The SQE is a professional examination that students in England and Wales must pass in order to qualify as solicitors. It is a new assessment framework introduced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and is set to replace the previous qualification route known as the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
What is the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam?
Although it is listed as a postgraduate course, it is more of a series of examinations than an actual course. Like GDL before it, the SQE aims to help non-law graduates to convert their qualifications into appropriate law degrees.
During the SQE, you will need to study two separate stages. The SQE1 exam and the SQE2 exam. Which are both assessed on a pass-and-fail basis. SQE1 tests your functional legal knowledge (FLK) over two examinations, totalling 180 multiple-choice questions. SQE2 covers your practical skills and consists of 16 practical exercises, four of which are oral and 12 written.
The first part of the SQE1 covers:
- Business law and practice.
- Constitutional and administrative law and EU law and legal services.
- Dispute resolution.
- Legal system of England and Wales.
The second part of the SQE1 covers:
- Criminal law and practice.
- Land law.
- Property practice.
- Solicitors accounts.
- Wills and administration of estates.
The first part of the SQE2 assesses:
- Case matter analysis.
- Client interview and attendance note/legal analysis.
- Legal drafting.
- Legal research.
- Legal writing.
The main practice contexts are:
- Business organisations, rules and procedures.
- Criminal litigation.
- Dispute resolution.
- Property practice.
- Wills and intestacy, probate administration and practice.
You are also required to undertake a period of work experience. This does not need to be completed at a specific time but is a requirement for the course itself.
When was the SQE introduced?
The SQE exam was initially introduced in 2021. At the moment, aspiring solicitors will have to make a choice between studying the LPC and studying the SQE.
The option to study the LPC will be gone by 2032. Currently, the LPC is still an option, however, some employers are insisting that applicants or even current employees sit the SQE.
Why was the route to qualifying as a solicitor changed?
Primarily, the SQE was introduced to increase flexibility for students. The LPC and, to a lesser extent, the GDL are considered to be more rigid in structure. The SQE aims to be more affordable for students to improve access to traditionally underrepresented groups (see below).
Generally, the route to becoming a solicitor is a fairly straightforward one. After studying for a qualifying law degree (LLB), students then move on to the LPC and complete a period of two years training. Otherwise, you need to study a degree subject and then follow that up with the GDL, then the LPC, and then your work experiencet.
This system has now changed. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) wants to ensure that all new law solicitors are held to the same standards. Under the new rules, all trainee solicitors are asked to sit the same qualifying examination.
The benefits are plain to see. Not only does the SQE make law courses more accessible and affordable, but they also allow those from underrepresented groups the opportunity to study to become a solicitor.
When and where do SQE assessments take place?
This will depend on where you are. SQW1 assessments are generally studied at whatever Pearson test centre is closest to you (Pearson are one of the main examiners for this qualification), while the SQE2 oral assessments are typically studied in Cardiff, London or Manchester - though other locations will likely open up at some point.
Candidates are given three attempts at the SQE1 and SQE2. These attempts must be taken within a six-year period. At the moment, SQE1 results arrive six to ten weeks after you have sat the exam and SQE2 results arrive fourteen to sixteen weeks later.
How much does the SQE cost?
This depends on how much revision you are going to do beforehand. If you are going to be sitting the exams without pre-courses, then the SQE1 currently costs £1,622, and the SQE2 costs £2,493, meaning a grand total of £4,115.
There are also prep courses that exist for students. These courses are generally between one and two years and provide you with the means to study for the course and give you an idea of what to expect in each exam. These prep courses can be anywhere between £8,000 and £14,000 depending on where you study and for how long, how many prep courses you take may also impact the overall cost.