What is the Solicitors Qualifying Examination? An SQE Guide

Are you considering a career in law and aspiring to become a solicitor in England and Wales? Then you will need to take the SQE (Solicitors Qualifying Examination). 

The SQE was introduced in 2021. It is being gradually instated as the new centralised way to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. Eventually, it will replace the Legal Practice Course (LPC).

In this article, we will delve into the details regarding what the SQE is, its significance, how to prepare for it, and the content of the SQE.

What is the SQE?

The SQE, or Solicitors Qualifying Examination, is an assessment introduced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to ensure consistent and rigorous standards for aspiring solicitors in England and Wales. It replaces the previous system, including the Legal Practice Course (LPC), and aims to assess candidates’ legal knowledge and practical skills effectively.

Understanding the SQE: Your Path to Becoming a Solicitor

The SQE is a significant milestone on the path to becoming a solicitor in England and Wales. By understanding the test format, preparing strategically, and gaining practical legal experience, you can increase your chances of successfully becoming a qualified solicitor.

The qualification:

The SQE is a new assessment introduced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) as a key component of the qualification process for solicitors in England and Wales. It aims to ensure that all aspiring solicitors meet consistent and rigorous standards of competence and professionalism.

Completing SQE1 and SQE2 is the equivalent of a Master’s qualification.

Do I need a Law degree?

In the past, to qualify through the SQE, you would need a degree (or equivalent) in any subject. 

However, the new SQE system does not deem it mandatory for solicitors to have a Law degree or equivalent. What they will need to pass is a thorough knowledge of the law in England and Wales. Hence, many still opt to take a Law degree. This is especially because some universities will incorporate preparation for the SQE1 assessments into their undergraduate or Master’s Law programmes. 

Exemptions from SQE2:

Those with the same practice rights as solicitors of England and Wales and a minimum of two years of professional legal work experience (gained as part of your qualification or post-qualification) could be exempt from the SQE2 exam.

Failing and resitting:

Unfortunately, failing more than three times in a six-year period (on any of the SQE exams) will result in you having to reapply for each exam. Previous passes are not carried forward into the next six-year period.

The process to become a solicitor

To qualify through the SQE you need to pass the SQE1 and SQE2 assessments and undertake a minimum of two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE).

  1. Undergraduate degree or equivalent: A university degree or equivalent experience at university level (e.g., through a completed apprenticeship) is certainly beneficial to becoming a solicitor. The process no longer requires a qualifying Law degree, but it should help candidates prepare for some of the SQE assessments.
  2. SQE1: Regardless of whether they already have a degree or other qualifications, all candidates must take and pass SQE1. The SQE1 primarily assesses your legal knowledge via multiple-choice tests.
  3. SQE2: You must pass SQE1 before moving on to SQE2. Again, regardless of prior qualifications, all applicants must take these exams. SQE2 tests and evaluates your legal knowledge through practical exams and assessments.
  4. Qualifying Work Experience: You must have at least two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE), which can be with up to four different legal employers (and may include appropriate pro bono experience). This can be done before, during, or after your SQE assessments, though most candidates complete their SQE1 at the very least before beginning their main period of QWE.
  5. Apply to the SRA for qualification: At this point, the SRA will conduct quality and suitability checks to determine whether you are eligible to become a solicitor. Previously, these checks were performed before the training contract phase but this has since changed.

Preparing for the SQE: A Roadmap to Success

Preparing for the SQE requires a structured approach. Start by familiarising yourself with the test format and understanding the key legal areas that will be assessed. Study core legal principles, case law, and statutes relevant to those areas. 

Utilise past SQE papers to practise and improve your performance. Engage in practical legal training to enhance your skills, and consider enrolling in SQE preparation courses or seeking guidance from experienced tutors who can provide tailored advice and resources.

  1. Familiarise Yourself with the Test Format: The SQE is divided into two stages: SQE1 and SQE2. SQE1 is a computer-based, multiple-choice assessment that tests candidates’ functioning legal knowledge across different areas of Law. SQE2 is a practical assessment that evaluates candidates’ legal skills through tasks such as client interviewing, advocacy, legal research, and drafting.
  2. Master Key Legal Concepts: The SQE assesses your knowledge of various legal areas, including Contract Law, Criminal Law, Property Law, and more. Study the core legal principles, Case Law, and statutes relevant to these areas to build a strong foundation.
  3. Practice Past SQE Papers: Utilise past SQE papers to familiarise yourself with the question types, time constraints, and overall structure of the examination. This will help you develop effective exam strategies and improve your performance.
  4. Engage in Practical Legal Training: SQE2 focuses on practical legal skills. Seek opportunities to gain practical experience through internships, pro bono work, or legal clinics. This will enhance your ability to apply legal knowledge in real-world scenarios.
  5. Seek Professional Guidance: Consider enrolling in SQE preparation courses or seeking guidance from experienced tutors. They can provide tailored advice, resources, and mock assessments to help you prepare effectively for the SQE. Don’t forget, our experienced and talented team of Law tutors are here to help you.

