SQE students told to wait in ‘quiet area’ for 2.5 hours before exam

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By Legal Cheek on


Aspiring lawyers may welcome extra revision time, says SRA

Some students scheduled to sit the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) next month will have to wait for two-and-a-half hours in a “quiet” room on consecutive days before starting their assessments.

The move follows Kaplan’s decision to create an afternoon sitting at certain test centres to accommodate more candidates looking to complete the oral assessments that form part of SQE2.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s website states candidates sitting their exams in the afternoon will be expected to report to the test centre at 12:40pm and will be required to remain in a “quiet comfortable area for approximately 2.5 hours” before they begin.

It’s worth noting that SQE2 oral assessments are conducted over two consecutive days, meaning candidates will be waiting around for a total of five hours.

This measure is presumably to prevent communication between students who took the exam in the morning and those taking it in the afternoon, and therefore, in the SRA’s words, ensuring the “security of the questions can be maintained”.

However, not everyone appears to be convinced. One student, who contacted Legal Cheek, suggested the additional wait time could potentially impact candidates’ exam performance.

During this time, students are allowed to speak to each other and read printed revision materials, but they cannot access their personal belongings, including mobile phones and other electronic devices. Snacks and drinks are provided but students are not permitted to leave the room to purchase their own.

The SQE Hub: Your ultimate resource for all things SQE

While the SRA acknowledges that candidates, who are “randomly” assigned their exam slots at the point of booking, may find this arrangement “inconvenient”, it stresses that this approach is necessary to provide opportunities for more candidates to take SQE2.

“Some candidates may welcome the extra quiet time for revision”, the regulator adds.

The oral assessments themselves run for only two hours each day, but when factoring in additional briefings, time with assessors, and the hefty pre-exam wait, candidates sitting the exam in the afternoon will spend close to seven hours at the test centre each day, finishing at around 7:30pm. By comparison, morning candidates spend up to four-and-a-half hours at the centre each day.

These SQE2 oral assessments are run by Kaplan directly, and are not held at Pearson VUE centres.

A Kaplan spokesperson told Legal Cheek:

“This timetabling policy allows us to offer more candidates their first choice of date and location for sitting the SQE2 while protecting the security and integrity of the assessment. Information about this policy is on the website and candidates are made aware of it when they register for the exam and are required to confirm that they understand it. Candidates with the later start time have access to their study materials, and snacks and drinks are provided. Additionally, we make adjustments for candidates who need a specific early or late start to support a disability or condition.”

Let week it emerged that 175 students were mistakenly informed that they had failed SQE1. Both Kaplan and the SRA apologised for the extraordinary blunder, attributing it to a rounding error in the calculation of the final scores.



We’ve also had this situation for previous sittings. In the January exam, certain groups were told to wait in the quiet room for nearly 2 hours between exams, during which time they did not have access to their belongings (so were unable to use the time to revise).


But what if I need a wee wee?

Dear oh Dear

The total exam length for each day is 2 hours, so with this new estimate of time (7.5 hours), even discounting the 2.5 hour wait time per day, there is still another 3 hours (!) of wait time factored in. Sitters are therefore expected to spend 5.5 hours per day, or 11 hours in total over the 2 days, just… waiting around?

Presumably, being trapped in a white room without coffee etc. for 2.5 hours before the exams, and a further 3 hours in and around the exams, will affect performance? Both in general, and in relation to the morning sitting which is an in-and-out experience

Archibald is cringe

“Sitters are therefore expected to spend 5.5 hours per day, or 11 hours in total over the 2 days, just… waiting around?

Presumably, being trapped in a white room without coffee etc. for 2.5 hours before the exams, and a further 3 hours in and around the exams, will affect performance? Both in general, and in relation to the morning sitting which is an in-and-out experience”

Presumably, being “trapped” in a court room or court waiting area for hours at a time will affect your performance. If so, you’re gunning for the wrong job. The role of solicitor bears great responsibility, and therefore the reliability of examinations must be protected from cheats at all costs. A few extra hours, with the opportunity of quiet revision, snacks and drinks, is hardly onerous, and neither is a 7.30pm finish, at least not for a budding lawyer, you snowflake.

Tut tut

This is the kind of comment that could only be written by someone who A) doesn’t understand how either legal work or exams operate; or who B) hasn’t paused to think about what they’re saying.

At court, the reality is (unless working on small cases as a SA) that a solicitor does very little. There is also no undue pressure, and no undue need to perform particularly well. Comparing legal work, in general, to practitioners exams is a silly exercise – it’s not about whether the exams themselves are harder than real legal work, it’s about the pressure and conditions of the exams themselves. I would have thought that would be obvious.

