‘How did you find the SQE?’

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Aspiring solicitor seeks students’ experiences of new assessment

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, an aspiring lawyer is keen find out other students’ experiences of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).

“I’m a final year law student who is planning to do the SQE later this year. I’ve read your recent stories about the SQE (CLLS urging law firms not dump trainees who fail and the latest SQE1 pass rate of 51%) and some comments saying it is more difficult than the LPC. I want to hear from anyone who has done the SQE already and what they made of it? Should I maybe do the LPC instead?”

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I’m planning to do the SQE later this year. I’m also keen to hear people’s thoughts.



I was in the first intake of students that sat SQE1 and passed first time. I don’t have a law degree and hadn’t done any law exams prior to that. I studied with The University of Law and did their SQE1 Law Essentials course as well as the SQE1 Preparation course. I studied part time and online so after work in the evening and on weekends. It is a huge amount of information that you need to know in order to pass and it takes up a lot of time. You have to be dedicated as a lot of the course was essentially self taught but ULaw had fantastic manuals and question banks with hundreds of practise questions per subject. I think I did thousands of SBA’s before I sat SQE1 and by the time I came to the exams never wanted to see another SBA again but it definitely helped as some of the fact patterns in the practise questions came up in some of those in the exam. So don’t be disheartened by the low pass rates of the recent exams. If you set your mind to it and you put in the work you can definitely pass SQE1. I can’t comment on SQE2 yet as I haven’t sat it but I am planning to start studying for that later this year.



I passed the SQE1 first time as a distance learner with no tuition and didn’t have a law degree. I spent 18 months on it though (six months part-time and 12 months full-time). That was because I wanted to make sure I was ready, but you can do it in a year. I was actually over-prepared and passed comfortably. As long as you devote enough time to studying and do enough mock exam practice tests (I did 10) you should pass.



It’s impressive you passed in your first attempt and without a law degree.
It will be hugely helpful if you could kindly share the details how did you prepare for it, for instance, the books, or online courses, or information resources you found helpful.
Many thanks


Suffering SQE student

If it’s a straight choice just between the two assessments, yes take the LPC! The LPC has legacy notes and is open book, whereas the SQE is completely closed book and the only insight into the exam you get from the SRA are 90 mock questions, which having sat the exam I can say looked nothing like the exam questions themselves.
But, it’s sadly not that simple. Where the SQE comes into its own is the QWE element. You don’t have to rely on getting a TC, or taking on LPC debt without knowing whether you’ll be able to qualify. You can use experience from working as a paralegal or in a traditional TC, making the SQE the less risky route. You can even sit the exams after you’ve built up your QWE, avoiding the risk of not finding experience. How easy it is to find an NQ job after qualifying this way is another question though. The main point I’d say about the SQE is, if you take it, 100% do a prep course. I know the SRA markets it as an exam where you don’t have to take a course, making it less expensive – in my opinion it’s just not possible. The courses don’t just teach you the content, they drill you on exam technique and how to pass. I also think this will have something to do with the 51% pass rate so don’t be too put off by that!
Overall, I’d say think about it what you want. If you hate memorising but know you want to qualify having done a TC – go for the LPC. If you like the flexibility of the SQE and don’t know what the future holds, the SQE might be the best option.
Good luck!



I am an apprentice solicitor – have been in practice for over 6 years, have completed my qualifying law degree with a 1st and and SQE1 was the hardest exam I have faced. It was a mental challenge more than anything and had a brutal impact on my mental health. I passed the exam and will be doing SQE2 in the next sitting, but I know others who worked just as hard as me and didn’t pass. Headline is it’s very hard, but doable if you put the time in and luck is on your side on the day.



Yes, indeed a difficult exam is a challenge to mental health. Total bs



It can be tbh, why would you post something like that (X)? Sorry about that on X’s behalf, apprentice, hope you’re doing better now



When can we do the LPC until?



Can we hear more anti-SQE rants please I wanna know what I’m getting into



I would say it all depends on your career plans at the moment. Law is an incredibly competitive industry at the moment, and I would personally not go through the SQE route straight after university if I did not have a training contract. I had two degrees under my belt before doing the SQE and I still found it a different kind of beast – the time dedication, the extent of memorisation and really specific exam technique practice required is unlike any degree you will have done. From what I have seen and heard – with the caveat that I have not personally done the LPC – the LPC is easier, not least because it’s a tried and tested system and you have legacy notes, practice papers and the predictability of what to expect (which is not to be underestimated!). Having said this though, if you were to do the LPC, I am not sure how far that would get you in terms of securing a training contract and qualifying. Most law firms are sticking to their traditional training contract routes but now require their trainees to do the SQE , even when they have done the LPC before. So I would probably not do the LPC if I really wanted to either get a training contract or qualify for those reasons.

