that will not go beyond a 6.
Main Body: Overall, the points made in the main body are valid but rather superficial. For example, age and mental capacity and rather obvious factors. It is better for you to start off your main body by tackling the more controversial issues that require more explanation, such as the background of a potential juror and members of certain professions in this case. This also ensures that if you run out of time, you can skip the less controversial issues and focus your time on the topics that require more discussion. There is a lack of a more in-depth analysis of the controversial issues in this essay, and it is perhaps rather one-sided. You should always attempt at addressing the counterarguments to strengthen your argument and make it as fool-proof as possible.
Conclusion: Again, the conclusion suffers from the same problem as the introduction – it does not answer the question. A conclusion should be a good summary of your arguments thus far and this is a good point to remind the examiner again of your thesis. Here, the candidate is simply repeating that selecting a juror is ‘context-specific. This will not add any value to your essay.
Another example of a question that may be posed to candidates is:
“Should the courts allow a child to refuse a blood transfusion because he is a Jehovah’s Witness, even though without the blood transfusion the child will die?”
A strong candidate should be able to provide a nuanced and analytical approach to their line of answering, as that is what scores well on the CLT.
Such an example has been demonstrated below:
“The court should only allow a child to refuse consent to a blood transfusion if the consent is genuine, informed and made with a sound mind. This is regardless of whether she/he is a Jehovah’s Witness.
Most of the time, a child would not fulfil this as the child will lack the maturity and capability of forming consent. Hence the courts will have to override the child’s desire and order the life-saving blood transfusion to be carried out.
However, in an exceptional situation where a child shows sufficient maturity to be able to make an informed decision, the court should not override the child’s desire.
Can consent be genuine and informed?
First, whether consent can be genuine and informed must be assessed based on whether the child has made the decision after considering the gravity of the situation. The child must have arrived at an independent, mature judgment that is not heavily influenced by his or her parents’ desire.
This is a very high threshold to be reached, and most children will lack the necessary maturity level to be able to reach an independent, informed decision regarding a matter of life and death.
Hence, in the interest of the child and to ensure that the child continues to live, it is always in the best interest of the court to override the child’s apparent wishes and to order the life-saving treatment to be carried out.
The actual age of the child does not matter as much as the level of maturity displayed by the child, as different children mature differently; a 14-year-old may be able to show the maturity level of an adult and vice versa.
Second, if the child has shown sufficient maturity and capability to make an informed decision of upholding one’s religious belief and refusing to accept a blood transfusion, the court should not order the blood transfusion to be carried out.
This is because an invasive surgery such as a blood transfusion should never be carried out against a patient’s wishes as this would be intruding on the patient’s autonomy to his or her own body and doing so might constitute a crime as the patient would be deliberately harmed in the process against their consent.
This is similar to patients being able to opt-out of potentially life-saving operations if they refuse to be treated for various reasons.
For example, they might not want to drag out their suffering if they are suffering from a terminal illness, or they do not want to run the risk of the operation failing.
It is under the doctors’ Hippocratic Oath to act in the patient’s best interests, but the patient’s consent ultimately still trumps any potential operation that can be done on the patient.
Hence, a stringent test will have to be carried out to ensure that the child has made an informed and independent decision, and as explained above this will be a very high threshold to establish to prevent abuse.
Hence, it is nearly always the case that the court should order the life-saving blood transfusion to be carried out on the child, subject to the exceptional circumstance where it can be established that the threshold has been established and the child has made an independent and informed decision not to accept the blood transfusion.”
This is a strong response which deals with the complexity of the subject matter effectively. The writer has made a sensible suggestion as to why there might be exceptional circumstances where we might have to accept that the child refuses to receive a blood transfusion.
This essay will score very well due to the depth of the analysis and nuance the candidate has been able to convey.
Looking at each section of the answer, we can see what the candidate has been able to do well:
Introduction: The introduction directly answers the question and clearly sets out the two main arguments that will be raised in the main body, hence showing the candidate has thought about how to structure his or her essay before writing it out.
Main Body: The two main paragraphs deal with two distinct points that have been elaborated in detail and has shown a very deep level of analysis. Again, this is another example of quality over quantity, even though this response has only raised two main arguments as opposed to the previous response, the level of deeper analysis is preferred over a shallow treatment of many different points.
Conclusion: The conclusion nicely summarises the candidate’s argument and reminds the examiner why there might be exceptional circumstances where the court should allow the child to refuse the blood transfusion.
In comparison, a weaker answer will not address all of these points. For example:
“The court should never allow someone to refuse a blood transfusion because a person’s life is more important than one’s religious beliefs. Therefore, if the blood transfusion was lifesaving, the child should not be able to refuse it on the grounds of religion.
Life is sacrosanct and without the right to live, the child would not be able to enjoy other rights, such as the right to religious freedom. Hence, in such a scenario where the right to pursue one’s religious beliefs directly conflicts with one’s right to live, the right to live takes precedence and the child should not be allowed to refuse the blood transfusion.
There is also the issue of the child being too young to be able to decide what religion he or she wishes to adhere to. This risks the child not having a say regarding whether to receive a life-saving treatment.
The child may just be repeating what his or her parents have told him or her regarding their religious belief without forming an independent thought as to whether the belief is so important that they should refuse a life-saving treatment.
Even though the parents have parental control over the child, parents do not have absolute control over their children’s lives. For example, parents are not allowed to harm their children.
Hence, if the parents convinced the child that their religious belief disallows any form of blood transfusion even though it is a life-saving treatment, this is tantamount to harming the child.
This puts the child at risk of dying. In the interest of the child’s life, the court should override the parents’ wishes and allow the hospital to let the child undergo a blood transfusion to save the child’s life.
Even though we live in a society that tolerates religious freedom and expression, we should draw a line when doing so results in harm and danger to a child. This is a case where the right to freedom of expression of religion causes an actual risk to a child’s life, and hence we cannot tolerate such an expression of religious freedom because the child’s life has absolute priority.
Therefore, in conclusion, the court should not allow the child to refuse consent to the blood transfusion and the child’s life takes priority over the child’s religion.”
Although this is a reasonable attempt at tackling the question and does answer the question directly it comes across as slightly one-sided at times. The candidate could have achieved higher markers by addressing the counterarguments more in order to bolster their line of argument.
The overall structure the candidate has laid out is clear, which allows the examiner to follow it. Overall, this essay would achieve an average mark – either a 4 or 5.
Looking at each component that makes up the essay we can see that:
Introduction: The introduction answers the question and hence provides a good starting point. However, the candidate should also have taken this opportunity to set out the main arguments that will be expanded on in the main body so that the examiner knows from the outset what will be the three main points raised by the candidate.
Main Body: The main body sets out three points with some analysis and explanation. As mentioned above, more could be done with regards to raising counterarguments and addressing them effectively, to not make the essay overly one-sided. Headings could also be used in this case to set out clearly what the three main points are since this has not already been done in the introduction.
Conclusion: The conclusion summarises the candidate’s main argument.
Having an understanding of what makes a good and a bad CLT essay, will help you in preparing to sit the exam yourself. Making sure your essay is laid out clearly and concisely is just as important as the content on the page itself.
With this knowledge under your belt, you will be able to write a successful CLT essay.
Remember to make sure you fully understand the question you choose to answer and can effectively argue both sides of the case – making sure your structure is clear to allow the marker to follow the argument easily.
The questions are a fascinating insight into big questions you may be faced with in the study of Law, so overall, try to engage fully and enjoy it!
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