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SQE – Solicitors Qualifying Examination

Get a quick grasp on the basic elements, structure, and style of the SQE exams

SQE At a Glance

  • The new route to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales
  • Creates more pathways to qualification
  • Comprises two exams which test functioning legal knowledge and practical legal skills in the context of several practice areas
  • Two years’ qualifying work experience requirement
  • Administered on behalf of the SRA by a sole assessment provider, Kaplan
  • Total exam costs of £3,980
  • Offered twice a year in the UK and internationally (some parts)
  • Flexible study options – textbooks, videos, mock tests, tutor support and extensive online resources

What is the SQE?

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is the new centralised assessment that all individuals must pass from September 2021 to qualify as a solicitor of England and Wales. This applies to any individual, regardless of which route into the profession they have taken prior to sitting the assessment.

The SQE exam was developed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the regulatory body for solicitors and law firms.

It requires all intending solicitors to demonstrate a high level of legal knowledge and practical skills. The SQE also assesses intellectual and analytical ability which is necessary to perform the solicitor role competently and ethically.

A simple and consistent approach

The SQE exam will replace the Legal Practice Course (LPC – the vocational stage for domestic candidates) and the QLTS (the fast track route for foreign lawyers) from September 2021. There will be a transition period for candidates who have begun the LPC route before the commencement of the SRA which will be available until 2032.

The new route facilitates the development of more flexible pathways to qualification than before, for those who are able to meet the robust standards of the assessment, without diluting the standard of legal skills and practical skills expected of members of one of the world’s most prestigious legal professions.

The SQE is open for individuals from various backgrounds and with various qualifications, including:

  • Law graduates
  • Non-law graduates (conversion course not required)
  • Paralegals
  • Chartered legal executives
  • Apprentices
  • Foreign qualified lawyers (either in a common law or civil law jurisdiction)

The SRA has published an SQE Assessment Specification which sets out the outcomes it would test within the examination. The Assessment Specification is based on the Statement of Solicitor Competence.

Using the Assessment Specification as a starting point, all candidates must demonstrate that they have met the relevant competences to practise as solicitors of England and Wales.

SQE At a Glance

  • The new route to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales
  • Creates more pathways to qualification
  • Comprises two exams which test functioning legal knowledge and practical legal skills in the context of several practice areas
  • Two years’ qualifying work experience requirement
  • Administered on behalf of the SRA by a sole assessment provider, Kaplan
  • Total exam costs of £3,980
  • Offered twice a year in the UK and internationally (some parts)
  • Flexible study options – textbooks, videos, mock tests, tutor support and extensive online resources

The SQE provides a measure of consistency to ensure comparability, fairness, and high standards, while still encouraging a breadth of practical experience.

Watch this video presentation to learn more about the SQE exam:

Are you eligible to become an English solicitor via the SQE?

There are certain eligibility criteria you will need to meet before applying for admission to the Roll of Solicitors. You must:

degree

Hold a degree (in law or another subject) or equivalent

professionalism

Complete two years’ qualifying work experience

success

Pass the two stages of the SQE assessment

transparency

Meet the SRA character and suitability requirements

You do not need to have successfully achieved all of these four outcomes in any particular order. The eligibility check will be made at the point you apply for admission to the SRA — and not as a retrospective check.

In other words, you do not have to hold a degree, complete the qualifying work experience (QWE), or be a qualified foreign lawyer, when you sit the SQE exams.

The purpose of the eligibility check is to demonstrate that you are fit to enter the legal profession and uphold the moral and ethical standards consumers expect of you.

For any questions relating to the qualifying work experience, to apply for exemptions, or request an early check of your character and suitability prior to sitting the SQE exams, please contact the SRA:

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)
The Cube, 199 Wharfside Street
Birmingham B1 1RN, UK
Tel: 0370 606 2555 or if you calling from overseas please use + 44 (0) 121 329 6800
contactcentre@sra.org.uk
http://www.sra.org.uk/

What is the format of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination?

The SQE exam comprises two stages:

  • SQE Stage 1 – Functioning Legal Knowledge Assessments – two tests that integrate substantive and procedural law
  • SQE Stage 2 – Practical Legal Skills Assessments – 16 tests which assess your ability to carry out practical legal tasks in various practice areas

You must pass SQE1 before you can sit SQE2.

SQE1 – two functioning legal knowledge (FLK) assessments

The SQE1 exam comprises two separate parts which test functioning legal knowledge, or FLK, in a practical context.

