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The route to qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales has changed. In September 2021, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) introduced the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) which will eventually replace the current Legal Practice Course (LPC).

On this page, we have addressed some of the common questions around the SQE to ensure you have all the information you need to make an informed decision about your route to qualification. 


What is the SQE?

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is a single, rigorous assessment for all aspiring solicitors.

The SQE is the examination part of the route to qualification to become a solicitor in England and Wales.

Unlike the LPC, the SQE is not a course or study programme, but two separate sets of examinations, or assessments.

  • The SQE1 Assessment tests functioning legal knowledge.
  • The SQE2 Assessment tests oral (advocacy and client interviewing) and written legal skills.
  • You need to pass both SQE1 and SQE2 to become a solicitor.


The SQE Route to Qualification

If you take the SQE route, there are four things you will need to qualify as a solicitor:

  • have a degree in any subject or a qualification or experience that is equivalent to a degree
  • pass both SQE1 and SQE2
  • two years' full-time (or equivalent) qualifying work experience (QWE)
  • pass character and suitability requirements

Qualifying work experience is a recognised period of practical training that can be taken in up to four organisations. You can find out more about it on our QWE Page.


What is Qualifying Work Experience?

You will need to complete at least two years’ full-time (or equivalent) Qualifying Work Experience. QWE is any experience of providing legal services that offers you the opportunity to develop some or all of the competencies needed to practice as a solicitor.

Qualifying work experience is a recognised period of practical training that can be taken in up to four organisations. You can find out more about it on our QWE Page.


Can I qualify with a LPC?

If you started a law degree or a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) or a Legal Practice Course (LPC) before 31 August 2021, then yes, the LPC and Training Contract route to qualification is available to you. You have until 2032 to qualify as a solicitor through the LPC and Training Contract route.

Even if you have commenced one of the above programmes, you may still decide to take the SQE. There are exemptions available to those who have completed a LPC, they can move straight to taking SQE2.

If you haven’t yet started your law degree, or you are not yet taking a GDL or LPC then you can only qualify through the SQE route.


Key Facts about the SQE
  • The SQE assessments are run by Kaplan on behalf of the SRA

  • SQE1 and SQE2 are completely separate from each other

  • You can take SQE1 and SQE2 up to six years apart and up to three times each

  • You must pass SQE1 before you can register with the SRA for SQE2

  • They are central assessments run over multiple days at the same time, across Pearson Vue Test Centres in the UK and across the world

  • To find out which Test Centres are available you need to register on the SRA’s website

  • You need to register directly with the SRA to book the assessments

  • There are some exemptions for participants for the assessments, including those have passed the LPC or are qualified lawyers


What is SQE1?
  • In the SQE1 Assessment, you will be tested on your functioning legal knowledge (FLK)

  • The SQE1 is designed to test your ability to identify legal principles and to apply them to client problems and transactions across 13 practice areas

  • The SQE1 Assessment comprises of two FLK examinations (FLK1 and FLK2) and you have to pass both of them

  • FLK1 covers Business Law and Practice, Dispute Resolution, Contract, Tort, Legal System of England and Wales and Constitutional and Administrative Law and EU Law and Legal Services

  • FLK2 covers Property Practice, Wills and the Administration of Estates, Solicitors Accounts, Land Law, Trusts and Criminal Law and Practice

  • FLK1 and FLK2 are run on two different days across the same week. FLK1 and FLK2 both consist of two 2.5 hour exams

  • All the examinations are multiple choice questions, where you choose the single best answer from five. There are 360 multiple choice questions in total

  • The assessments are available at over 30 locations in England and Wales and across the world at Pearson Vue Test Centres

  • The SQE1 assessment costs £1,798 (£899 for FLK1 and £899 for FLK2) and is paid directly to Kaplan

  • You need to register directly with the SRA to book SQE1


What is SQE2?
  • In the SQE2 Assessment, you will be tested on your practical legal skills, it comprises of two parts – SQE2 Oral and SQE2 Written

  • SQE2 Oral tests two skills - client interview and attendance note/legal analysis and advocacy, it is tested over two days