Given you just finished your law degree, my best piece of advice is either take a couple months off to apply for training contracts (you will be surprised how far you can get with tc applications if you treat the process like a full-time job for 2 months) or get a paralegal position and if you still like law and are convinced it is for you after a year of paralegaling, only then consider and invest in the SQE. I appreciate the SQE exam fees are lower, but having just been through the SQE1, I don’t think your chances of passing the exam without a prep course are significant, so the overall sum you would pay for the prep course and exams is not negligible.

Either way, take your time to decide and don’t rush into anything – I know getting a tc and qualifying seems like a race, but you can only win by taking time to think through your options. Good luck!



The only reason why the pass rates are low is because the SQE can be attempted by anyone in the world with an undergraduate degree from any country. Many candidates do not have the requisite command of English to actually pass nor do they have an understanding of English law – falsely believing that their home country’s common law system is similar and that they can pass easily.

If you think about it, SQE1 only tests current law and you are not required to know any development of the law nor any suggestions for reform/academic commentary. It should in theory be easier than an LLB degree although it may be harder than a GDL. As for SQE2, the exam is just as hard as the LPC.

In short, if you are currently achieving 2:2+ in your LLB degree then you should not worry about passing SQE1. You will easily pass it.


Piece of difficult cake.

^^ Actual pass rate of those with 2:2 degrees = 23%.



I would recommend you consider the SRA report instead of assuming that I am incorrect based on a single percentage.

The statistics do not show what degree was completed to what standard, so people that have completed non-legal undergraduate degrees are within the same 2:2 classification as LLB undergraduates and there is no distinction between them. A person that has a 2:2 in history and takes a prep course will fail SQE1 whilst a law undergrad may not fail. Hence, my point still stands, you are required to know much less for SQE1 than for your LLB (unless you attended a poor university of completed a poor syllabus) and you will hence have a much easier time passing SQE1.

Note that 17% of candidates had a non applicable answer as to degree classification which means they obtained a foreign degree (so a non U.K. undergraduate degree/GDL) and yet still attempted the exam bringing the statistics down even further.

Finally, the majority of those taking the SQE1 this year were in employment and aged 25-34, so they likely did not have fresh (broad) knowledge of the law as a recent LLB graduate would. These people are likely to have a significant advantage however when attempting SQE2.

So I would suggest that you and the others commenting stop trying to scare potential student from taking the SQE. Just because you struggled does not mean that everyone will struggle and I certainly did not struggle.


Piece of difficult cake.

Fair points, but I assure you I wasn’t attempting to scare anyone.

For the OP I feel the key take away is, the SQE is objectively difficult.

However, if you are prepared to work hard, you stand a good chance.

As someone who also just sat (and passed) SQE1 with a so-called Consortium firm, from who I’ve spoken to, I don’t think I know anyone who found it ‘easy’. Even though most of us did well in the SQE, we could still appreciate that was pretty damn difficult!

I think the general consensus from the our cohort was that most felt it was as challenging as our undergrads, if not more (these are Oxbridge/top Russell Group grads), and also more challenging than the GDL.

Addressing the idea that you need to know less than your LLB, this is just false.

That would suggest that LLB grads are could be considered ‘day 1 NQs’. For the OP, the SQE requires your basic undergraduate knowledge ….and more!

Whilst ‘Observer’ may not have struggled, we pretty much all ‘struggled’ in the run-up.

That said, it turned out okay in the end.



I sat and passed the SQE1 first time, I’m not fresh out of university and this is not my first professional job, but it was an absolute chore and very draining especially when you’re working full-time.
I have also taken part of the LPC course before (that I then had to sadly drop out from due to some personal circumstances) and found it infinitely easier than the SQE. I firmly believe that it’s because at least with the LPC there are plenty of practice papers so you can get a feel for the exams and, with the SQE, there is nothing. Those 90 practice questions on the SRA site are nothing like those in the real exam. Kaplan have also not put in the effort to provide a proper syllabus, not have they bothered with a proper revision course. It’s a money grab and a bottle neck.
At the end of the day, all exams come down to exam technique, not how smart you are or how capable you will be at a job role and Kaplan are not providing what they should.



Are you joking that there’s no practice exams? How awful. I’ve read you can’t even have water during the five hour exams. Despite having a qualifying masters in law and 2 years of experience as a paralegal, my tc firm is making me do an intense SQE course. I’m this close to changing careers.



It is objectively harder than the LPC in many ways. Firstly, the mental resilience needed to go back over undergraduate modules you have likely already got a first in (the annoyance being that you have already proved yourself in that module and get RE-EXAMINED on it). Secondly, the fact the exam is closed book and tests you on everything from your undergraduate and post graduate, which is completely unrealistic to everyday life in law where you are well reversed on one or two subject areas and can rely on legal resources to top this up. Thirdly, the length of the exams should not be underestimated. I sat my exams alongside a full time job and I cannot tell you how taxing this was on my overall well being.