The first assessment (FLK1) covers the following practice areas:

  • Business Law
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Contract
  • Tort
  • The Legal System of England and Wales
  • Constitutional and Administrative Law and Retained EU Law
  • Legal Services

The second assessment (FLK2) covers the following practice areas:

  • Property Practice
  • Wills and the Administration of Estates
  • Solicitors Accounts
  • Land Law
  • Trusts
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Litigation

Computer-based, multiple choice assessments

Each of the two exams includes 180 questions and lasts 5 hours and 6 minutes (SQE1 would therefore have 10 hours and 12 minutes of examination time in total).

Within each of the FLK assessments, questions may draw on any combination of the subject areas which a solicitor might encounter in practice.

Ethics and professional conduct issues are examined pervasively across the two SQE1 exams.

The SQE1 exams use computer-based, objective testing, employing a multiple choice test question format – consisting of a stem, lead-in question, and five possible options where only one is the best response.

sqe1 exam centre

The exam integrates substantive and procedural law into realistic scenarios and legal issues which a newly qualified solicitor may come across in practice.

The five options are all possible solutions or responses to the question arising from the scenario. However, one of the options will be the best response, and the remaining four will be partially correct, incorrect, or will not reflect a correct application of the law.

The SQE1 FLK exams are closed book. You must take the two parts of SQE1 all together. The exams are offered across two separate days in the UK and in various locations around the world.

The SRA will convene an “Angoff panel” of solicitors to set the pass mark for the FLK assessments, which means the pass mark is not pre-determined.

It is established after using the standard setting where the panel provides an estimate of the proportion of minimally competent candidates who would get each question correct. The information is then used in setting the pass mark.

SQE2 – the practical legal skills assessment

The SQE2 exam assesses core legal skills and your ability to carry out practical legal tasks through a series of assessments repeated in various practice areas. You will be tested on ethical principles throughout.

SQE2 tests six skills:

  • Client Interviewing and Completion of an Attendance Note/Legal Analysis
  • Advocacy
  • Legal Research
  • Legal Writing
  • Legal Drafting; and
  • Case and Matter Analysis

You must take the assessments in the following practice contexts, making a total of 16 assessments:

  • Dispute Resolution
  • Property Practice
  • Business Law
  • Criminal Practice
  • Wills and Intestacy, Probate Administration and Practice

Practical context, simulated stations

Each task in SQE2 is known as a ‘station’. The stations in SQE2 will sample across the range of skills and practice areas. You will not be able to choose the practice area for your skills assessment.

SQE2 assesses your practical skills over your legal knowledge and involves simulations of solicitor/client interactions and role-play scenarios, file reviews, and court-based scenarios.

For example, an assessment might test whether you can conduct an interview with a client who is confused, forgetful, emotional, unreliable, or with whom you have to establish your credibility.

QLTS OSCE Part 1 Format

In client interviewing, an assessor who has been trained in playing the role of the client will assess your performance. The attendance note which follows the interview is marked by a solicitor.

The advocacy exam is assessed during the submission or presentation by a solicitor acting as the decision maker.

The legal research, legal writing, legal drafting, and case and matter analysis assessments are completed on a computer. The exercises are marked by a trained assessor, who is a qualified solicitor according to the SRA criteria.

You will be provided with all relevant legal materials necessary to carry out the various tasks in the assessment. You will not be permitted to bring into the examination centre any other materials.

Getting the law right in SQE2 is clearly a core competency, and candidates who misconceive or misapply the law and who are not able to correctly identify and apply legal principles or ethical considerations will fail the SQE2 exam. The exams, however, are not designed to test your ability to memorise legal knowledge.

For practical purposes the SQE2 exam is divided into two parts as follows:

SQE2 written assesses two skills:

  • Interview and attendance note/legal analysis
  • Advocacy

SQE2 oral will take place over two half days. The following table shows the assessments you will undertake on each of the days. You will take a total of four oral legal skills assessments, as shown in the table below::

Day 1 Day 2
Advocacy (Dispute Resolution) x1 Advocacy (Criminal Litigation) x1
Interview and attendance note/legal analysis (Property Practice) x1 Interview and attendance note/legal analysis (Wills and Intestacy, Probate Administration and Practice) x1

Different candidates may complete the assessments in different orders. You may therefore begin with either the interview or the advocacy assessments.