  • SQE2 Written tests four skills - case and matter analysis, legal research, legal writing and legal drafting, it is tested over three days

  • These skills are tested across five practice areas: Criminal Litigation, Dispute Resolution, Property Practice, Wills and Intestacy, Business organisations

  • SQE2 Written is available at over 30 locations in England and Wales and across the world at the Pearson Vue Test Centres

  • SQE2 Oral for 2022 is available in three locations, Cardiff, Manchester and London. The SRA have said that this will be expanded in 2023

  • The SQE2 assessment costs £2,766 and is paid directly to Kaplan

  • This cost is separate from the cost of any preparation training


When can you take the SQE?

SQE1 assessments currently take place twice a year: January and July.

SQE2 assessments currently take place four times a year: January, April, July and October.


Where can I take the SQE?

All written assessments for SQE1 and SQE2 are held at Pearson Vue Test Centres. There are over 30 locations across England and Wales and many internationally.

To find out which assessment is being offered at which centre, you need to register with the SRA for the assessment and you will be offered a choice of venues.

SQE2 Oral can currently be taken in Cardiff, London, Manchester, and Birmingham;

Cardiff: Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel and Spa, 24 26 Newport Rd, Cardiff, CF24 0DD

Manchester: Marriott Manchester Piccadilly Hotel (formerly Macdonald Manchester), 91 London Road, Manchester, M1 2PG

London: Royal College of General Practitioners, 30 Euston Square, London, NW1 2FB

London: Kaplan, Spring House (Kaplan Highbury and Islington), Main Building, 40-44 Holloway Road, Highbury East, London, N7 8JL

Birmingham: Leonardo Royal Hotel Birmingham, 245 Broad Street, Birmingham B1 2HQ


How do I register for the SQE?

You need to register directly with the SRA to apply to take the SQE Assessments. You can set up an account and complete pre-booking steps before you have decided which assessments to take. We recommend that you complete these steps as soon as you have decided to take the SQE.

Once you have registered with the SRA and passed the pre-booking steps. You can book the assessments. Please note, you cannot book SQE2 until you have passed SQE1, unless you are exempt.

The booking windows for the assessments are on the SRA’s website. Availability at locations is on a first-come first-serve basis, so we recommend that you book as soon as you are able to, particularly if there are limited locations available to you.

How can I prepare for the SQE?

Preparation courses are not mandatory, so you can decide to take the assessments without a formal preparation course. But do not be mistaken in thinking that the SQE is easy!

Even with a law degree, the SQE assessments will be difficult. It is not only about legal knowledge, but the ability to identify issues and apply legal knowledge throughout the assessments. This may be the first time you will experience complex multiple-choice and oral examinations, so you will need to prepare well in both legal knowledge and examination technique.

If you want a little help preparing for success, we offer a series of part-time and full-time courses which will provide you with the legal knowledge, examination technique and opportunities to practice your interview and advocacy skills before the assessments. You’ll have significant 1-2-1 and small group supervision from experienced solicitors to get you ready for the assessments and to set you up for a successful start to your career as a solicitor.

We provide ‘continued access’ to the SLK & SLS Canvas areas for 10 months after the module ends. This is entirely free for all students enrolled on these modules. This means that students on the preparation modules can continue to access and use module materials for an extended period of time, to take them through to the next SQE1/ SQE2 assessment opportunities if required.


I’m an international student, can I take the SQE?

Yes, you can take SQE1 and SQE2 written assessments at many locations around the world. They are run in Pearson Vue Test Centres.

Currently, for SQE Oral, assessments are available in London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester. The SRA have said that this will be expanded in 2023.

For the College’s preparation courses, you can study fully online. There is no requirement for travel, or a student visa.


Can I take the SQE Assessments anywhere in the world?

The SQE1 and SQE2 assessments must be booked directly with the SRA and so we would recommend speaking to them directly regarding any queries you have about the assessment locations.

However, we can advise that the SQE1 and SQE2 written assessments can be taken at Pearson VUE test centres in the UK and internationally. There will be varied start times for assessments held in international centres. For more information and to check where is your nearest active SQE test centre, please visit the SRA website HERE.

