What is the bar exam?
This is a professional qualification examination for lawyers, sometimes also referred to as ‘the law bar exam’.
After passing the UK bar exam, you can obtain permission to practice as an advocate and provide other licensed activities covered by the legal profession e.g. property conveyancing.
So, it is effectively a law exam, but for example, the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) – one of the UK bar exams – also assesses the candidates on practical skills in a split of 50% SQE skills and 50% SQE law.
UK bar exams
UK is a common law jurisdiction. There are two types of qualified lawyers in the UK: barristers and solicitors.
Each category has its own qualification route and regulatory body and the both are a part of the UK law society. Read more to find out how a barrister can become a solicitor.
Under the old regime, LLB/GDL graduates had to choose to be either a solicitor or a barrister. Those who wished to become solicitors had to study one more year in their law school in order to complete a Legal Practice Course (LPC) while those who opted for barrister had to undertake a Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), which is a vocational training required for passing the bar.
In light of the new SQE exam, the LPC will soon cease to exist.
Unfortunately, the successfully completed LPC does not guarantee that one may obtain a training contract and many aspiring solicitors are left overboard of the legal profession.
However the LPC courses may still remain a part of the UK legal education, used by those who may afford to pay the tuition fees. The BPTC will remain in place as it does not relate to solicitors and is not regulated by the SRA. Read more about the SQE exam for LPC graduates.
With multiple providers offering BPTC (and equivalent) courses and exams, there is no centralised single bar exam in order to become a barrister, but from September 2021, there is a single, centralised and standardised bar exam to become a solicitor.
Before the introduction of the SQE, there was no single bar examination for aspiring domestic solicitors; each LPC training provider had its own exams.
For foreign-qualified lawyers, on the other hand, there has been a single UK bar exam in place for over 10 years, known as the QLTS.
Similar to the LPC, the QLTS will cease to exist after the introduction of the SQE, with the final sitting scheduled for April 2022.
UK bar exams for aspiring solicitors
There are several UK bar exams or equivalent:
- Solicitor Qualifying Examination (also known as the SQE exam or “super exam”) – the newly-introduced (September 2021) common or single route to qualify as a solicitor of England and Wales. After the closure of the QLTS, this will be the only UK bar examination for solicitors.
- Qualified Lawyer Transfer Scheme (also known as the QLTS exam) – the outgoing UK bar exam for foreign qualified lawyers who are already admitted in their home jurisdictions and wish to convert their qualification to practice as UK solicitors.
There is also one more UK bar examination known as a Higher Rights of Audience (HRA). Passing this exam gives already-qualified solicitors the possibility to practice law in the same courts as barristers. Read more about the HRA bar exam.
UK bar exam structure
SQE1 and QLTS MCT are multiple-choice tests. They cover slightly different areas of law, as seen in the table above. SQE1 and SQE2 both cover the same subjects, or “functional legal knowledge (FLK)”, while the QLTS OSCE, in addition to law subjects covered in QLTS MCT, also covers such areas of law as business, property and probate, criminal and civil litigation. Read more about how to prepare for the bar SQE1.
SQE2 and QLTS OSCE are skills-based simulated UK bar exams. This law exam will test you in the different practical competencies you are required to have in actual legal practice, e.g. client interview, legal drafting etc.
The QLTS OSCE is the predecessor of the SQE2 and both bar exams are very similar, apart from small differences in skills assessments, e.g. the QLTS OSCE oral presentation was converted into SQE2 written matter analysis. Read more about the best way to prepare for the SQE2 exam.
UK bar exam contents
|SQE1 Law||QLTS MCT Law|
|QLTS OSCE Skills|
|QLTS OSCE Law|
How much is the UK bar exam cost?
|SQE1 bar exam fee||QLTS MCT bar exam fee|
|£1,558||£588 + VAT|
|SQE2 bar exam price||QLTS OSCE bar exam price|
UK bar exam questions
|Click to access SQE1 sample questions||Click to access QLTS MCT sample questions|
|Click to access SQE2 sample questions||Click to access QLTS OSCE sample questions|
UK bar exam books and manuals
|SQE Prep & Test from Oxford University Press (OUP)
SQE Answered guides
|OSCE:||1. LPC/OSCE books by Oxford University Press (OUP) and College of Law Publishing (CLP)
2. Summary LPC/OSCE books
UK bar exam requirements
- Obtain an undergraduate degree in any subject (it does not need to be a law degree), or equivalent qualification or apprenticeship
- Pass SQE1 and SQE2
- Complete two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)
- Meet character and suitability requirements.
- As this is a UK bar exam for foreign lawyers, you must be a foreign qualified lawyer within at least one of the recognised jurisdictions https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/qualified-lawyers/qlts/recognised-jurisdictions/
- Pass QLTS MCT and QLTS OSCE
- Meet character and suitability requirements.
- Apply for admission with the given deadline.
Taking the UK bar exam
|SQE exam||QLTS exam|
|SQE1 – available to sit domestically and internationally via Pearson VUE test centres
SQE2 written – available to sit domestically and internationally via Pearson VUE test centres
SQE2 oral – at the beginning will be available at several locations, but within the UK.
|QLTS MCT – available to sit domestically and internationally via Pearson VUE test centres
QLTS OSCE – available to sit in London