SQE2 written assesses four skills:

  • Case and matter analysis
  • Legal research
  • Legal writing
  • Legal drafting

SQE2 written will take place over three half days. The following table shows the assessments you will undertake on each of the days. You will take a total of 12 written legal skills assessments:

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Case and matter analysis x1 Case and matter analysis x1 Case and matter analysis x1
Legal drafting x1 Legal drafting x1 Legal drafting x1
Legal research x1 Legal research x1 Legal research x1
Legal writing x1 Legal writing x1 Legal writing x1
Two of these exercises will be in the context of Dispute Resolution and two will be in the context of Criminal Litigation Two of these exercises will be in the context of Property Practice and two will be in the context of Wills and Intestacy, Probate Administration and Practice Candidates will sit all assessments in the context of Business Organisations, Rules and Procedures

Different candidates may complete the SQE2 assessments in different orders.

The marking criteria for each of the SQE2 oral and written station is divided into marks for skills and marks for application of the law. These two elements are weighted equally.

The pass mark for SQE2 is set by borderline regression accompanied by quality assurance measures. In essence, an overall view is taken of whether or not a candidate reaches the standard of a newly qualified English solicitor.

The spread of candidates’ marks are then reviewed in the light of these judgements and a pass mark is determined. A correction will be made for error measurement in the test using standard psychometric procedures (SEm). In this way a pass mark which is empirically justified is established.

SQE assessment rules

  • You must first pass both parts of SQE1 (FLK1 and FLK2) before you can attempt SQE2
  • You must take FLK1 and FLK2 assessments in a single assessment window on your first attempt (unless you are exempt from either)
  • If you are unsuccessful on any of the two elements of SQE1, you may then resit the specific FLK only (either FLK1 or FLK2)
  • You have a maximum of three attempts to pass each SQE1 or SQE2 exams in a six-year period
  • You must pass all SQE1 and SQE2 exams within six years, commencing from the date of the first attempt of the SQE1 exam to the date you receive your final result for the SQE2 exam
  • No compensation is allowed across different assessments; each must be passed separately
  • You are not allowed to take any materials into the exams
  • You cannot resit an assessment you have passed in an effort to improve your pass mark. Only candidates who have failed an assessment may resit

If you are a foreign qualified lawyer in an overseas jurisdiction and hold a professional title which confers practice rights, you can apply for exemptions from some or all of the SQE exams.

You will need to demonstrate to the SRA that you have gained the knowledge of English and Welsh law or the professional skills assessed by the Solicitors Qualifying Examination on the basis of your qualifications or experience.

If you are successful, the SRA will not require you to pass the corresponding stages of the SQE exam. The SRA will not grant partial exemptions from some elements of either SQE1 or SQE2. There will be only a full exemption from a whole of a separate SQE assessment (FLK1, FLK2 or SQE2).

Lawyers from certain jurisdictions who have qualified through a jurisdiction’s full legal qualification route are entitled to agreed exemptions. More information about agreed exemptions is available on the SRA website.

Scottish solicitors are entitled to a pre-agreed exemption from sitting the SQE2 assessment and need only take SQE1.

However, they may also apply for further SQE1 assessment exemptions. To get the pre-agreed exemptions, Scottish solicitors must still apply to the SRA. There is no fee for this application.

There are no agreed exemptions for any other UK qualified lawyers. This means that barristers, CILEx practitioners, or chartered legal executives, must pass both SQE1 and SQE2.

Those lawyers may still apply for exemptions from one or both of the SQE1 assessments (FLK1 and/or FLK2) and all the SQE2 assessments, based on their other qualifications and experience.

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination is undertaken in English (the SRA may also offer the exam in Welsh).

Candidates undertaking the SQE exams are not subject to any English language requirement. However, you should ensure that your standard of written, spoken, reading, and listening English is appropriate for the assessments. Otherwise, you are unlikely to pass.

The SRA may impose an English language requirement on foreign qualified lawyers who received an exemption from SQE2. The requirement may be imposed at the time they apply for a practising certificate, but not at the point where they apply for admission as solicitors or as an eligibility requirement to sitting the SQE.

All other foreign lawyers who will complete the two stages of the SQE exams, are not subject to any English language requirement.