There is no comparison between waiting around at court, and being stuck in a room in silence for 5.5 hours before an exam in which you are expected to excel, and which will determine your future legal career. Especially where, if I understand correctly, most other students will not have had to wait.

As for the 7:30 finish, you’ve missed OPs point so transparently that I don’t even feel the need to explain.

Source: US litigation associate


Blah blah blah, I am (pretend to be?) a U.S. litigation associate while using words like undue and transparent

Concerned Citizen

Wouldn’t it have been manifestly more sensible for Kaplan to have the morning sitters wait for 2.5h after their exams, rather than trapping the afternoon sitters in a ‘comfortable room’ for 2.5 hours before they begin what is sure to be an already delay-ridden experience?

Just a thought

I am absolutely dreading it. I’ve been assigned the afternoon sitting and I know I don’t like the feeling of being “trapped” somewhere. It’s just adding to the stress of it all knowing I’ll be sitting around for hours on end. Also have 2 infant children who I was looking forward to getting back to after the exams but alas, I’ll be sitting in a comfortable room instead….

Archibald is cringe

“and I know I don’t like the feeling of being “trapped” somewhere”

For pity’s sake, you’re going to spend HOURS AND HOURS waiting around in court!!! And while I sympathise with your childcare responsibilities, you’re going to spend HOURS AND HOURS waiting around in court!!! Do you get the point?

Archibald is cringe is cringe

This exam is not analogous to practice at all. Yes, lawyers spend hours waiting around at court but they’re also not given 45 minutes to go through substantial papers and / or 15 minutes to present their case on the first day of qualification!

Furthermore, they’ll have access to papers, court notes and client instructions so this isn’t representative of practice at all.

Legally curious

I think if they had completed their exam then the hold over the student is gone so not sure how they can keep them from leaving. But those that still have not sat their exam will not leave because they will be excluded from sitting the test?


That’s still the case here – students are expected to wait for hours between the exams. They just now ALSO have to wait for 2.5 hours before they begin…


Basically Kaplan wants to earn as much as possible by maximizing the candidate numbers. Unfortunately there are physical limitation in the venues. The extended unnecessary waiting time was simply because they did not want candidates from different batches met in the corridor. I ( and my fellow candidates) was forced to wait for almost an hour AFTER we completed the entire SQE2 before we could leave the building.

Dazed and Confused

Honestly, waiting for an hour after the exam isn’t as bad as waiting before the exam. It can’t impact your performance in any way. If they do want to introduce waiting times, why not on the people who have already done the test?


Holy mother of god I am glad I never had to do any of this. Hang in there SQE students!

Legally curious

Yes there will be the pot of gold at the end end of the rainbow.

Same excuses

Feels like all candidates are being forced to suffer so that the business can make more money. If they really wanted to increase the ability for students to sit, they would be doubling events and staffing, rather than cramming the students into the rafters. Unfortunately it proves that money incentives are the goal of SQE, not getting the hard working debt laden applicant’s through.

Disgruntled Jan SQE2-sitter

In January, for SQE2 I had to report at 12pm but only started my exams at 4pm. They let us access our notes though.

But we couldn’t leave or access tech until they let us out each day, around 7


The amount of whining about the SQE is quite incredible. To think your grandparents and great grandparents were fighting wars for your freedom, putting up with hardship you could not even imagine, while you lot need your comfort blanket and a hug for the most minor inconvenience.

Constructive Commenter

Thanks Alan for that valuable and piercing ad hominem attack on SQE sitters, and your brave defence of Kaplan and the SRA. Much appreciated! I’m sure your grandfather would be proud.


I simply do not understand you Alan. There is NO reasonable comparison between taking the SQE and fight Nazi Germany, none.

Hierarchy of Needs

Tell me Alan, have you ever heard of Maslow? I’m sure he’d be against an exam that costs £2,800 and yet, due to administrative incompetence, forces its sitters to be locked in a room for a combined total of 11 hours before they actually sit it.

To think your grandparents and great grandparents were fighting wars for your freedom, putting up with hardship you could not even imagine, while you feel the apparent need to spend your time complaining on legal messaging boards about problems that do not concern you.


Quite right! In my day, we had to walk ten miles to and from our exams, in the rain, with no shoes, uphill both ways, and we never complained!

Archibald is cringe

Indeed. It is shocking. I hope the day never comes when I need to rely on one of these snowflakes to represent ME.


I quite agree.