When you register to take the SQE assessment and the booking window opens for that assessment, you can select from a wide range of test centres.

The SQE2 Oral assessment is only currently available in Cardiff, London and Manchester.

However, half of SQE2 – SQE Oral, must currently be taken in England & Wales. There are four locations at present (Cardiff, London (2) and Manchester) (add links to this from SRA). The SRA have committed to increasing the number and location of test centres for SQE2 Oral from 2023.


Can I gain QWE anywhere in the world?

Yes, international students are able to gain Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) from wherever you are working or volunteering around the world. There is now a lot of variety regarding the type of organisation and type of work that you can do that is considered Qualifying Work Experience.

I’m a qualified lawyer, what does the SQE mean for me?

If you are a qualified lawyer, you do not need qualifying work experience to qualify, but you may need to take SQE1, or SQE2, or you may be exempt. It depends on your qualification and/or experience.

You can apply for exemptions to the SQE assessment via the SRA and there are different exemptions available and the list is growing.

There are currently agreed SQE2 exemptions for qualified lawyers in Brazil, Denmark, Faroe Islands and Greenland, Hong Kong, Romania, Scotland. You may also be eligible for an SQE1 exemption.

There is also a longer list of jurisdictions, where if you are a qualified lawyer the SRA will consider an individual SQE2 exemption so long as you have at least two-years’ legal work experience which has been gained as part or post qualification or a combination of the two.

There are also situations where someone does not need to sit SQE1. These are not exemptions but equivalents for the transitional routes - LPC and QLTS.


The LPC or the SQE? Which route is right for me?

If you have the option of taking the LPC or the SQE, there are a number of considerations that you might want to think about. We have summarised them below and for more details, you can read our article on the LPC or SQE?


When do you want to qualify?

The LPC will take 1 or 2 years. The SQE can take from eight months to up to six years. There is more flexibility with the SQE route to qualification.

How much time do you have to study?

The LPC can be taken part-time or full-time. The SQE can be taken step-by-step. You can study part-time or full-time for either SQE assessment, but you don’t need to decide about SQE2 until you have passed SQE1.

Where do you want to study?

Think about whether you would like to study on campus or online. There are options for both routes. There are more online options, like The College of Legal Practice for SQE preparation. If you are looking to work alongside your studies, or save on accommodation and travel expense then the SQE route online may be worth considering.

Do you want to secure a training contract?

To qualify via the LPC route, you have to have a training contract. If you don’t have a training contract, you won’t be able to qualify as the firm sponsored work experience period is a necessary requirement for the LPC. If you have an LPC but can’t find a training contract, you are able to switch to the SQE route, but you will then need to take the SQE2 assessment with additional costs.

Do you have any qualifying work experience (QWE)?

If you already have qualifying work experience, you can put that towards your two years QWE which might help you qualify faster.

Do you want to work whilst you are studying?

If you work whilst you are studying for the SQE, you can gain your qualifying work experience (QWE) alongside studying for the assessments.

How are you looking to fund your studies?

Some firms will sponsor your funding for both the LPC and the SQE. If you are looking to self-fund your studies and exams, the SQE route can be less expensive for you. With The College of Legal Practice, the SQE course and the exams can be fully covered by a Masters Loan. You can also pay via instalments for most courses.

Funding the SQE

There are several ways that you can fund your SQE studies and assessment costs. Firstly, your employer or future employer may fund or part-fund your costs.

If you study for the SQE through an LLM in Legal Practice and you are based in England, you may be eligible for a Masters Loan. The Masters Loan will fully cover the costs of the College’s LLM in Legal Practice, that includes preparation for both SQE1 and SQE2, and the SRA’s SQE exam fees.

Course fees can be paid over instalments across the course timeframes with many of the providers, including The College of Legal Practice.

Lastly, there are also scholarships available at the College in addition to some of the other SQE providers. The Law Society’s Diversity and Access Scheme funds SQE and LPC costs. You can find more details here

Still got a question on the SQE? Get in touch

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