Background to the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is being introduced in September 2021 as a core requirement for qualifying as a solicitor.

It is a core element of changes due to be brought in by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to the route to qualification as a solicitor and was approved by the Legal Services Board in October 2020.

The SQE is being introduced with the aims of:

  • ensuring high standards and consistency in assessing the functioning legal knowledge and skills of prospective solicitors
  • improving access to and diversity in the legal profession

The SRA intends to achieve the first of these aims by requiring prospective solicitors to pass two rigorous, centralised assessments: SQE1 and SQE2.

It aims to achieve the second aim by:
  • providing access to the SQE to anyone who has a degree in any subject, or equivalent experience; and
  • replacing the stipulation to complete a 2 year training contract with a law firm, with a requirement to gain 2 years qualifying work experience (QWE).

The SRA also intends that access to the profession will be improved by reducing the cost of qualification, and enabling routes to qualification that will allow candidates to combine earning and learning.


The SQE will comprise of two sets of assessments: SQE1 and SQE2. Candidates will only be able to take SQE2 after passing SQE1.

SQE1 will test candidates on their application of functioning legal knowledge and SQE2 will predominantly test candidates’ practical legal skills.

The type of assessments

SQE1 assesses the application of functioning legal knowledge (FLK) through two assessments, totalling 10 hours. Each assessment will include 180 multiple choice questions.

SQE2 tests practical legal skills but also the application of functioning legal knowledge. The 14-hour assessment incorporates 16 written and oral tasks across 6 skills areas and within 5 legal contexts.

You can see full details of the assessment format and specification for SQE1 and SQE2 on the SRA’s website.

Qualifying work experience

In addition to passing SQE1 and SQE2, all candidates will need to complete at least two-years full-time (or equivalent) qualifying work experience to become a solicitor. There are a number of ways in which qualifying work experience can be gained including on placement during a law degree, in a law clinic, as part of a training contract or working as a paralegal. 

Full details are available from the SRA website.


The first SQE1 assessment will be held in November 2021 and the first SQE2 assessment will be held in April 2022. The assessments are then held every six months. A timetable can be found here.


When it is introduced in September 2021, the SRA have confirmed that the total fee for taking both SQE assessments will be £3,980. (£1,558 for SQE1 and £2,422 for SQE2).

Transitional arrangements

The SRA is proposing that anyone who has started, completed or accepted an offer for a qualifying law degree or common professional examination (CPE or GDL) by the time that the SQE starts in autumn 2021, can choose to qualify by either of the existing or SQE routes. 

Support understanding the SQE

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