The SQE Explained
From September 2021, the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) will be phased in to become the new centralised way to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. It will eventually replace the current route to practice – the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
94% of postgraduate students in employment were in Highly Skilled Occupations 15 months after graduating (2017/18 Graduate Outcomes data).
Choice of Courses
With a range of SQE courses, locations and flexible study options, we will prepare you for your career as a solicitor, as well as SQE exam success.
More than SQE
Alongside our careers support, you’ll work in our virtual law firm, with our expert tutors, and develop knowledge and skills beyond the SQE.
Your Route to Becoming a Solicitor
You can continue with the current Legal Practice Course (LPC) route if, before 1 September 2021, you complete, start, accept an offer, or pay a non-refundable deposit for one of the following:
- A Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) / the Common Professional Examination
- Our MA Law
- The Legal Practice Course (LPC)
- A period of recognised training (also known as a training contract)
For a qualifying law degree (QLD) and exempting law degree (ELD), such as our LLB, you must complete, start, accept an offer or pay a non-refundable deposit by 21 September 2021.
In most cases, for the qualifying law degree (QLD), exempting law degree (ELD) and CPE, the relevant course must start at the latest on or before 31 December 2021.
If you have already started a qualifying law degree, Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) or training contract there are transition arrangements in place until 31 December 2032 to qualify as a solicitor under the current routes, as long as courses still remain available.
Alternatively, we’ve developed a range of new courses that will prepare you for a career as a solicitor, as well as SQE success.
Frequently Asked Questions
We understand you may be uncertain about how the SQE could affect you. Don’t worry, we’re here to ensure you have all the information you need to make an informed decision about your future.
What is the SQE?
The SQE will be the centralised assessment for anyone who wants to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. It will be part of a new, four-stage route to becoming a solicitor:
- A degree (or equivalent) in any subject
- Pass SQE1 and SQE2 assessments
- A minimum of two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)
- Show you are of satisfactory character and suitability
What does the SQE involve?
The SQE has been divided into two parts – SQE1 and SQE2.
In SQE1 you will be tested on ‘functioning legal knowledge’ which tests your application of law based on realistic client-based scenarios in multiple-choice questions. The assessments will cover subjects you will have studied on a law degree or a conversion course, as well as the vocational practice areas in stage 1 of the LPC. There will be two lengthy multiple-choice papers of 180 questions each, covering all aspects of the SQE1 syllabus. You must pass SQE1 before being eligible to sit the SQE2 assessments.
In SQE2 you will be tested on the practical legal skills required for practice, including:
- Interviewing (with written attendance note/legal analysis)
- Legal research
- Legal drafting
- Legal writing
- Case and matter analysis
What is the Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)?
Under the new route, you will need to complete a minimum of two years’ Qualifying Work Experience before you can qualify as a solicitor.
Qualifying Work Experience is similar to a training contract and can be completed at any point during the qualification process (although it is anticipated that most students will complete this after SQE1).
Qualifying Work Experience may be completed with up to four different legal employers. The type of work which qualifies as Qualifying Work Experience includes placements while studying for your degree, time spent as a paralegal or working in a law clinic, as well as working for a two year period with a single law firm.
All Qualifying Work Experience is signed off by the legal employer, who must be a solicitor, and is usually also the compliance officer.
If you have already completed part of the required Qualifying Work Experience, such as through a Pro Bono placement, it will be up to individual law firms to decide how they accept your previous work experience. On obtaining Qualifying Work Experience at a law firm, you might be required to complete the entire two year period of Qualifying Work Experience with them, if that is what they require for practice at that firm.
Will I have to complete a training contract?
No, if you do the SQE, you will not be required to complete a training contract. In order to qualify with the SQE route, you will need to complete two years of Qualifying Work Experience instead.
How much will the SQE assessments cost?
In addition to tuition fees, students will pay exam fees directly to the SRA. The total cost for taking both SQE assessments will be £3,980.
- SQE1: £1,558 for the two examinations, consisting of 180 questions each, testing functioning legal knowledge.
- SQE2: £2,422 for the written and oral tasks, testing both practical legal knowledge and skills, including advocacy, client interviewing (with written attendance note/legal analysis), legal research, legal writing, legal drafting, and case and matter analysis.
The SRA has not confirmed a cost to re-sit the SQE. It is likely that the re-sit will cost the same as a first attempt.
If I start a course can I switch to the SQE later?
Yes. If you have chosen to study the LPC during the transitional period, you will be able to sit the SQE exams in the future if you wish. Although this is unlikely to be necessary if you pass the LPC as you can continue to qualify under the current route.
If you have chosen to study the GDL or MA Law, you will be able to select either route on completion of your programme.
Do I have to do the SQE?
If you’re already studying or training you can continue to qualify through the existing routes. For example:
I’ve started a qualifying law degree.
- Current route: if you’re currently studying for an LLB or other qualifying law degree, or you plan to start in September 2021, you’ll be able to continue on to the LPC, whether or not you have a training contract. Our LPC will run until at least 2026.
- SQE route: you could do the new LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2), which starts in August 2021, or you could do our new SQE preparation courses.
I’m doing a non-law degree and I’ll graduate in Summer 2021.
- Current route: if you’re planning to start a GDL or MA Law conversion course in September 2021, you can continue to the LPC, which will run until at least 2026.
- SQE route: you also have the choice of our new PGDL or MA Law (SQE1) conversion courses. Both will give you access to the new LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2). Or you could do our new SQE preparation courses.
I’m doing a non-law degree and I’ll graduate in Summer 2022 or later.
- You’ll qualify on the SQE route. We recommend that you apply for one of our new law conversion courses – PGDL or MA Law (SQE1) or MA Law (Conversion) – and then the new LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2). Or you could do our new SQE preparation courses.
Webinar: SQE or LPC
In this webinar, you’ll find out about the different routes available to qualify as a solicitor and how to decide which route is best for you and your career.
This is the transcript of the webinar that was recorded in October 2020.
Our SQE Courses
Whether you’re a law or non-law graduate, want to study full-time, part-time, on-campus or online, we have the right course for you. We offer a wide range of SQE courses from Master’s with SQE1 and SQE2 included, to short revision courses to help you get ready for your SQE exams.
Our SQE Support
We’re committed to your legal career, as well as SQE success. From our award-winning Employability and Careers Service, to help to fund your studies, we’ll support you every step of the way.