National Judicial Exam

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The National Judicial Examination or State Judicial Examination (Chinese: 国家司法考试) is a unified legal examination administered by the People's Republic of China for people who work in the legal industry. This Examination is widely acknowledged as arguably the most difficult Examination in China and perhaps in the world ("天下第一考"). Unlike Judicial Examinations of most other countries in the world, candidates sit the Examinations of 17 subjects all at the same time. Thus, it requires a very high memory power and equally high ability of making swift analysis for difficult cases (each question is actually a case).

Since 2002, all new members of the judiciary and legal profession will need to pass it. The SJE will push education programs for lawyers and judges to adopt more unified curricula and standards. It is also expected to increase the professionalism of the judiciary, which has been regarded as lacking.

In the past, there were different kinds of legal professional exams that were administered by different institutions: some by the courts for judges only, some by the procuratorates for prosecutors only, and the Lawyers Qualifications Exam (LQE) administered by the Ministry of Justice for those who wanted to become practicing lawyers. The exams for judges and prosecutors were internal, not open to the public.


Under amendments to the Judges Law, Prosecutors Law and the Lawyers Law in 2001, all participants of the SJE must have a university-level education, although not necessarily in law. The only exception was the 2002 SJE, where over 50% of participants only had a college-level law diploma. These people were allowed to sit the exam with special permission from the Ministry of Justice. Another requirement is that the person must have a record of good behaviour. Those caught cheating will be issued a ban for either two years or for life.

On March 30-31, 2002, China held the first SJE. Of the 360,000 participants, about one-third were staff members of the courts, procuratorates, police departments, and other workers in the field of law and justice. Only 7% of the participants passed the exam, but this result was considered reasonable in comparison with rates in judicial exams in Japan.

The number of participants decreased significantly in 2003 to 197,000 people, due to stricter education requirements. Nearly 89% of candidates received at least four years of university education, while 74% majored in law. The only exceptions are for remote counties lacking in advanced education facilities.

In 2004, residents of Hong Kong and Macau were permitted to sit for the exam for the first time. More than 400 in Hong Kong have applied.


The SJE is a closed book exam mainly designed to test the legal knowledge of the tested persons and their ability to join the legal profession. Questions are divided into four categories:

  • theoretical legal science
  • applied legal science
  • provisions in current laws
  • legal practice and ethics

Candidates are tested on their knowledge of legal theory, economic law, international law, international private law and international economic law as well as ethics.

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