What does the SQE look like?

Experts at QLTS shine the light on the detailed structure of the course, and what the prep work will look like.

In Autumn 2021, the qualification process to become a solicitor will be changing with the implementation of the SQE assessments. This upcoming change to the qualification process has brought up many questions for those preparing to qualify, including questions about planning, required time commitments and preparations needed to be ready for the SQE. In actuality, the answers to these questions depend on each candidate’s personal circumstances, including their time availability, legal experience and background with English law.

QLTS vs. SQE exams

The SQE exams are heavily modelled on the QLTS assessments. The overall structure is similar in the way that they are both divided into two different sections, where the first section must be passed before the second section can be attempted. The QLTS was structured into two parts, MCT and OSCE. The SQE is also broken down into two parts, or stages: Stage 1, Functioning Legal Knowledge Assessments (SQE1), and Stage 2, Practical Legal Skills Assessments (SQE2). SQE1 will be available at various international centres, while SQE Stage 2 will only be available in England and Wales, initially.

Both exams cover similar content and share a similar and familiar style, format, and structure. As a result, there is a clear advantage to preparing for the SQE exams with an established QLTS training provider.

SQE stages and preparation time explained

QLTS School believes that, on average, based on various individual needs, it is likely to take about 9-12 months to prepare for both stages of the SQE exams.

The total cost to sit both SQE1 and SQE2 will be £3,980: £1,558 for SQE1 and £2,422 for SQE2. This cost does not include re-sits or study preparation materials. In addition, you are allowed to attempt each of the stages of the SQE only three times during a six-year period.

It is, therefore, best to be well-prepared for the SQE assessments the first time you sit them. Financially, sitting the SQE without being fully prepared may cost you thousands of pounds in the long run in retakes and delaying the progress of your legal career and goals. To better understand what kind of preparation is needed, consider the information you will need to study for each part of the assessments.

SQE1 tests the Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK) required for effective practice through two assessments, which integrate substantive and procedural law and also test ethical judgement. 

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

FLK2 covers the following practice areas, including: Property Practice, Wills and the Administration of Estates, Solicitors Accounts, Land Law, Trusts, Criminal Law, and Criminal Litigation.

The content of SQE1 covers more practice areas than the MCT, and assesses substantive, procedural and practical law, whereas the MCT only assesses substantive law. The assessment has a total of 360 questions, and is divided into two assessments of 180 questions each. This assessment will run the course over two separate days, for a total of approximately 10 hours.

With all this in mind, a general guideline to study for SQE1 suggests that a candidate should study for approximately 5-6 months, for about 15-20 hours per week, while another candidate might choose to spread out their study time commitment over a period of 12-18 months.

SQE2 requires candidates to demonstrate a high level of legal knowledge and well-honed practical skills in a carefully-structured environment against strict marking criteria. SQE2 assesses six different skills, five legal practice areas, has 16 assessments and takes 13 hours and 45 minutes which run across five half days.

For SQE2, a candidate would most likely spend about 3 to 4 months preparing and studying, or even as long as 8 months, for about 15-20 hours per week.

Again it should be noted that the amount of time it takes to be prepared for the assessments, be it in hours, weeks, and months, will depend on the individual candidate and their personalised needs and circumstances, but there is no doubt that it involves a serious time commitment.

Attaining success with the SQE assessments the first sit

The SQE syllabus is extensive and detailed in various subject areas. It covers legal areas taught over several years in UK universities in the LLB degree or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), and during the Legal Practice Course (LPC), the phased-out vocational route for qualification in England and Wales. The SQE assessments will test your legal skills which can only be acquired through regular practice or substantial legal experience.

Broken down into SQE1 and SQE2 study tracks, QLTS School’s preparation courses and study materials will provide you with a variety of tools needed for success –18 textbooks, mock exams, digital flash cards, video tutorials, practice questions, online resources, extensive tutor support, and more.