Past Layout, Structure, and Content of the SQE

The SQE has replaced the previous system of qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales, including the Legal Practice Course (LPC). 

  • SQE1: This generally consists of computer-based, multiple-choice questions that assess functioning legal knowledge across various areas of law.
  • SQE2: This typically involves practical assessments that simulate real-world legal scenarios, including tasks such as client interviewing, advocacy, legal research, and drafting. It is important to stay updated with the latest information and consult official sources for the most accurate and current details regarding the SQE.

Please note: The precise details of the layout, structure, and content of the SQE will depend on the specific stage and version of the examination. 

Is SQE1 or SQE2 harder?

The results of SQE2 clearly show that this is a challenging examination. Pass rates for SQE2 are higher than for SQE1 across the country, largely because students cannot register for SQE2 exams until they have passed SQE1. As a result, each cohort that takes SQE2 tends to be stronger overall.

We can help

Here at The Profs, we have excellent, talented, and expert Law tutors with tonnes of SQE test experience. We have the knowledge and resources needed for success. So, if you feel like you need some help to ace the SQE, allow us to help you! 

Also, don’t forget to check out our previous articles: 

 

FAQ

How is the SQE scored, and what is the passing criterion?

The SQE is a pass/fail examination. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) sets the minimum standards of competence required to pass each level of the SQE. You can get detailed information about how to assess and pass each level from official sources or the SRA. It is important that you aim to have a thorough understanding of the legal concepts and practical skills tested in the SQE to increase your chances of passing.

Is the SQE harder than the LPC?

The SQE and the LPC are different examinations. The SQE tests legal knowledge and practical skills, while the LPC focuses on practical legal training. The level of difficulty can vary depending on individual strengths and preferences. Both exams require dedicated preparation and commitment.

Is it better to do the SQE or LPC?

The choice between the SQE and the LPC depends on your professional goals and circumstances. The SQE is the new qualification exam introduced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), while the LPC was the previous route to becoming a solicitor. Find out about the requirements, consult with professionals and consider your personal preferences to make an informed decision.

How hard is the SQE exam?

The level of difficulty of the SQE exam may vary from person to person. It is a comprehensive exam that tests legal knowledge and practical skills. Prepare thoroughly, practise previous tasks and seek professional advice to maximise your chances of success.

Can I do the SQE without a Law degree?

Yes, you can take the SQE without having a Law degree. There is no specific degree requirement for the SQE. However, you must meet the eligibility requirements established by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Holding a degree or equivalent qualification, passing character and suitability assessments, and meeting English language proficiency requirements are some of the criteria.

How do I register for the SQE?

To register for the SQE, go to the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) official website or consult their guidelines. For candidates interested in taking the SQE, the SRA provides detailed instructions as well as a registration process. Follow the steps provided to ensure you meet the registration requirements.

When do I take the SQE?

The exact timing for taking the SQE may vary, so it is best to consult the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) official website for the most up-to-date information. The SQE is usually held at specific times of the year, with registration deadlines. Plan your preparation schedule accordingly, and keep an eye out for SRA announcements.

Where do I take the SQE?

The SQE is given at approved assessment centres. Specific information about the locations and availability of assessment centres can be obtained from the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) official website or by contacting them directly. Choose a convenient location that meets your requirements and preferences.

Do I have to take the LNAT and the SQE?

A consortium of UK universities developed LNAT as a fair way to assess a candidate’s potential to study Law at the undergraduate level, regardless of their education or personal background. The SQE, on the other hand, is typically taken after a degree or later in life to qualify you as a solicitor. 

Can I switch from LPC to SQE?

Students who qualify for the transitional arrangements can continue on their current path to the profession by taking the LPC as long as providers continue to offer courses. Candidates who benefit from the transitional arrangements may also choose to voluntarily transition to the new SQE route.

Who is eligible for the SQE? 

Character and suitability assessments, English language proficiency, and other factors may be required. To ensure your eligibility for the SQE, it is best to review the SRA guidelines or seek professional advice.

What is QWE?

This means Qualifying Work Experience. Usually, this is defined as a minimum of two years of professional experience with a legal employer/s (no more than four employers).