The SQE Exam: What is it?
In April 2017, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) agreed to introduce the SQE, marking a new approach to legal qualification and entry to the profession. The new SQE will come into effect from September 2021 and after this date anyone wishing to qualify as a solicitor will need to:
- have a degree or equivalent
- have completed a minimum period of qualifying legal work experience
- have passed the SQE
- have satisfied the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.
The SRA has published a Statement of Solicitor Competence (SoSC) https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/resources/cpd/competence-statement.page) which sets out what solicitors need to be able to do to perform their role effectively and which provides consumers of legal services with a clear indication of what they can expect from their solicitor. The SoSC is supported by an underpinning Statement of Legal Knowledge (SLK) https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/resources/cpd/accreditation/higher-rights-audience/Statement-of-standards-for-solicitor-higher-court-advocates.page) and a Threshold Standard https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/resources/cpd/competence-statement/threshold-standard.page), which describes the standard at which an individual can effectively use the title of solicitor and practise safely.
The SQE has been designed to establish the competence of candidates by the time they qualify as a solicitor. Therefore all candidates who have passed the SQE will have demonstrated the competences specified in the SoSC to the standard expected of a newly qualified solicitor as set out in the SRA’s Threshold Standard.
SQE Exam Stages
The SQE exam consists of two stages:
SQE 1 – Multiple Choice Test
SQE 2 – Objective Structured Clinical Examination
Candidates must first pass SQE 1 before proceeding to SQE 2.
SQE 1 EXAM
1. Functioning Legal Knowledge
The SQE 1 exam is primarily a computer-based functioning legal knowledge assessment which consists of 3 exams of 120 multiple-choice questions, 360 in total. SQE 1 combines substantive and procedural law, and is a test of application, problem solving and decision making. All SQE 1 exams must be taken in single assessment window.
Kaplan is the sole authorised exam assessment provider, and SQE 1 assessments will be available in designated examination centres across England and Wales and internationally. As the assessment provider, Kaplan is not authorised to provide SQE 1 preparation courses. The Solicitors Regulation Authority is the governing body that determines the knowledge which candidates must demonstrate on the exam. BARBRI SQE Prep always recommends that candidates visit the SRA website https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitorexam/) for any recent revisions.
- Company/commercial; dispute resolution; contract and tort
- Property law and practice, wills and the administration of estates; equity and trusts, solicitors accounts
- Criminal law and practice, public and Administrative law, EU law and the legal systems of England and Wales
- Ethics will pervade all assessments
2. The Legal Skills Test
The legal skills test will consist of a legal research exercise and two writing exercises and candidates will be asked to complete this cycle twice.
The legal research exercise will require the candidate to investigate a problem for a client. Candidates will be given an email from a partner which asks the candidate to research an issue or issues, so that the partner can report back to the client. Candidates will have to explain to the partner their legal reasoning and the key sources they rely on but they will not need to produce a research trail.
Candidates will be provided with the sources for the legal research exercise: these may include both primary and secondary sources. Some of the sources provided may not be relevant.
For the writing element of the test, candidates will be asked to write a letter or an email as the trainee acting in a matter.
SQE 2 EXAM
After passing SQE 1, you will then be eligible to apply and sit for SQE 2.
The SQE 2 exam will consist of practical legal skills assessments, namely:
- Client interviewing, advocacy, case and matter analysis, legal research and written advice, legal drafting
- Simulated role plays
Kaplan is the sole authorised exam assessment provider. As the assessment provider, Kaplan is not authorised to provide SQE 2 preparation courses. The SQE 2 legal research and written advice and drafting assessments are also available in designated examination centres across England and Wales and internationally. To make sure that the assessments are comparable and consistent, the remaining three role-play SQE 2 assessments are only available in designated examination centres in England and Wales. The Solicitors Regulation Authority is the governing body that determines the knowledge which candidates must demonstrate on the exam. BARBRI SQE Prep always recommends that candidates visit the SRA website https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitorexam/) for any recent revisions.
Candidates have a six-year time frame in which to pass all SQE 1 and SQE 2 assessments.
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