How to Stay Sane through the MCT and Beyond

Guest blogger Zsuzsa Sarlós, a civil litigation lawyer in the U.K., shares her experience of studying for and conquering the MCT exam — all while working and raising twins.

In 2013, I followed my husband to Oxford when he received a job offer he couldn’t refuse. At the time, I was a qualified lawyer and had my own law career in Hungary. A main focus for us once we got settled in the U.K. was to expand our family and make our private life more of a priority. I did, however, take up employment with several different companies to help make ends meet and got involved in contracts and general business decisions.

Fast forward to 2016. My husband and I welcomed twin girls into our family. The birth of our daughters and spending quality time with them is something I will always cherish. But I also wanted to balance out my home life with my legal work. I started thinking about going back to my business roots and applied for work in law firms in the area, obviously not as a solicitor but as a paralegal.

To be able to work as an English solicitor, I knew I needed a formal qualification that would allow me to be recognised as a solicitor in England and Wales. I also needed to gain more experience in the workings of the English legal environment and more knowledge of common law.

I was lucky and got the opportunity in 2017 to work at a law firm in the area of civil litigation. Litigation was a new area for me. Don’t get me wrong, it has been a good field of practise to learn, but I’ve rather missed my roots in business law. That’s why the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) entered the picture: To open doors that might not otherwise exist for me.

Prepare When You Can, and Don’t Panic

Studying for the first QLTS assessment, the MCT, with one-year-olds underfoot might not be the ideal way to go, but that was my reality. I was working part-time and had about two days each week to study online. Not all day, though. I was able to spend a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon. I also studied at night during the week after my girls fell asleep. I won’t say it wasn’t difficult (because it was), but I accomplished what I set out to do.

What helped me was to research the exam as much as I could and prepare some calculations before taking the test of how much time was supposed to be used at 10, 20, 30 questions, and so on for the 180 multiple-choice questions. Instead of being intimidated, this preparation allowed me to feel less panicky about what was to come.

Incidentally, I read a comment after sitting for the MCT that seemed rather fitting: It’s like your brain has to have a direct connection with your hands to be able to choose the answer and then move on. Without some rather in-depth exam preparation, there’s no time for the information to be well-processed and go all the way from your brain to your hands.

Follow the BARBRI Personal Study Plan

I enlisted the help of BARBRI to get a good grasp of the MCT. If you keep to the Personal Study Plan that’s provided as part of the QLTS Prep by BARBRI courses and complete all of the practice assessments, you will be ahead of the game. I worked all of the mock exams and paid close attention to the comments after each answer to better understand how the answer was arrived at. What’s nice about the BARBRI video lectures, outlines of the subjects tested, and practice questions is that they’re meant to build over time for a very effective prep. The more you sit with the materials, the more you get out of them.

Get Your ZZZs

Being fit will help you succeed on the MCT. I’m not saying that you need to take up jogging or join a gym for months before you sit. What’s really important is sleep. A good night of it before test day provides the mental fitness needed to get through the nearly six-hour test. Foregoing sleep, or even a little downtime, can be as detrimental as not giving yourself enough time to study.

Throughout the whole preparation my super husband and an amazing au-pair helped me to “manage” my girls, freeing up some time for me to spend studying. I highly recommend a good support system, especially in the days leading up to the exam.

As a last-minute push, I took 10 days off from work and my “team” was completed by the arrival of my fabulous mother-in-law who came to help us for a fortnight before the exam. This enabled me to focus on reviewing the study material and relaxing as much as possible. It was the day-before routine I needed to face the MCT, and come out smiling on the other end.

With the MCT now behind me, it’s on to a similar course of preparation as I get ready for the OSCE assessment this fall. Remember, whatever your work/life reality may be when you decide to tackle the QLTS, you can do it with some serious determination. Take it from someone who is.