What is sqe

In autumn 2021, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA – the regulatory body for solicitors in England and Wales) is introducing the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE or informally called ‘superexam’), a new route to qualify as a solicitor of England and Wales. The ideas behind it are explained in the SRA’s Training for Tomorrow – where the new superexam is viewed as:

 

  • giving more flexibility to the routes through which aspiring solicitors can obtain the  competency required to enter the legal profession 
  • assuring a tailored training aimed at continuing professional development
  • deregulating the education and training process to a reasonably required extent.

background

Starting from 2011, the SQE design and methodology have been successfully tested on its likely prototype QLTS (Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme), and recently piloted by the SRA and Kaplan. The SQE1 pilot assessments engaged 316 aspiring solicitors. Over the course of three days the candidates’ knowledge was tested through a multiple-choice test, and their skills – through exercises in legal research and writing. The sample group selected to sit the SQE2 pilot included 167 candidates whose written and oral legal skills underwent a four-day assessment.

 

On 8 June 2020, after 9 years of numerous consultations (involving around 2,000 people), surveys, independent reviews, and massive expert guidance, the SQE final design was approved and can be accessed here.

Structure

Sqe1

  • Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK) – the knowledge of core legal principles and rules that candidates have to apply across a specific practice area. 
  • Candidates should be able to apply these legal principles to real-life scenarios and demonstrate the competencies required of a newly qualified solicitor.

Aim: to test the candidates’ ability to apply legal knowledge

Sqe2

  • Practical Legal Skills – oral and written assessments which also assess FLK via simulations. 
  • The assessments involve simulated role plays, such as mock client interviews, advocacy sessions and written exercises across 5 practice contexts in the form of drafting, writing, research tasks and case and matter analysis given by a supervisor. All the skills stations are timed.

Aim: to test the candidates’ practical legal skills and application of the law to the facts

Assessment provider

The SRA has appointed Kaplan as the assessment provider for the SQE. Being a subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company, Kaplan has made a reputation as an international education and assessment organisation operating in over 30 countries. Alongside offering test preparation, professional education, language training, it has been the sole SRA-authorised assessment provider for the QLTS – all of which served as the grounds for selecting it to run the SQE assessment.

TRANSITION PERIOD

There will be a transition period for different groups of candidates:

QLTS ASPIRING SOLICITORS / CANDIDATES

MCT / Full Exemption

e.g. LPC grads

May choose either:

(i) to qualify via the QLTS by clearing QLTS OSCE:

a. in the April 2021 sitting and apply for admission by 31 August 2021 (inclusive);

b. in the July 2021 sitting and apply for a waiver from the deadline 31 August 2021 as above, BUT must apply for admission by 31 December 2021

(ii) or to qualify via the SQE from April 2022.

MCT / Partial Exemption e.g. EU, EEA, Intra-UK (Scotland and Northern Ireland) and Swiss applicants

May choose either:

(i) to qualify via the QLTS by clearing QLTS OSCE:

a. in the April 2021 sitting and apply for admission by 31 August 2021 (inclusive);

b. in the July 2021 sitting and apply for a waiver from the deadline 31 August 2021 as above, BUT must apply for admission by 31 December 2021

(ii) or to qualify via the SQE by clearing SQE2 from April 2022, BUT apply for admission by 31 December 2023.

MCT / No Exemption

If by 1 September 2021, candidates do not pass the MCT, they may not further qualify via the QLTS, and may proceed with the SQE (SQE1 + SQE2).

If by 1 September 2021, candidates do pass the MCT, they may choose either:

(i) to qualify via the QLTS by clearing QLTS OSCE and apply for admission by 31 August 2022 (inclusive)

(ii) or to qualify via the SQE by clearing SQE2 from April 2022, and apply for admission by 31 August 2023 (inclusive).

NON-QLTS ASPIRING SOLICITORS / CANDIDATES

Legal Practice Course

If by 1 September 2021, candidates have already started or completed the LPC, or paid a non-refundable deposit, they will be able to decide between qualifying through the current route (LPC + Training contract) or sitting the SQE.

Once choosing to qualify via the current route by 31 December 2032, candidates will have to:

  • complete a period of recognised training
  • meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.

