What is the Solicitors’ Qualifying Examinations (SQE)
We'll share all the important details you need to know about the SQE structure, what to expect in the examination, and key information like pass rates, fees, and preparation tips.
Starting a career in law can be a big challenge, but the SQE is helping to level the playing field and make it more accessible. But, just like anything else worth pursuing, success requires preparation and consideration of all the factors involved. So, let's dive in and make sure you're fully prepared to tackle the SQE!
What are the SQE Exams?
SQE are the centralised assessments that a person is required to pass, should they wish to become a solicitor in England and Wales. From September 2021, students looking to enter the legal profession will need to have the following:
- a degree in any subject, or equivalent
- successfully passed the SQE
- undertaken 2 years qualifying work experience
- met the Solicitor Regulatory Authorities character and suitability requirements
LPC v SQE
The SQE route to becoming a solicitor, replaces the old system where aspiring solicitors had to complete a qualifying law degree or equivalent, pass a legal practice course, undertake a training contract, and meet the character and suitability requirements. This route will remain a choice for students who commenced their studies before the September 2021. Everyone else will be required to the SQE route.
SQE1 & SQE2
The SQE exams are divided into two parts which take a total of seven days to complete. Two days are for SQE1 while SQE2 takes five days. They are however sat separately at different points in the year. There are two opportunities to sit both SQE 1 and SQE 2 each year.
SQE1 assesses Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK) and is sat over two days. Day one is for FLK1 which covers Business Law and Practice, Dispute Resolution, Contract, Tort, the Legal System of England and Wales, Public Law, EU law and legal Services. On the second day, FLK2 covers Property Practice, Wills and Administration of Estates, Solicitors Accounts, Land Law, Trusts and Criminal Law and Practice.
Your knowledge is assessed through a single multiple-choice exam, and you must pass both FLK1 and FLK2 to pass SQE1. Your professional conduct and ethics are assessed throughout the two days. Have a go at some SQE1 questions to test your own capabilities.
SQE2 is a practical legal skills assessment which combines oral and written tasks over five days. As with SQE1, professional conduct and ethics are assessed throughout. During SQE2, a person is assessed on the following skills:
- Client interview and attendance note/legal analysis (Oral Assessment)
- Advocacy (Oral Assessment)
- Case and matter analysis (Written Assessment)
- Legal research (Written Assessment)
- Legal writing (Written Assessment)
- Legal drafting (Written Assessment)
The practice areas in which these skills are assessed are criminal litigation; dispute resolution; property practice; wills and intestacy, probate administration and practice; and business organisations, rules and procedures. Have a go at some SQE2 questions to see whether you have what it takes.
When can I register for SQE?
You can register to sit SQE at any time throughout the year, however there are set timings for the examinations. Once registered, you can book into an SQE exam. Booking usually closes 5 weeks before the assessment date.
SQE Pass Rate & Resit
You will be able to attempt each assessment up to three times. Pass rates are set at each sitting of the examinations by the relevant assessment boards. In November 2021, for the first sitting of SQE1, which saw 1090 students sit the exam, the pass rate was 53%. Whereas, in April 2022 the pass rate for SQE2 was 77% for the 726 students who sat the assessments.
If you fail FLK 1 or FLK 2, you will pay a lower amount to re-sit the failed part. If you fail SQE1 or SQE2 entirely, you must pay for your resit in full.
What is the price of SQE?
At the time of writing (March 2023), SQE1 costs £1622 and SQE2 costs £2493 for a total of £4115. Once you’ve attempted your first SQE assessment, you have six years within which you must complete both SQE1 and SQE2.
There is a re-sit cost per failed exam. For the FLK exam it’s £811, whereas failing SQE2 will set you back another £2493. It is therefore vitally important that you adequately prepare for the examinations. For many students this will involve taking an SQE preparation course such as the LLM Professional Legal Practice or PGDip Understanding Legal Practice, in order to give yourself the best chance of being successful on your first attempt. To better understand the differences between SQE preparation courses available read our post on How to prepare for SQE Exams.