Susan Desfontaines

I have sat SQE1 & SQE2, passed both, and applied to the Roll last week.
You can find my thoughts and tips on taking on the exam at (too long to write it all down here I’m afraid)
Many of the questions I was being asked by those about to embark upon the SQE were the same, and so the article was written by me and published by LGL to try and assist those students trying to navigate, not just the exam, but funding it, and trying to gauge just what you have give it to pass it.
We also hoped it would help Lawyers with SQE students under their supervision to understand just what an SQE student goes through, so that they can better support you… Don’t forget most of your supervising lawyers will have not seen the SQE exam either, as most are LPC route qualified.

In terms of time, I studied for 20 weeks for SQE1… (roughly 350 hours study time put in around full time working) and for SQE2, 20 weeks (more than 350 hours because you have to keep your law revision from SQE1 going, as well as the skills practice for SQE2) Yes my days were long, and yes I was shattered at the end, but it was worth it.

I hope it helps you gain some insight into the exam, and you can then come back here to discuss what you think about the points I raise between you.
In terms of the SQE v LPC I cant really comment because I never took the LPC, so I cant say if it is easier or not, but I can say that doing the SQE has made me better at law and Ive learned a lot. I have also qualified while earning considerably more than I would have on a training contract arrangement, and even before the ink was dry on my application for the Roll, my CV was being requested as soon as it became known that I had passed SQE2.
For me SQE has been a positive achievement, that seems to be respected by potential employers, and so I can now move forward into the next chapter in my legal adventure.



Can I ask where you completed your SQE course? Despite the importance of self-study, I am not certain where to apply to get the best result!


Senior Paralegal and SQE Student

I took BARBRI’s SQE 1 course and, whilst challenging, can say that if you put the work in and interact with other students studying, to check your knowledge, you should pass comfortably (I was in the top 20% in FLK1 and FLK2 exams). I am currently into the final few weeks of prep for SQE 2 exams (in May) and am feeling nervous. Deep down I know I should be fine but until I get that in writing it will be a nerve wracking time. Happy to share some SQE 2 feedback once I’ve completed it, to the extent the SRA/Kaplan permit.



Just to keep a balanced view, did anyone (especially anyone with a TC sponsorship) find the SQE easy, easy enough, doable, not a nightmare? Did anyone find it easier than undergrad and if so which undergrad did you do? If you’re smart is the exam fine or are you fucked anyway basically?



Really? No one? Fuuuuuuuck me



Got a First Class degree from a Russel Group university. Got a TC. Found the SQE unbearable and way more difficult due to the unknowns, the amount of info needed and how unrealistic it was to real life practice.



I am seriously thinking of foregoing my TC at this point. To add to the stress, I will need a part time job as the firm is only offering us 6k for 11 months. I’m wondering why I’m putting myself through this, and I am really gutted that I missed out on the lpc by one year.


SQE student

I sat SQE1 in January, and I have TC sponsorship. It was doable but definitely required hard work to pass. Easier than undergrad because there’s less analysis – I studied at Oxford but I’m sure it would be the same for any graduate of a RG uni. If you take a good prep course (BARBRI is great) and put in the hard work you’ll have a good chance of passing



I am a Senior Paralegal and SQE student. I have plenty of work experience. Unlike many on here, I fell in the 49% of people that did not pass SQE 1 sitting in January. I prepped with Barbri 40-week course and was rather confident I would pass because I was scoring well above the pass mark in the mocks (75% on avarage, whilst Barbri said 60% would be a comfortable pass). I absolutely worked my ass off and it was the most exhausting experience in my life. In the actual exam I scored well below that. Because SRA do not release past papers and refuse to actually show your own exam to you, you have absolutely no clue on what you did wrong. I found a large group of people from Barbri that had the same exact experience and did not pass and a few that were scoring the same as me in mocks but actually passed with flying colours.
I have to say – SQE feels like a bit of a coin flip. I will attempt to retake again, however I would probably not try again if I failed again because of the money I have invested and the dropping pass rates + how little course providers go off of. Even now that I am retaking, my course is exactly the same, with no modifications because of the extremely limited info SRA gives to us and course providers. All I can really do is fill in the gaps that I think I had because there is 0 feedback.

So ultimately would advise to go for LPC if even to combine LPC with SQE 2 where pass rates are far higher than SQE 1. Pretty much guaranteed to pass LPC as long as you put in a solid amount of work, whilst SQE seems to only take your money, with no feedback in case you do not succeed and a 50/50 chance you’ll fail.



If you don’t understand where you went wrong the first time you are not going to pass the second time. Think hard.



I passed SQE 1 and SQE 2 both first time with over 70% in all elements. I worked a demanding full time job and studied with Barbri for both exams. I got my LLB over 10 years ago and have worked in law ever since. It was hard and the exams are not to be under estimated. As well as the sheer amount of law to memorize the exams themselves feel more like a hazing ritual than anything else. That being said, they are 100% manageable if you are willing to put in the work. You don’t need to know everything (it’s impossible) – just enough to pass. Remember they are testing your competency as a “day one” solicitor only. The prep courses with Barbri are expensive but in my opinion they are worth every penny.



The SRA will regret this.


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