LLB / GDL

If by 1 September 2021, candidates have accepted an offer for a LLB or a GDL and will start their course before 31 December 2021, they can choose whether to qualify through the current route until 2032 or via the SQE starting from 2021.

After having obtained an LLB or GDL, to qualify via the current route by 31 December 2032, candidates will have to:

  • pass the LPC
  • complete a period of recognised training (PRT)
  • meet the SRA’S character and suitability requirements.

Training contract

If by 1 September 2021, candidates have started a period of recognised training (PRT), they can qualify through the current route.

To qualify via the current route by 31 December 2032, candidates will have to:

  • pass a qualifying law degree (QLD) or Common Professional Examination/ Graduate Diploma in Law (CPE/GDL)
  • pass the LPC
  • complete a PRT
  • meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.

If unable to complete a PRT, candidates can qualify via the SQE.

REQUIREMENTS

in addition to passing the SQE1 and SQE2, in order to be admitted to the roll, aspiring solicitors shoud meet the following eligibility requirements:

HAVE

a UK degree

or

an equivalent UK qualification

or

an equivalent non-UK qualification

Please find the details here.

gain

the minimum of two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE):

  1. Competence-based work experience in legal services: no need to work in a specific number of different practice areas
  2. In no more than four separate entities, such as firms, educational institutions or other organisations
  3. For at least 2 years full time, or equivalent to this time frame in case of part time  
  4. May be obtained:

    • before, during or after the SQE
    • with no time limits: including the QWE obtained before the introduction of the SQE
    • within England and Wales, or overseas 
  5. Formalities: 
    • each QWE must be signed by an England and Wales qualified solicitor within or outside of the organisation
    • the solicitor signing it must make an honest declaration that:
      (i) the aspiring solicitor has had an opportunity to develop the competencies for the claimed period of time
      (ii) there have been no character suitability issues
    • each QWE should meet additional safeguards assuring that the candidates’ work experience enabled them to acquire all the required competencies
  6.  SRA is developing an online portal to facilitate the submission of the QWE documents
  7. SRA has developed a training template to help aspiring solicitors record their qualifying work experience

meet

the SRA character and suitability requirements

cost

The total cost for sitting both

SQE1 and SQE2 will be £3,980

SQE1: fee
£1,558
SQE2: fee
£2,422

Next steps

1

Start gathering the evidence of your QWE well in advance: talk to your previous, current or prospective employers and explain why you need it.

2

Try to gain work experience which will help you to prepare for the SQE2.

3

Start your prep right away – click to read more why and how.

4

Take advantage of the new possibilities offered by the SQE reform:)

SQE smart course

who we are

This course was set up by Dr Olga Pogrebennyk as preparation for the QLTS OSCE – the examination for foreign-qualified lawyers seeking admission as solicitors of England and Wales. Today we have become a multicultural team committed to building professional expertise and creating professional opportunities for would-be solicitors. Our tutoring solicitors have been admitted as solicitors of England and Wales via the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme, and are now practicing English law.

 

Prior to becoming practising solicitors, some members of our team completed a legal practice course (LPC) at such universities as:

  • Nottingham Law School
  • University of Law
  • BPP

what we offer

While our main specialisation is SQE2, we are also developing SQE1 training materials

For
SQE2

If you are an aspiring solicitor

Get the prep tailored to your individual needs with our SQEsmart training course:

  • subscribe to a package; or
  • purchase individual mocks without subscribing to a package

 

 

If you are a law firm

  • Train your own SQE2 tutors by enrolling them in our tutor training course
  • Enrol your candidates in our SQEsmart course to provide them with the prep tailored to their individual needs
  • Order mock questions designed to facilitate your candidates’ SQE2 preparation
  • Order a white label online portal adapted to your SQE training needs
  • Real-time SQE2 simulations conducted under exam conditions, with the candidate’s delivery followed by individually tailored feedback and analysis: 
    • Client interview and attendance note/legal analysis
    • Advocacy
    • Case and matter analysis
    • Legal research
    • Legal writing
    • Legal drafting
  • Video lectures on skills with exam tips and techniques; skills-related supplementary materials
  • original software designed as virtual learning space and marketplace for the purposes of SQE2 training
  • developed to host SQE2 preparation courses
  • accommodating preparation for simulation-based assessments
  • connecting aspiring solicitors with tutors with the option of choosing the assessors for oral mocks
  • fitting well into a busy schedule by allowing to choose dates and time slots for each mock
  • allowing to tailor exam prep by booking selected individual mocks in the selected practice areas
  • facilitating an integrated personalised feedback to a large group of candidates

