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SQE Mythbusting: Get the facts

With the SQE now the new pathway to qualifying as a solicitor, it’s important to understand its key components as well as some of the common misconceptions. To help you understand what to expect from studying the SQE and the LPC, we have debunked some of the most common myths surrounding the courses.

By Elena Carruthers. Published 2 May 2023. Last updated by Cara Fielder 12 February 2024.

Myth: Work experience obtained in other jurisdictions will not count towards Qualifying Work Experience (QWE).

Fact: Students who have gained experience in other jurisdictions can potentially use this to count towards their QWE. This is as long as it can be confirmed by a solicitor in England or Wales or a compliance officer for legal practice (COLP) and if it meets the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) requirements. However, this does not mean that the legal experience gained must cover English or Welsh law. Additionally, as QWE does not need to be completed consecutively, students can complete some or all of their QWE internationally. To find out if your previous experience qualifies, you will need to confirm with the SRA directly.

Myth: I studied law years ago, so I can move straight to the SQE assessments.

Fact: If you have studied law previously and are looking to return to qualify as a solicitor, then it’s advised to refresh your legal knowledge to ensure that you’re in line with the current fundamentals of law. Studying a short course such as our SQE Law Essentials can update your understanding of black letter law, and will give you the baseline needed to study a course such as the LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2).             

Myth: I can only complete my QWE at a law firm.

Fact: According to the SRA, QWE must involve providing legal services, but this does not necessarily mean within a law firm. QWE has been designed to be more flexible than a traditional training contract, meaning you can obtain QWE in up to four organisations:

  • on placement during a law degree
  • working at a law clinic at a voluntary or charitable organisation or law centre
  • as a paralegal
  • on a training contract.

To find out more about QWE, take a look at our SQE hub.

Myth: It’s safer to wait and see what happens with the SQE and delay moving on to the next stage of study after completing your LLB.

Fact: By now, we’ve seen multiple SQE1 and SQE2 sittings, and running of the SQE assessments. The LPC continues to be a popular choice and well-known and recognised by legal employers, but we are seeing more firms prefer the SQE route. There are many opportunities available with firms across England and Wales – from boutique to magic circle – and they’re encouraging applications from both LPC and SQE graduates. So, it’s best not to delay the next stage of your training and keep up the momentum. Meanwhile, salaries for newly qualified solicitors are continuing to rise.

Myth: A law conversion course is a waste of money if you’re planning to take the SQE route to practice – the SRA has said it’s not essential.

Fact: The SRA requires solicitor applicants to hold a degree in any subject before applying for admission as a solicitor. However, the SQE is a robust, intensive assessment of your legal knowledge and most students qualify faster if they have completed either an undergraduate law degree or a law conversion course to teach them the foundations of black letter law. In addition, we know that law firms value this knowledge when assessing trainee applicants, and the more comprehensive your knowledge, the better your chances of success in landing that dream role.

Myth: The SQE features multiple choice questions.

Fact: The SQE1 assessment comprises 360 specialised multiple-choice questions known as ‘single best answer questions’, or SBAQs. These are technically different to standard multiple-choice questions. In SBAQs, there may be more than one correct answer, but one answer may be more suitable than others depending on the context of the question.

Myth: No one is taking the Legal Practice Course (LPC) anymore.

Fact: The LPC is still a popular route for prospective solicitors to study and qualify. However, due to the reduction in available training contracts, and the SRA’s transitional arrangements, fewer students will be eligible to use the LPC route each year moving forward (particularly as non-law graduates will no longer be allowed to take the LPC) and we expect the majority of students to have moved over to the SQE route by September 2024. We will continue to offer the LPC to eligible students as a trusted route to practice.

Myth: The SQE is easier than the LPC.

Fact: Both the LPC and the SQE are rigorous assessments designed to ensure you’re ready to succeed in your career in a competitive market; ‘easy’ is a relative term, but we know from speaking to students that both routes into practice are intensive and demanding. The pass rate for SQE1 is around 53% which shows that generally, cohorts find it to be a challenging assessment. The number of students passing SQE2 is higher, but this is due to the fact that you need to have passed SQE1 before you can apply for and sit SQE2.

Myth: You don’t need to understand black letter laws to pass the SQE.

Fact: Knowledge of black letter law is essential to succeed in passing the SQE1 and SQE2 assessments. The SQE assesses ‘functioning legal knowledge’ which are the core legal principles and rules students will be asked about to apply to a number of different subject areas. SQE1 assesses ‘functional legal knowledge’ otherwise known as FLK, assessing your understanding of the core legal principles across both academic law subjects and vocational practise areas. While SQE2 is a set of skills assessments, more than 50% of the marks available relate to your understanding and application of FLK.

Myth: You can take the SQE assessments as many times as you need.

Fact: You have three attempts to pass the SQE assessments over a six-year period. This six-year period begins on the first day of your first SQE assessment. You can make the most of your opportunities by ensuring you know how likely you are to pass. The University of Law’s SQE app contains an extensive range of SQE1 single best answer questions (SBAQs). The app covers the entire SQE1 syllabus and provides feedback on your performance with a high level of accuracy, allowing you to focus your revision time on specific areas and be as prepared as possible. To find out more about the SQE revision app and how to use it, see our SQE Revision App User Guide.

Myth: Even if you have completed the LPC, you will need to sit the SQE assessments in order to be admitted as a solicitor by the SRA.

Fact: The SRA is accepting applicants from both LPC and SQE route until the end of 2032 – if you have passed the LPC and secured a training contract you will not need to complete any of the SQE assessments. However, if you have completed the LPC and not secured a training contract you may qualify using the SQE route. You would be exempt from taking SQE1 and only need to complete SQE2 and have two years’ QWE to qualify under this route.

Myth: Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) can’t be backdated.

Fact: QWE can take place before, during or after your completion of the SQE assessments, so if you have previously undertaken some work, that may retrospectively count towards your two years’ QWE requirement for admission as a solicitor with the SRA. Any QWE must be confirmed by a solicitor of England or Wales, or a Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP), and it’s wise to keep a detailed record of your experience and how it meets the SRA’s competencies. However even if you have obtained prior QWE, some firms may still expect you to take a period of two years’ QWE with them so you complete all the training they expect from their junior lawyers.

Myth: There are too many courses on offer, it’s simpler just to study myself and sit the exams.

Fact: Whether you’re returning to university, continuing straight after your undergraduate, or have other responsibilities such as family, we understand that law courses cannot be developed in a one-size-fits-all approach. This is why we offer a range of courses to help you pass the SQE. This includes law conversion courses, short preparation courses and Master’s level courses. We offer these at campuses across the UK as well as online, both part-time and full-time, so you can study for the SQE in a way that suits you. Although you can make the choice to study alone, it is heavily advised that you undertake a course to give yourself the best chance to pass the SQE, especially as you have a limited number of retakes.

To determine the best course for you, see our guide An SQE Course for Everyone.