There are several transitional arrangements for the SQE framework, as follows:

  • Candidates who have completed, started, accepted an offer of a place, or paid a non-refundable deposit for either CPE, GDL, LPC or PRT (also known as a training contract), before 1 September 2021, can choose whether or not to qualify under the old route (subject to availability) or to take the SQE. They will have until 31 December 2032 to complete the qualification under the old route. If they take the SQE, they must meet all the SRA requirements (including holding a degree or equivalent, and undertaking the requisite workplace experience).
  • Candidates who have completed, started, accepted an offer of a place or paid a non-refundable deposit by 21 September 2021, a qualifying law degree (QLD) or exempting law degree (ELD), will have until 31 December 2032 to qualify as a solicitor under the old route.
  • Individuals who do not fall within these groups may no longer qualify through the existing route and must take the SQE.
  • Candidates who have completed the LPC could ask the SRA to recognise the combination of qualifying work experience and successfully passing SQE2 as equivalent to the period of the training contract.
  • All overseas candidates and apprentices are required to take the SQE from September 2021.
  • QLTS candidates who had successfully completed the MCT assessment on or before 31 August 2021 could complete the OSCE assessment (subject to availability) and apply for admission to the SRA by 31 August 2022, or as an alternative to sitting the OSCE, pass SQE2 and apply for admission by 31 August 2023.

More information about the transitional arrangements and SQE regulations is available on the SRA website.

Taking the SQE exams

The SQE exams are administered by a sole assessment provider, Kaplan, which has been appointed by the SRA. Kaplan is not allowed to offer preparation courses for the SQE.

The exams are held several times a year in the UK and internationally (SQE1 and SQE2 written ). SQE2 oral is currently offered in the UK only.

To register to sit the assessments and book your place, register at the SRA and assessment provider website and submit your application. There is no eligibility check at the time you register to sit the exams, as this will be carried out when you apply for admission as a solicitor.

taking the sqe exams

How much will the SQE cost?

The cost to sit SQE1 is £1,558 while sitting SQE2 will cost £2,422.

SQE exam fees are payable to Kaplan at the time you book your seat. They do not include retakes of the assessment or cover the cost of preparatory courses.

If you live outside the UK, you may also incur travel expenses as SQE2 oral is currently offered in the UK only.

Preparation courses for the SQE exams

Whether you’re a law or non-law graduate, work full-time or part-time, a local or foreign candidate, QLTS School can help you succeed in the SQE exams.

We offer several course packages for SQE1 and SQE2, each with different features, so you can choose the best one that meets your requirements and that is within your budget.

Our courses include professionally written textbooks, video tutorials, mock tests, extensive online resources and personal tutor support. You can study for the exams 24/7, from any location around the world, on your terms.

Learn more about our SQE preparation courses or get access to free sample materials.

prep courses for the sqe

Your one-stop source for the SQE exam

The SQE is a new scheme and understandably you want to be certain about how to proceed with this programme.

We have developed various tools such as a comprehensive knowledge base, frequently asked questions videos, online events and webinars, and other useful resources to help you understand the training options available to you with QLTS School.

You are also welcome to contact us and arrange a free consultation with one of our SQE advisors to discuss your individual circumstances and needs.

Our experienced team members are here to help and ensure you have all the information you need to make an informed decision before you get started with the SQE exams.

SQE (Solicitors Qualifying Examination) – Frequently Asked Questions

When does the SQE start?

The SQE came into force in September 2021, with the first SQE1 exam that took place in November 2021. Registration for the SQE1 preparation course is now open.

What are the SQE exam dates?

The next SQE1 will be held on 21 July (FLK1) & 25 July (FLK2) 2022. The next sittings will be offered in January 2023. The first SQE2 will be offered in April 2022.

SQE2 will be held on 11-13 April (oral), 19-20 & 20-21 April (written). It will also be offered in October 2022 and April 2023.

How long will the SQE take to complete?

The time to complete the SQE qualification depends on your circumstances. However, providing you have allowed several months to prepare for SQE1 and SQE2, passed the exam on your first attempt, and completed the QWE (or if you are exempt), you can qualify as an English solicitor within 9-12 months.

What are the SQE entry requirements?

There are no specific requirements you need to comply with to sit the SQE exams with Kaplan. However, you must hold a degree (or equivalent), complete the QWE (unless you are exempt), and satisfy the SRA character and suitability requirements when you apply for admission as a solicitor.

Should I do the LPC or SQE?

Whether you should complete the LPC or take the SQE depends on various factors and considerations, in particular, if you have already started your LLB degree studies, secured or started your training contract. Read our article to learn more: Deciding if the LPC or SQE is the Right Route for You

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