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SRA reveals SQE exam cost of £3,980 as it extends transitional arrangements in response to COVID-19

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Total fee doesn’t include prep course costs

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has today revealed the total cost of the new solicitor super-exam, and extended transitional arrangements in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) will cost £3,980, the regulator has said. The two-part national assessment is due to come into force from 1 September 2021 — subject to approval from the Legal Services Board (LSB).

It’s worth noting that the total fee is for the exam itself and does not include training costs, which will vary depending on a candidate’s choice of preparation course. These, as of yet, remain unknown.

SQE1 will cost £1,558 and tests candidates’ functioning legal knowledge, i.e. black letter law, in two exams consisting of 180 multiple-choice questions each.

SQE2 will cost £2,422 and focuses on examining practical legal skills and knowledge through 15 to 18 tasks (or “stations”). SQE2 stations will, for the most part, be written assessments, i.e. research, writing, drafting or case analysis exercises, with the exception of advocacy and client interviewing, which will be assessed orally.

Ethics and professional conduct will be examined across SQE1 and SQE2.

The idea is that students who fail SQE1 will not go on to study the more expensive second part.

The SRA has said the costs are in line with the £3,000-£4,500 figure it set out in its original 2018 fee estimates.

Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, said:

“Our priority is creating a single rigorous assessment that gives everyone confidence that aspiring solicitors meet high, consistent standards at the point of entry into the profession. We also need to make sure the SQE is value for money and we are today confirming competitive assessment fees well within the original estimates.”

He continued: “In the current system, many people are put off by the high up-front costs of the Legal Practice Course — up to almost £17,000 – with no guarantee of a training contract. The SQE should give people more training options and more affordable ways to qualify, including earn-as-you-learn routes such as apprenticeships.”

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The SRA has also extended transitional arrangements for students taking Qualifying Law Degrees (QLDs) and Common Professional Examination courses (CPEs) starting in autumn 2021, in light of COVID-19.

The update means that students who have accepted an offer for a QLD or CPE on or before 31 August 2021, and who go on to start their course on or before 31 December 2021, will now have a choice. They can qualify under the old system until 2032, or through the SQE, offering greater flexibility to training providers and students planning on starting a law degree — or law conversion — in 2021.

This comes after some universities told the SRA that they would welcome a longer period running these courses as they prepare their new SQE programmes, given the significant challenges managing the impacts of COVID-19.

Philip added: “It will be some time before the longer-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic are properly understood but we want to give some extra time to prepare for SQE for those who need it. Our changes to the transition arrangements provide more flexibility for both students and universities, as we introduce SQE in 2021.”

Last month the regulator revealed the final design of the SQE. It will be set and examined centrally, with Kaplan tasked with delivering the SQE.

The SRA will be submitting its application to the LSB shortly. If approved, the first SQE1 sitting will be in November 2021 and the first SQE2 sitting in April 2022.

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