Jun 02, 2023

Written By Elizabeth Beesley

A Guide to Understanding and Acing Situational Judgement Tests in Legal Graduate Recruitment

Jun 02, 2023

Written By Elizabeth Beesley

Situational judgement tests (SJTs) have become increasingly popular in legal graduate recruitment processes. These are tests given during the application review stage which aim to assess how well candidates respond to real-life situations that they may encounter on the job. SJTs assess your ability to choose the most/least appropriate behavioural actions in a variety of workplace situations. Here's a guide to understanding and acing SJTs in legal graduate recruitment.

What are SJTs?

SJTs are a type of psychometric test used by graduate recruitment teams at law firms that are designed to assess a candidate’s range of competencies, including: communication, teamwork, decision making and problem-solving. The tests don’t test you on your legal ability, so you won’t be at a disadvantage if you haven’t studied law before.

SJTs can take various formats, such as multiple-choice questions or video scenarios, and they can be timed or untimed. During an SJT, candidates will be expected to answer questions based on hypothetical work-based scenarios. You will be asked to select the best course(s) of action from a set of responses.

Two possible ways in which you may be asked to answer may include: ranking a range of issues or choosing only one appropriate option from the given scenario. Regardless of whichever way you are faced with, the main objective is to prove that your values, behaviours, and skills align with the firm/company that you are applying to. After completing the test, you'll receive a report summarising your strengths and weaknesses.

When completing the test, you will need to demonstrate that you are proactive, resourceful, and can take initiative. You must not be afraid to make logical assumptions about what you would do in different scenarios, as this will illustrate your ability to think laterally and flexibly, traits which firms like to see in candidates.

It is also important to get into the habit of reflecting on your strengths, weaknesses, and the skills which you have gained from work experience. This ensures that you can identify which skills each test question is assessing, and respond accordingly.

Why are SJTs used in legal graduate recruitment?

SJTs have become increasingly popular in legal graduate recruitment processes because they are considered to be an objective and reliable method of assessing a candidate’s abilities. Legal firms and companies want to ensure that they are selecting the best candidates who have the skills and knowledge required to be successful in their roles.

SJTs can also help to identify candidates who have the potential to perform well in situations that they may encounter on the job. For instance, an SJT may present a candidate with a scenario where they have to make a decision under time pressure or must deal with a difficult client. This is designed to simulate the types of situations that lawyers may encounter on a daily basis.

Tips for understanding and acing SJTs

Read the scenario carefully and identify the problem the question is highlighting: To understand the situation fully, it is essential to read the scenario carefully and clarify what exactly is the section that needs your attention. You’ll need to focus on the details and understand the specific context of the scenario, ignoring any redundant information.

Only consider the options listed: You may find that the course of action that you would most naturally take is not listed, but you should not be worried about this. Also, be wary of making too many assumptions, this will distract you from deciphering which of the options which are presented to you are most effective and appropriate. One method to help with this is process of elimination – eliminating the options that are blatantly wrong or inappropriate.

Prioritise actions: After identifying the most obvious courses of action to be discarded, the next difficulty you may find yourself with is the remaining series of options, which may carry equal importance to you. In this case, try to consider which actions could be considered most important and which, although they may also be viable courses of action, can wait without the risk of there being any significant consequences in the short-term.

In short, try to identify any actions that need to be taken immediately and prioritise them accordingly.

Understand the type of law firm you are applying for and the required skills: Researching a firm’s values, culture, and practice areas in-depth is a good practice to adopt when thinking about the type of candidate the firm is looking for. It’s a good idea to show that you embody such values in your answers. Despite this, it is important to answer honestly and to be sincere in your responses.

Familiarise yourself with as many SJT tests as possible: Much like having to complete past papers as part of your secondary school exams, acquainting yourself with potential questions that you could be asked and then reviewing your answers will help hone your skills and improve your overall understanding and performance when faced with the real test.

The more familiar you become with the format of the tests, as well as the role, skills and personality required by the firm, the more you will feel at ease when having to complete the real tests. You will also be able to navigate questions more efficiently, allowing you to better choose the most appropriate response.

Be in a suitable environment: It’s also vital for you to ensure that you are in an environment where you are comfortable and have control. In other words, choosing a space where you are confident that no-one can distract you, will guarantee that 100% of your attention is on the test at hand, and ultimately increase your chances of giving your full potential and achieving the best results possible.


Situational judgement tests (SJTs) are increasingly being used in legal graduate recruitment to assess candidates’ practical skills and judgement in hypothetical workplace scenarios. With the tips and strategies outlined in this guide, candidates can approach SJTs with confidence and prepare themselves to succeed in the competitive legal recruitment process and secure a position in the legal profession.



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