The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) will be the new centralised way to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. It will be phased in from September 2021 and will eventually replace the current route to practice – the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
At the University of Law, we’ve developed a range of new courses that will prepare you for a career as a solicitor, as well as SQE success.
You can continue with the current LPC route if, before 1 September 2021, you complete, start, accept an offer, or pay a non-refundable deposit for one of the following:
- a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) / the Common Professional Examination
- the Legal Practice Course (LPC)
- a period of recognised training (also known as a training contract)
- or you complete, start, accept an offer, or pay a non-refundable deposit for a qualifying law degree or an exempting law degree by 21 September 2021.
Anyone who falls within this group will have until 31 December 2032 to qualify as a solicitor under the current routes, as long as courses still remain available.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the SQE?
The SQE will be the centralised assessment for anyone who wants to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. It will be part of a new, four-stage route to becoming a solicitor:
- A degree (or equivalent) in any subject
- Pass SQE1 and SQE2 assessments
- A minimum of two years Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)
- Show you are of satisfactory character and suitability
What does the SQE involve?
The SQE has been divided into two parts – SQE1 and SQE2.
In SQE1 you will be tested on ‘functioning legal knowledge’ which tests your application of law based on realistic client-based scenarios in multiple choice questions. The assessments will cover subjects you will have studied on a law degree or a conversion course, as well as the vocational practice areas in stage 1 of the LPC. There will be two lengthy multiple choice papers of 180 questions each, covering all aspects of the SQE1 syllabus. You must pass SQE1 before being eligible to sit the SQE2 assessments.
In SQE2 you will be tested on the practical legal skills required for practice, including:
- Interviewing (with written attendance note/legal analysis)
- Legal research
- Legal drafting
- Legal writing
- Case and matter analysis
What is qualifying work experience (QWE)?
Under the new route you will need to complete a minimum of two years’ QWE before you can qualify as a solicitor.
QWE is similar to a training contract and can be completed at any point during the qualification process (although it is anticipated that most students will complete this after SQE1).
QWE may be completed with up to four different legal employers. The type of work which qualifies as QWE includes placements while studying for your degree, time spent as a paralegal or working in a law clinic, as well as working for a two year period with a single law firm.
All QWE is signed off by the legal employer, who must be a solicitor, and is usually also the compliance officer.
However, it will be up to individual law firms to decide how they accept your previous work experience. For example, you may have completed part of the required QWE through a Pro Bono placement. However, on obtaining QWE at a law firm, you might be required to complete the entire two year period of QWE with them, if that is what they require for practice at that firm.
Will I have to complete a training contract?
No, if you do the SQE, you will not be required to complete a training contract. In order to qualify with the SQE route you will need to complete two years of QWE instead.
How much will the SQE cost?
In addition to tuition fees, students will pay exam fees directly to the SRA. The total cost for taking both SQE assessments will be £3,980.
- SQE1: £1,558 for the two examinations, consisting of 180 questions each, testing functioning legal knowledge.
- SQE2: £2,422 for the written and oral tasks, testing both practical legal knowledge and skills, including advocacy, client interviewing (with written attendance note/legal analysis), legal research, legal writing, legal drafting, and case and matter analysis.
The SRA has not confirmed a cost to re-sit the SQE. It is likely that the re-sit will cost the same as a first attempt.
If I start a course can I switch to the SQE later?
Yes. If you have chosen to study the LPC during the transitional period, you will be able to sit the SQE exams in the future if you wish. Although this is unlikely to be necessary if you pass the LPC as you can continue to qualify under the current route.
If you have chosen to study the GDL or MA Law, you will be able to select either route on completion of your programme.
Do I have to do the SQE?
If you’re already studying or training you can continue to qualify through the existing routes. For example:
I’ve started a qualifying law degree.
- Current route: if you’re currently studying an LLB or other qualifying law degree, or you plan to start in September 2021, you’ll be able to continue on to the LPC, whether or not you have a training contract. Our LPC will run until at least 2026.
- SQE route: you could do the new LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2), which starts in August 2021, or you could do our new SQE preparation courses.
I’m doing a non-law degree and I’ll graduate in Summer 2021.
- Current route: if you’re planning to start a GDL or MA Law conversion course in September 2021, you can continue to the LPC, which will run until at least 2026.
- SQE route: you also have the choice of our new PGDL or MA Law (SQE1) conversion courses. Both will give you access to the new LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2). Or you could do our new SQE preparation courses.
I’m doing a non-law degree and I’ll graduate in Summer 2022 or later.
- You’ll qualify on the SQE route. We recommend that you apply for one of our new law conversion courses – PGDL or MA Law (SQE1) or MA Law (Conversion) – and then the new LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2). Or you could do our new SQE preparation courses.
Webinar: Becoming a solicitor – SQE or GDL/LPC
In this webinar you’ll find out about the different routes available to qualify as a solicitor and how to decide which route is best for you and your career.
The webinar is presented by Sarah Pooley, an Associate Professor at the University of Law, and Dean of the Guildford and Reading campuses. It was recorded in October 2020.
View the webinar transcript.
What programmes will ULaw offer under the SQE?
Our expert team has designed a suite of SQE courses, materials and tools to prepare you for your career as a solicitor, as well as SQE exam success.
Whether you are a law or non-law graduate, if you want to study full-time, part-time, on campus or online, whether you want to study a Master’s with SQE1 and SQE2 included, or you just want a short revision course to help you get ready for your SQE exams, we’ll help you find the right course for you.
Our courses meet the requirements of legal recruiters who want their future trainees to have knowledge and skills beyond the SQE and our Employability Service will help you to achieve your career and work experience goals. You will receive support to apply for QWE and other legal work experience opportunities. Our Employability Team will consult with you, assist you with applications for QWE and placements, and prepare you for interviews.
Master of Laws Legal Practice (SQE1&2)
Starting in August 2021. Our new LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2) incorporates preparation for both SQE1 and SQE2, as well as additional content considered highly desirable by law firms, including key practice areas and enhanced skills. This programme will ensure you’re fully prepared for your career as a solicitor, as well as success in the SQE exams.
Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL)
Starting in October 2021. A successor to our current GDL, this new conversion course for non-law graduates will prepare you for the foundation subjects that will be assessed in SQE1. From this PGDL you can progress to our LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2), our SQE Preparation courses or our Bar Practice Course (BPC).
Master of Arts in Law (Conversion)
Starting October 2021. This MA Law will cover the foundation subjects required for SQE1 as well as being a master’s.
Master of Arts in Law (SQE1)
Starting October 2021. Our new MA Law (SQE1) incorporates SQE1 and is designed for non-law graduates who want to gain a legal qualification at master’s level. This programme includes our SQE1 Preparation course.
SQE Preparation courses
We will also offer a range of short courses to help you prepare for the SQE1 and SQE2 exams. Whatever your background, whether you want to study full-time or part-time, on campus or online, we have a course that meets your needs, fits in with your lifestyle and budget, and prepares you to pass the SQE exams.
This course is a specially designed conversion course for non-law graduates who plan to progress onto the SQE1. Find out more and book.
- SQE1 Preparation Course
- SQE1 Exam Preparation Course
- SQE2 Preparation Course
- SQE2 Exam Preparation Course
How do I apply for SQE courses?
The application process for our new full-time, on campus PGDL, MA Law (SQE1), MA Law (Conversion) and LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2) will be through the Central Applications Board.
You will be able to apply directly to the University of Law for these programmes part time and/or at our online campus when applications open.
You will be able to book our stand-alone SQE Preparation courses and SQE Exam Preparation courses on our website
Last updated: 19 November 2020
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