SQE1 preparation

SQE1 begins with the FLK assessments. Divided into two separate exams, consisting of 180 questions each, you will be expected to answer all the questions in a multiple choice format.There are several stages in preparing for the SQE1 exams:

Stage 1 – understanding the style, format, and procedures of SQE1

Study tools:

  • Course Administration Handbook
  • SQE1 Exam Day Resources

Stage 2 – studying the substantive and procedural law

Study tools:

  • 18 textbooks, with over 3,000 pages in total, specifically written for the SQE, covering the entire SRA syllabus.
  • 5,000+ digital flash cards with short questions and answers on each of the topics, organised by specific topics for each practice area assessed on SQE1, that are covered by the syllabus. The digital flash cards will help you reinforce your legal knowledge.
  • Revision notes of key points, summarised, as well as main legal principles on each subject. The study pack includes over 500 pages of concise content, with a timesaving layout and presentation to quickly access key information.

Stage 3 – developing a deeper understanding of the subject areas

Study tools:

  • SQE question bank with 2,500+ MCQs, covering a wide range of all the topics and the scope of legal knowledge required for each practice objective. Each question contains a fact pattern, question, and five possible answers. The answers also provide you with a detailed solution as to how the correct answer is arrived at and why the other answers are wrong.
  • SQE Video Library with 200+ video tutorials, spanning 60+ hours of lectures, and provides a wide overview of the entire syllabus, focusing on certain topics, and go into various aspects of the SQE syllabus in more detail.

Stage 4 – applying the law to realistic fact patterns

Study tools:

  • 30 mock tests, with 90 questions each for FLK1 and FLK2. This allows you to test your progress through real test questions with a time limit, similar to the formal assessment.

Updates to the course materials will be provided any time the law changes, which ensure that you are always studying the most up-to-date content, regardless of when you sit the assessments.

SQE2 Preparation

SQE2 is a practical legal skills assessment. It is divided into two parts: SQE2 oral (interviewing and advocacy) and SQE written (legal research, legal drafting, legal writing, and case and matter analysis). SQE2 involves simulations of solicitor/client interactions, file reviews preparation of written advice or reports, and court-based scenarios, assessed in various legal environments known as ‘stations’.

Stage 1 – understanding the style, format, and procedures of SQE2

Study tools:

  • Course Guide
  • SQE2 Exam Day Resources

Stage 2 – studying the substantive and procedural law

  • Practice area summaries with 200 pages cover the essential elements of the law. The practice areas are summarised and divided into sections, covering the main topics tested in the assessment.
  • 2,500+ digital flash cards which cover the substantive and procedural law
  • SQE Video Library with 80+ video tutorials, and 20+ hours of lectures, covering the substantive and procedural law. The lectures are broken down into smaller topics that cover various aspects of the syllabus in further detail.

Stage 3 – learning and understanding the five skills

  • SQE2 practice questions cover the legal practice areas through multiple exercises based on a single scenario/case study common to that practice area. All the questions are supported by a variety of documents and forms which you may see in the formal assessment, such as a letter of claim and particulars of claim; board and members’ resolutions; defence and witness statements; a bail application; wills, IHT forms, and probate applications; purchase deeds, a copy of the register and site plan, and purchase and sale contracts.
  • SQE Skills Online, an interactive tool with 60+ exercises and a-130 page textbook, which is complemented by video and audio material covering legal writing and drafting, advocacy, interviewing and advising, case and matter analysis, and legal research.
  • 100+ Legal Skills Video Workshops including role-play scenarios on interviewing and advocacy, and expert tutor’s commentary. These videos are delivered by law tutors with extensive experience in practice and offer guidance on drafting commonly used documents.

Stage 4 – developing and practising your legal skills

  • 250 mock exams for self-assessment covering all legal practice areas and skills assessed. The mock exams will help you deepen your legal knowledge and hone your practical skills. Samples of the mock exams are accessible here:
  • Mock practice stations with personal tutor feedback offer you the opportunity for online, one-to-one mock stations in client interviewing and advocacy with an experienced tutor, who will provide you with feedback on your performance based on Kaplan and the SRA Marking and Moderation Policy. You will also have the opportunity to have a role-play mock exam with tutor feedback in client interview and advocacy: https://bit.ly/2Q4pcVR .  

QLTS School’s preparation courses for the SQE exams reflect the SRA’s SQE Assessment Specification and are based on a decade of experience in teaching foreign lawyers for the QLTS exams. This ensures that you will be equipped with all the tools for success in the SQE. For more information visit http://www.qlts.co.uk/sqe or email [email protected].

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