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Everything you need to know about the SQE1 Exam

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is the new centralised qualification required in order to practise as a solicitor in England and Wales from 2021 onwards. For budding solicitors, it is important to grasp this new regime and how it is assessed.

By Elena Carruthers. Published 03 February 2022. Last updated 11 January 2023.

The SQE is split into two parts, SQE1 and SQE2. SQE1 focuses on Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK), whereas SQE2 has a more practical focus and tests skills in areas that include interviewing, legal research, and case and matter analysis.

SQE1 is assessed by Single Best Answer Questions, which are a type of multiple-choice question. The FLK that is tested on SQE1 is itself split into two parts, FLK 1 and FLK 2. Each of FLK 1 and FLK 2 is a separate set of subject areas, some being professional practice subjects and some being academic law.

The SQE1 assessment is sat at an assessment centre, but is computer-based. There are a limited number of official sample questions available to practise online.

The University of Law offers an SQE1 Preparation Course, either standalone or as part of a Master’s programme, that features learning based on ‘real-world’ scenarios and will allow you to develop key assessment techniques and knowledge by engaging in FLK-based activities and completing practice tests and mocks designed to mimic the style of the real SQE1 assessments.

To help you understand SQE1 and know how best to prepare for it, we’ve spoken to four students who recently sat the assessment.

Chiara Caprioli

I took the SQE1 exam in November 2021 at Pearson Professional Centre, Kaplan Financial London South.

Each day was split into two sessions of approximately two and a half hours, which covered 90 questions each. We had an hour lunch break in between the two sessions; however, we were advised to be back to our assigned room at least 15-20 minutes before the commencement of the second section.

Overall, the process of preparing and revising for the SQE1 assessment took approximately six months. To study, I used the study materials provided by ULaw, the UK legislation website and other official sources. I found the database of sample questions provided by the university particularly useful as it mirrors the way in which the SQE1 exam is structured.

I am very satisfied on how the course at the University was structured. The amount of material covered in each weekly unit is manageable and the manuals are very well written and easy to follow.

The exam day is quite intense as it requires a lot of focus, and you are required to read a considerable number of questions. I found it quite useful to flag all the answers that I was unsure about and to revise them in the last half an hour. At that point I noticed that I missed some key information when I first read the questions. It is easy to get distracted due to the pressure of having to go through all the questions in a relatively short time.

For those planning to do the SQE in future, the best way to prepare for the exam is by practising with sample questions.

Echo Zhang

I took the SQE1 FLK examination in November 2021 at Pearson Professional Centres, Kaplan Financial in London Islington.

The exam took about six and a half hours in total. There was a lunch break between sessions.

Studying for the SQE took a period of around six months, from mid-May to October 2021. I enrolled in the SQE1 part-time online course and spent an average of three hours per day studying with the aggregate not exceeding 500 hours.

The main resources I used to study for the SQE exam were ULaw’s SQE1 materials and the practice test, which I found very helpful in preparing me. I found that my course at the university was very effective and efficient in preparing me for SQE1.

After reading the SQE1 materials, I had a clear understanding of all the subjects. After completing the practice test, I got a rough idea of what the real exam would be like.

However, there were still some areas I found challenging even after reading the materials and suggested answers in my revision. In these cases, I would normally post a question in the Trainee Breakout Room and would get a response very quickly from the tutor.

Don’t forget to make full use of ULaw’s SQE1 Mock Assessment. In my experience, my mock results were close to the real ones. In addition to the accuracy, the mock tests helped me practice my speed on each question, so I was able to manage my time pretty well during the real exams.

My advice to future SQE students is to make sure you complete the weekly assessment on time as required, because if you fall behind for one week, you will have to work extremely harder to catch up later.

Sharon Tetteh

I took the November 2021 SQE1 exam in Wolverhampton. Overall, the exam took five hours with a one-hour break halfway through.  The process of revising for the exam took me about 12 weeks.

When studying, the main resources I used were the ULaw SQE app and my notes from my reading of the SQE manuals. The ULaw SQE app was what I found most helpful during this process, and as such, I felt fairly well-prepared for the exam.

I was surprised to find that the questions in the actual exam were actually less complex than the questions on the ULaw App.  

The advice I would give to future SQE students is to read up on the black letter law as early as possible and test yourself at least twice a day on the app.

Philippa Rees

I took the SQE1 exam in November 2021 at the Kaplan Centre in Chiswick.

For all sessions (four in total split across two days), I had been through all 90 questions with about 70 minutes or so to spare. This meant that I had time to review all of the questions, not just the ones that I had flagged for review. There was one break of approximately 45 minutes in between the sessions on the assessment day.

When revising for the SQE1 exam, I predominantly used the ULaw revision app and the course manuals, including the black letter law manuals. The revision app was an excellent resource and one which I would highly recommend.

When it came to the exam, I was surprised by the lack of calculation questions and what felt like a heavy emphasis on constitutional law, which was a more unexpected focus. I also thought that there would be more questions on areas such as Part 36 offers.

I would advise any future SQE students to have a strong revision plan in place, as it is an intense course that requires focus and dedication.

I think that ULaw did an excellent job of preparing us for the SQE1 exam. It was made clear from the outset that it would not be sufficient to rely on the practical elements of the profession but that it would be important to keep on top of the black letter law. There was ample opportunity to practice answers and the workshop format is a good way of consolidating the preparatory reading and work.

Learn more about the SQE and browse our SQE preparation courses. Alternatively, get in touch with our Course Advisors at [email protected].