Among other benefits, the new qualification process means greater flexibility for law firms who may now want to introduce their own training programmes – to satisfy their corporate needs by providing preparation for the SQE and beyond. That calls for training tutors with appropriate skills and expertise – something we can help with, too. 

SQEsmart Tutor Training Course is designed to provide law firms with everything they need to ensure that their tutors can offer high-quality instruction to the firm’s employees. The course will cover general tutoring techniques, client management, typical tasks faced by tutors in the course of their professional activity, etc., as well as offer related technical and administrative support.

If you are a law firm or an educator interested in tutor training, please contact us at info@qltsosce.co.uk

Why sqesmart?

1

This course started as preparation for the QLTS OSCE – the examination for foreign-qualified lawyers seeking admission as solicitors of England and Wales. Over the years of operation, we have accumulated personal experience and built professional expertise critical to a successful preparation for an exam as challenging as the SQE. Our SQE training incorporates the best practices we have developed on the way from the QLTS OSCE to the new superexam.

2

At the core of SQEsmart methodology is practice-based learning – the learning that happens through exposure to practical tasks, when taking risks, making wrong choices and looking for ways to remedy the problem help learners to develop comprehension and build long-term knowledge. Our methodology allows candidates not only to develop their professional skills, but also identify and bridge gaps in their legal knowledge. The same methodology is currently being used for the QLTS OSCE preparation – which is conducted via simulations, with candidates led through different online mock stations (both oral and written), followed by individual feedback from interviewers and tutoring solicitors.

3

Recognising the value of online learning, we have moved SQEsmart services to an original platform specifically designed for the purposes of SQE training. The new platform has been successfully tested since April 2020.

Prices and Packages

We have learnt that QLTS candidates with different backgrounds require different exam preparation – and should thus be offered various options to choose from, depending on their needs and budgets. At this stage, we are working on determining the contents of our SQE2 preparatory course and its total price. The latest updates on the SQEsmart course will be available closer to the SQE launch date in 2021.

Coming soon...

sqe1

  • is Part 1 of the SQE
  • will be conducted in English and Welsh (with Welsh introduced as a working language on a phased basis – with full English/Welsh parity by year four of the SQE) 
  • assesses functioning legal knowledge (FLK)
  • is a multiple choice test, with multiple choice questions (MCQs) carefully developed for each assessment incorporating the best question drafting methodology and single best answer multiple choice approach

 

  • contains 360 questions in two assessments of 180 questions each
  • assessments will be conducted over two full days
  • will be conducted at both domestic and international Pearson VUE test centres
  • allows up to three resits within a 6-year period

All FLK is assessed in substantive law  (LLB/GDL level), and across five practice areas. This is quite different from the QLTS MCT, which is focused on substantive law only. 

  1. Block 1: Business Law and Practice; Dispute Resolution; Contract; Tort; Legal System of England and Wales; Constitutional and Administrative Law and EU Law and Legal Services.
  2. Block 2: Property Practice; Wills and the Administration of Estates; Solicitors Accounts; Land Law; Trusts; Criminal Law and Practice.

Each MCQ may test either a particular subject area, or a combination of subjects within the respective block. 

Thorough preparation for SQE1, besides learning the core principles of English and Welsh law, also presupposes acquiring deep functional knowledge. In other words, SQE1 will assess your understanding of the law through your ability to apply it to the facts at hand.

