SQE Fact Sheet

What is the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (‘SQE’)?

Currently the most popular route to qualification is via a qualifying law degree (‘LLB’) or Graduate Diploma in Law (‘GDL’), followed by the Legal Practice Course (‘LPC’) and a two-year training contract with Professional Skills Course.

The SQE is the new route to qualification as a solicitor. It was proposed and designed by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (‘SRA’) and was approved by the Legal Services Board on 28th October 2020.  It was effective from 1st September 2021. 

Under the SQE candidates will need to do the following:

  • Complete a degree or equivalent in any subject; 

  • Pass the SQE, a series of assessments divided into SQE1 and SQE2; 

  • Complete two years of qualifying work experience (‘QWE’), and 

  • Pass the character and suitability assessments set by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which remain unchanged from the old system. 

Unlike the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC), the SQE is not a course and does not involve any education or training. 

When will the SQE be introduced? 

The SQE will be introduced from 1st September 2021, with the first exam sitting in November 2021. Students that have started a law degree, GDL or LPC before September 2021, can qualify through the old system or through SQE. The SQE will eventually replace the old route to qualification by 2032 following a transitional period. Some firms may require all candidates to take the SQE well before 2032. 

What is SQE1?

SQE1 is made up of two exams, each containing 180 multiple choice questions (MCQs), lasting 10 hours in total. Each exam has 180 ‘single best answer’ multiple choice questions, designed to assess functioning legal knowledge through the identification and application of legal principles to client problems, transactions, and professional ethics. 

The MCQs will test how candidates would apply legal knowledge, research and writing skills in real-life situations as a solicitor. 

The first SQE1 exam will cover: 

  • Business law and practice;

  • Constitutional and administrative law and EU Law and legal services; 

  • Contract;

  • Dispute resolution;

  • Legal system of England and Wales; and 

  • Tort.

The second SQE1 exam will cover: 

  • Criminal law and practice; 

  • Land law; 

  • Property practice; 

  • Solicitors accounts; 

  • Trusts; 

  • Wills and the administration of estates.

What is SQE2?

SQE2 is an assessment of practical legal skills, involving a series of 4 oral skills assessments and 12 written skills assessments. The assessments take place over multiple days and last 4 hours in total. The result is one overall mark. 

SQE2 assesses the following skills:

  • Advocacy/persuasive oral communication;

  • Case and matter analysis - including planning negotiations; 

  • Client interviewing’

  • Legal drafting; and 

  • Legal research and written advice. 

These skills are assessed across the following practice areas: 

  • Criminal practice; 

  • Business practice;

  • Dispute resolution; 

  • Property; and 

  • Wills and the administration of estates. 

Where will SQE assessments take place? 

SQE assessments will take place at Pearson national test centres, which is where learner drivers take their theory tests. 

How can you prepare for the SQE? 

It is not compulsory to complete an SQE-preparation course to take the SQE.  

A range of postgraduate SQE1 and SQE2 preparation courses are being developed by providers such as BARBRI, BPP, The University of Law and QLTS School. These providers are offering full time and part-time study options.

What counts as qualifying work experience ('QWE')?

In addition to passing SQE1 and SQE2, a candidate must complete two years of qualifying work experience (‘QWE’). This can be completed before, during, or after, the SQE and must be signed off by a solicitor. Candidates can undertake the required two years’ QWE in one to four placements at different organisations. This may include volunteering at a law centre or working as a paralegal at a law firm. 

How much will the SQE cost?

The cost of sitting the SQE exams will be £3,980. This does not include the cost of any SQE-preparation courses. It goes without saying that any person attempting to take the exams without having completed a preparation course will be working at a significant disadvantage. 

At the University of Law, the SQE part 1 and 2 preparation course is £16,500 in London. This course is an LLM in Legal Practice and therefore students may be able to access post-graduate student funding. However, this fee does not include the cost of the exam, delivered by Kaplan, which is payable separately, directly to the SRA. The exam fees will therefore not be covered by, for instance, the post-graduate student loans.

BPP have not yet announced the costs of their courses, although, similarly to the University of Law, they do note on their website that the cost of the SQE exams is separate to any preparation course fees. BARBRI are offering SQE 1 prep courses for £2,999 and SQE 2 prep course for £3,499 or £2,999 if you are an SQE1 Alumni. Even with this lower cost course, which would not attract post-graduate student loans, the total cost with exams included still reaches £10,000.