Confirmation of sittings beyond transitional years for 2023/4
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has revealed further Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) assessment dates.
The regulator recently published updated information on SQE assessment dates (below), which includes timings beyond the transitional years for 2023/4. It had reached out to more than 200 law firms and legal educators for feedback on the provisional timings published last year.
The first stage of the assessment, known as SQE1, will take place on 8 and 11 November 2021, with SQE2 in April 2022. The SRA expects to confirm the exact date for the first SQE2 sitting by next month.
There will be two sittings of each exam in 2023. The two SQE1 sittings take place in January and July 2023. The SRA said it will monitor demand for introducing additional SQE1 sittings, looking to add sittings when appropriate, for example, in April and October 2023. The two SQE2 sittings take place in April and July 2023. This will increase to three SQE2 sittings in 2024 (January, April and July), and ultimately rising to four SQE2 sittings (January, April, July, and October).
The SRA said:
“These will become the regular pattern of SQE sittings following the transitional years of 2021 and 2022. We will aim for assessment dates that are within the same weeks of the same months as far as possible.”
The regulator added that the new dates take into account stakeholders’ desire for a consistent yearly assessment timetable, their call for additional sittings over time, and the anticipated increase in candidates moving through SQE.
A number of the major legal education providers welcomed the SRA’s new dates for 2022 and beyond. However, some did tell us that they would like to see more SQE1 dates added — particularly in 2022.
“We warmly welcome the announcement by the SRA of new SQE1 and 2 assessment dates for 2022 and beyond,” said Jill Howell-Williams, national SQE programme director at The University of Law. “This will allow us to plan our future programmes in alignment with the end goal assessments and get our students ready for success in the SQE”.
Howell-Williams continued: “We are also really pleased to see the increased number of assessment points for SQE2 being introduced in 2024 which will offer our students many more opportunities to organise their studies and work around the new assessment regime. We would encourage the SRA to review the SQE1 assessment dates, particularly for 2022 and consider introducing further dates as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, Sarah Hutchinson, BARBRI managing director, global, told Legal Cheek:
“The SQE introduces more flexibility and accessibility to the solicitors’ professional qualification. BARBRI welcomes the suggested increase in the number of exam sittings from 2023 onwards. We are confident that with BARBRI’s proven track record and flexible courses, our students will achieve qualification on a timetable best suited to their circumstances.”
Jane Wood, principal lecturer at Nottingham Law School, said: “We will be taking time to assess the impact of these new timings on the courses we have developed to meet the introduction of SQE 1 and 2.”
She added: “We welcome the announcement that the SRA will introduce more sittings for SQE2 and hope that similar additional opportunities going forward will be available for those students wishing to sit SQE1.”
The SQE, a two-part national assessment to be set and examined centrally, comes into force on 1 September 2021. SQE1 examines functioning legal knowledge and involves around ten hours of exams completed over the course of two days, while SQE2 focuses on practical legal skills and takes around 14 hours to complete over five half days.