  • Free 90 sample MCQs & MCAs from SQE1 Functioning Legal Knowledge assessment released by the SRA can be accessed here
  • SQE1 tailored materials are currently being developed by Oxford University Press (OUP) – one of 2 key publishers for LLB, LPC and QLTS. OUP manuals will be available in both electronic and hard copy, and include undergraduate textbooks, online bank of sophisticated MCQs and some other materials to be released closer to the exam dates. Click here for more details
  • OSCEsmart collection of free QLTS resources can be accessed here

The first sitting of the SQE1 assessment is scheduled for November 2021.

year assessment bookings close Exam sittings results released
2021 SQE1 September 8 and 11 November 6-10 weeks after the assessment
2022 March May TBC
2022 September November TBC

sqe2

  • is Part 2 of the SQE
  • requires the completion of the SQE1
  • will be conducted in English and Welsh (with Welsh introduced as a working language on a phased basis – with full English/Welsh parity by year four of the SQE) 
  • is a single, uniform assessment for all candidates (domestic and international) in 5 practice contexts (practice areas) covering substantive law
  • is made up of 16 practical assessments based on simulations

 

  • assesses practical legal skills (oral and written)
  • includes a 2-day oral skills assessment sampled across reserved legal activities
  • includes a 3-day written skills assessment sampled across 5 areas of law
  • will be conducted at a limited number of assessment centers
  • allows up to three resits within a 6-year period

SQE2 is designed to test practical legal skills across 5 practice contexts (practice areas).

  1. Contexts: Criminal litigation; Dispute resolution; Property practice; Wills and intestacy, Probate administration and practice; Business organisations rules and procedures.
  2. Skills: Client interviewing and attendance note/legal analysis; Advocacy; Case and matter analysis; Legal research; Legal writing; Legal drafting

It is worth noting that a question in one context may draw on the candidate’s knowledge in another area of law. Additionally, something we have learnt from extensive training for the QLTS OSCE is that the knowledge of substantive law also is tested – based on which we strongly recommend revising it.

  • simulation-based exercises
    SQE2 is a simulation-based exam testing practical application of knowledge and skills in the imitated working environment. Conducting simulation-based exercises seems therefore the most effective tool to develop the candidate’s skills. Besides, if followed by the tutor’s individual feedback, such exercises help both experienced legal practitioners and younger members of the legal profession to build legal knowledge and learn problem-solving techniques.

SRA published the sample questions for the SQE Part 2. They can be found here.

The first SQE2 assessment is scheduled for spring 2022, six months after the Solicitors Qualifying Examination is introduced in 2021.

year assessment bookings close Exam sittings results released
2022 SQE2 February April 14 weeks after the assessment
2022 August October

SQE news

LSB approves the application for reforms

In 2018, the Legal Services Board (LSB) approved the SRA’s application for new admission requirements for solicitors. Follow this link for more details.

SQE1 pilot

On 20-22 March 2019, the SRA held the SQE1 pilot assessments. Conducted over the period of 3 days, the pilot was undertaken by 316 participants. Most locations for the assessment were in the UK (44), with the other two situated in Singapore (1) and France (1).

The pilot included a multiple choice test and legal research and writing assessments. The findings showed that some aspects of the SQE1 structure and content require further discussions and explorations. More information on the SQE1 pilot can be found here.

SQE2 pilot

The SQE2 pilot was carried out in December 2019 in 2 London-based locations for the oral mocks, and in 29 Pearson Virtual University Enterprises in England and Wales for the written tests. The 4-day assessment was completed by 167 candidates – who in addition to the practical legal skills test, were offered 120 multiple choice questions. More information on the SQE2 pilot can be found here.

SQE final design unveiled

After analysing all the findings obtained from 9 years of consultations and 2 years of pilot assessments, the SRA finalised the design of the SQE on 8 June 2020.

LSB’s approval of the SQE

On 27 October 2020, the LSB granted full approval of alterations to the SQE regulatory arrangements.

OUP developing the digital SQE Prep&Test

OUP has been developing SQE1 tailored materials, including an online bank of multiple choice questions. The digital SQE Prep & Test (1200 questions in 2 collections) will be available for purchase in July 2021. For the details and prices, please click here.

SQE conference 2020

On 15 December 2020, the SRA organised the annual SQE conference to provide with the latest information on the SQE and its introduction in 2021. Find the list of topics discussed here.

SQE2 webinar

On 18 January 2021, the SRA held the webinar in which the SQE2 assessment alongside the sample questions that have been recently published were a point of discussion.