SQE replaced the QLTS in September 2021. Discover the differences between the two routes to qualification
The Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) assessment was introduced in 2011 as the (then) new, fast-track route for foreign lawyers to qualify in England and Wales. It tested aspiring solicitors to make sure they had the required legal knowledge and skills to practise at a level of a newly qualified solicitor.
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In 2021, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) introduced the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). The SQE is a centralised assessment for all aspiring solicitors in England and Wales, replacing the QLTS for foreign lawyers.
Both the QLTS and SQE exams are divided into two parts, one of which must be passed before you can move onto the next. The SQE is made up of SQE1 (Functional Legal Knowledge Assessment) and SQE2 (Practical Legal Skills). These roughly mirror the two portions of the QLTS, which were the Multiple-Choice Test (MCT) and the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).
After September 2021, no new candidates will be allowed to start the QLTS. But if you’ve already taken and passed your MCT, you’ll need to pass SQE2 (as an alternative to OSCE) and apply to the Roll of Solicitors on or before 31 March 2024.
Whereas the QLTS was just for foreign lawyers, the SQE assessment is the route to qualification for all aspiring solicitors in England and Wales, regardless of legal background and experience.
Both assessments are similar in format and content as the SQE was based heavily on the QLTS. Both are administered by Kaplan.
While the QLTS did not have a requirement for Qualifying Work Experience (QWE), the SQE does. Having said that, foreign qualified lawyers are exempt from QWE given their experience, so nothing has changed for these candidates.
There was no limit on how many times you could take the QLTS, but you only have three attempts to take your SQE in a six-year period.
As we’ve already seen, both the QLTS and SQE assessments are split into two parts. Let’s take a more detailed look at the way the different exams are structured.
Part one of the QLTS (the MCT) assessed your application of substantiative law. There was only one exam with 180 questions and you would take it during the course of two 2 hour 45-minute sessions on the same day (a total of 5 hours and 30 minutes’ assessment time).
In contrast, the SQE1 will assess your application of the functional legal knowledge you need to effectively practise law. It covers more than the MCT, assessing substantive, procedural and practical law rather than just substantive. The SQE1 exam is also longer, consisting of 360 questions that you’ll sit during two days’ worth of sessions that add up to over 10 hours.
The OSCE, part two of the QLTS, assessed five different skills across three legal practice areas. It took 12 hours and 45 minutes to sit the 15 assessments. SQE2 assesses six different skills and five legal practice areas. You’ll take 16 assessments across 13 hours and 45 minutes.
You can also watch our video to learn more about the differences between the two routes to qualification as an English solicitor:
Regardless of your background, it’s important to make sure you’re as prepared as possible for your SQE assessments. Even if you’ve got years of legal experience, you should still spend time learning about the structure of the exams to give yourself the best chance of passing.
We’ve helped thousands of candidates prepare for and pass the QLTS first time. Since the SQE was introduced, we’ve adjusted our courses to support aspiring solicitors with the new assessments. Find out how we can help you.