SQE preparation time and planning

Preliminary questions

Beyond motivation, one of the most important elements you should consider when embarking your solicitor training is proper SQE preparation and planning.

When you first decide to take the SQE assessments and qualify as an English solicitor, you know what is generally involved – such as SQE1 (multiple choice questions), SQE2 (practical legal skills exam), and the areas of law and skills covered.

But when you start to look at the specifics – the logistics, time commitment, and study schedule – several questions inevitably arise that will underpin your entire preparation effort:

  • How long will the SQE take to complete?
  • How long will it take to prepare for the SQE exams?
  • How much time should I allow for study each day/week?
  • How can I get a structured study plan and the necessary study tools?
  • How can I be confident that what I am studying is really what is needed to pass?

Some perspective

The equivalent of the SQE1 course content was previously taught through the Qualifying Law Degree (QLD) or Postgraduate Diploma in Law (GDL) with some pervasive subjects over the course of a year for the GDL, on a full-time academic basis.

Some aspects of SQE1, such as Dispute Resolution, Property Practice and Business Law and Practice, were also taught in the Legal Practice Course (LPC), the vocational training element of qualification for domestic candidates.

The SQE2 course material and exam preparation can be compared to a one-year full-time Legal Practice Course (LPC), which was followed by a two-year training contract.

So that’s at least two years’ study on a full-time basis – longer for part-time study.

How long is the SQE? Regarding the duration of the SQE itself, SQE1 runs over two days, for a total of around just over 10 hours of examination time, while SQE2 runs across five days, with around 14 hours of exam time.

A comprehensive review and preparation course is therefore necessary to anchor knowledge in a broad set of topics and focus your efforts on studying all the topics covered in the SQE assessments.

Preparation factors to consider

The reality is that you have to weigh up your own circumstances and factor in your current and past experience with English law in general and legal practice in particular to get an idea of how long you can and should commit to preparing for the SQE exams. Some things to consider include:

  • What are your timelines?
  • Do you have employer support (such as time-off in the weeks before the SQE assessments)?
  • How much time can you commit each week?
  • Do you have any practical experience (such as paralegals, legal executives and legal apprentices)?
  • If you are a foreign lawyer, are you qualified in a common law jurisdiction? Do you have experience in English law? How good is your English?
  • How do you learn?
  • What are your other commitments (work, family and hobbies)?

So how much time you should study for the SQE exams?

While each candidate’s needs are different, based on our decade of experience, we do know how much time other candidates spend, on average, to prepare for the QLTS exams.

The QLTS was the route for foreign qualified lawyers and has been the model for the SQE. Both assessments have a very similar style, format, and content.

A typical timeline that we could anticipate for the majority of candidates would be to commence studies 5 to 6 months before SQE1, devoting approximately 15 to 20 hours per week to this before preparing for and attempting SQE2 that immediately follows SQE1.

For SQE2, we advise that candidates should study for approximately 15 to 20 hours per week over a 3 to 4 month preparation period. Some candidates may allow themselves more time to prepare for the SQE2 exam, typically this can be up to 8 months.

Our recommendation is, therefore, to give yourself at least 9-12 months to prepare for the exams (both SQE1 & SQE2).

This means that studying for the SQE assessments is a serious time commitment, which should not be taken lightly.

Non-law graduates – conversion course not needed

Under the current route, non-law graduates without a qualifying law degree need to complete a conversion course, the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). Those candidates then proceed to do the LPC which is followed by the two-year training contract.

As the SQE will assess the legal knowledge and subject areas taught in the GDL, a well-structured SQE1 preparation course will already cover these subjects.

Any GDL-style conversion course prior to taking the SQE is, therefore, not required and may simply pro-long the qualification process for non-law graduates and make it substantially more expensive.

Having said that, while non-law graduates should pursue the same learning path followed by candidates with a legal background, it is advisable that they devote a few more months to prepare for SQE1.

How we can help

We at QLTS School know what is needed to pass the SQE assessments. We have developed a structured study programme so you can focus on your studies — not having to figure out on your own what or how to study.

We have trained thousands of lawyers for the QLTS exams, and we know what it takes to study for the SQE.

You will receive from us all the necessary study tools needed for success – 18 textbooks, mock exams, digital flash cards, video tutorials, online resources, and extensive tutor support.

No other training provider can offer a similar level of instructional excellence and content quality.

Our SQE preparation courses are suitable for any candidate from any background: whether you have little or extensive legal experience; whether you are a domestic or foreign candidate; whether English is your first or second language; and whether you work full-time or part-time.

Whatever your circumstances are, we’ll tailor-make your SQE preparation and help you succeed in the assessments.

SQE preparation: linear learning path vs adaptive learning

In the SQE, all examinees are assessed against one consistent, high standard. The syllabus of the SQE is vast and there are no shortcuts to achieving success in the examination. You must have profound legal knowledge at the level of a newly qualified solicitor on the first day of the job.

Our SQE preparation courses are therefore based on a clear linear path: all candidates follow several stages in their preparation, access all content and complete all activities available to them.

The linear learning path approach, which is different from adaptive learning where content and delivery adapt to the learner depending on their preferences and learning needs, makes sure that you cover the entire syllabus and, in particular, do not fall into unintended gaps in your preparation for the SQE exams.


However, our approach should not be assumed to be that of one of one-size-fits-all. There is often confusion between adaptive learning and personalised learning which is a core element of our preparation courses.

You will receive personal feedback based on your performance on the SQE1 mock tests and tutor feedback on the SQE2 mock exams, so you can identify your strengths, improve your areas of weakness and test confidently.

The diagram shows the differences between the linear and adaptive learning approaches in SQE preparation:

Don’t just take our word for it

We understand that as part of your research you want to make sure you are making the right decision when selecting your SQE training provider. So we encourage you to listen to what others have to say about our preparation courses for the SQE exams.

We’ve put together a video with some of our recent candidates who share their tips for success and offer advice to future candidates preparing for the SQE exams.

Here are the highlights:

  • Do not underestimate the assessments and take the preparation very seriously – the syllabus is comprehensive and requires thorough preparation
  • Start your preparation as early as possible – allow yourself sufficient time to study
  • Do as many practice questions and mock exams as possible and use your tutor
  • Try to take the practical skills assessment shortly after completing the multiple choice test
  • Taking the SQE assessments and becoming an English solicitor is a good investment which will undoubtedly benefit your legal career

Interact with SQE candidates

When you study with QLTS School for the SQE, you are not alone in this journey. There are many other candidates like you who embark on the SQE route.

Where to find them?

Join our SQE LinkedIn Group with over 30,000 members and connect with other candidates, ask questions and form your study group.

You can also communicate directly with our past candidates (and there are many of them) to learn how they have prepared for the QLTS and SQE assessments.

sqe linkedin group

Getting started

Since the introduction of the QLTS in 2011, we’ve helped thousands of foreign lawyers prepare for the QLTS assessments, many of whom have been admitted to the Roll of Solicitors of England and Wales. We can help you prepare for the SQE exams and advance your legal career.

You can sign up for our SQE preparation courses at anytime and commence your preparation.

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sqe linkedin group
Access free sample materialFind out more
Download our SQE brochureDownload
Request a free consultationFind out more
sqe linkedin group

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