The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is the national assessment to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. The SQE came into force in September 2021 and replaced the LPC and the QLTS as the main routes to qualification.
The exams is administered by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the independent regulatory body that regulates solicitors and law firms in England and Wales.
To qualify as a solicitor under the SQE route you must meet all the following conditions:
- have a degree in any subject (or equivalent qualification or work experience)
- pass both stages of the SQE assessment
- have two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE)
- pass the SRA’s character and suitability requirements
This means that candidates from various backgrounds can pursue the SQE, including candidates with a law degree or non-law degree, paralegals, chartered legal executives, and apprentices.
If you are a foreign qualified lawyer, you are automatically exempt from QWE and may also be eligible to apply for an exemption from SQE2. If successful, you’ll only need to take SQE1.
Questions about your eligibility should be addressed to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), The Cube, 199 Wharfside Street, Birmingham B1 1RN, UK
Tel: + 44 (0) 121 329 6800 Email: email@example.com Web: http://www.sra.org.uk
The SQE exam involves two stages:
SQE1 – Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK): this part tests the knowledge and understanding of various legal practice areas. SQE1 includes two FLK assessments, each with 180 multiple choice questions. The assessment runs across two days and lasts about 10 hours in total. It is offered in the UK and internationally.
To pass SQE1, you need to apply fundamental legal principles to given fact patterns and find a single best answer out of five alternatives. The questions will not focus on esoteric topics or assess the ability to cite cases or memorise the law.
While you can acquire basic knowledge by reading through textbooks, the best way to practice the application of knowledge is by attempting multiple choice questions and mock tests in a similar format to the formal SQE1 assessment.
SQE2 – Practical Legal Skills Assessment: the second part of the SQE tests six skills: interviewing, advocacy (known together as SQE2 Oral), and case and matter analysis, legal research, legal drafting and legal writing (these four skills are known as SQE2 Written). The assessment runs across five days in several locations in the UK (SQE2 Written is also offered internationally).
SQE2 is conducted in the context of five legal practice areas: business law, dispute resolution, criminal litigation, property practice, and wills and the administration of estates.
The legal skills are assessed through 16 various simulated legal environments known as ‘stations’ using different techniques. These include actors as interviewed clients and writing legal reports to clients or partners of the firm.
There is a single pass mark for SQE2 Oral and Written. You must take the two parts in the same sitting. Law and skills are weighted equally in SQE2.
There are several rules you need to be aware of prior to embarking on the SQE:
- You must take both SQE1 FLKs in the same sitting. If you failed FLK1/FLK2, you’ll need to retake that part only
- You must first pass SQE1 before attempting SQE2 (unless you are exempt from SQE1)
- Candidates are allowed to attempt each stage of the SQE three times within a six-year period
- You must complete both parts of the SQE within six years after attempting the first assessment
- The assessments are closed-book – you are not allowed to bring any materials with you into the exam
The SQE assessments are administered by Kaplan, the sole assessment provider that has been appointed by the SRA.
The SQE1 assessments are held in London, at other locations in the UK and in various locations around the world. The exam is delivered online (computer-based assessment) in conjunction with Pearson VUE.
The cost to sit SQE1 is £1,622 (£1,798 from January 2024) and SQE2 is £2,493 (£2,766 from October 2023).
There are no formal steps you need to comply with in order to sit the SQE assessments other than the registration on the SQE website of the SRA and booking the assessments with Kaplan.
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Note that spaces are limited and subject to availability. Candidates are advised to book early to guarantee a place.
The results for SQE1 will be released within 5-6 weeks after the assessment date. The SQE2 results will be published within 14-18 weeks after the assessment.
Once you have passed the SQE assessments, fulfilled the qualifying work experience requirement and the SRA character and suitability test, you may apply for admission to the Roll of Solicitors of England and Wales.