What the woke hit squad above don’t realise is just how good they have it. Being sat in a room without their precious mobile phone for an hour to them is like torture, and they have to run off to their mothers for a hug and to suck their thumbs after. What they overlook is that previous generations would live, daily, for years on end with the threat of death above them, death that could occur at any moment, and never complained. I retain the right to bemoan the downfall of this country with that fact in mind.

alan's mum

alan! alan! are you at it again. Leave those woke people alone. Come in and have your tea before you get your bath.

Alan pay for my train

Alan that’s mean


I am spending three days in Edinburgh next week and then 2 days in Cardiff the week after to sit my exams despite living in London because Kaplan didn’t reserve my seat properly! An extra 2.5 hours is nothing for me …


It’s a little inconvenient but it’s hardly crossing no man’s land in the Somme is it?

Alan pay for my train

Pay for my train then go on

alan's mum

alan, you’ve got some of your pocket money left. Pay for Pay for my train’s train please there’s a good boy.


Try to see the positive out of it, you can visit two different cities. A good lawyer is a person who comes with solutions and makes the best of out any situation. I don’t live in England (nor in Europe) and took an intercontinental flight to London. Set myself in a nice hotel, went out every night to a new restaurant. Explored London. After the final assessment day, before flying home to take the computer based part, I had a michelin starred lunch, a full day of shopping in London and then flew back. Your preparation is already done, you are not adding anything during the exam days, just enjoy the days. Stress is the enemy here!
Needless to say, I passed it…

What choice?

‘They are required to confirm they have read the policy and agree to it’.

It’s not really a choice is it, when this is the only way to qualify and Kaplan are the gatekeepers?

If they said we have 2 levels of service, a value budget one where you must wait 4 extra hours but it’s cheaper costing you half the full fee – do you want that, or do you want the standard full cost with minimal waiting? That would be a choice.

Here, it’s if you want to qualify, you need to accept their terms. Where’s the choice?


MOD conscription

Good work Alan. Happy to see you on the frontline if anything kicks off in the near future.

Welcome to the real world

Brace yourself for the real world of practice – there’s lots of waiting around and usually no free snacks provided and no guarantee of how long the wait will be….


I was in the 12.40pm sitting for the January SQE2 sitting just gone and our exams did not start until 4.30pm! So we sat in a room for around 4 hours by that stage. The “food and drink” offered is merely tea coffee fruit and biscuits. This is not going to help anyone perform well on the day. It certainly wasn’t 2.5 hours we were locked in a room for with no access to fresh air it was more like 4 hours!

Here's to 2 Hours of Peace and Quiet

Whilst this seems like bad news, I’m determined to look on the bright side. You are the first person to mention that there will be coffee!!!

SQE2 Jan Sitter

Ditto! 4 hours of waiting at least and the same with refreshments. The bright fluorescent lighting was horrible too so not conducive to preparing for such difficult exam conditions. I had also had to travel 9 hours to get to my ‘closest’ oral exam venue so the very late finish meant another overnight so even more expense.

SQE student

I really wanted to practice law. It’s been a dream but the SQE’s have put me off. Going into teaching instead. It’s a shame the SQE was supposed to break some barriers for average state school individuals to get into the profession, instead it’s turning them away.

Archibald is cringe

If you’re not likely to be cut out for law, then you’ve probably made the right decision. Whatever the faults in the administration of the exams (I’m assuming it’s not the difficulty that’s put you off), they’re nonetheless a hurdle people have to clear And in terms of adversity, many client scenarios will offer more sustained stress and strain, often with several challenging cases in parallel. But be warned, teaching is challenging too, but may be more fulfilling for you.

Archibald is cringe is cringe

Don’t listen to them. Most of the positive comments about the SQE are from people who have never sat the exam. I have not heard a positive thing about the content, the process or the organisation of this exam from one person that’s sat this exam. It’s a farce.

I sat and passed SQE 1 and due to take SQE 2 later in the year. I work full-time as a trainee solicitor with an extremely demanding case load. Sitting these exams is by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. It takes a huge amount of personal fortitude and self-belief but it is possible.

Don’t let this exam put you off.

Annoyed SQE2 taker

I’m taking the oral SQE2 7th and 8th May. My start time was changed to 12:30 but I didn’t know why until now.
I’m sure the extra 2.5 hours of study time is appreciated by some but given it’s 2024, my notes are all electronic. So for me that time would have been wasted, sat in a room with nothing but my own thoughts for hours before taking an already stressful exam. It’d be understandable if it was necessary, rather than just so Kaplan can cram more of us in.
The whole process has been an absolute joke.

Here's to 2 Hours of Peace and Quiet

I’m sitting SQE2 at 12.30 next week and I’m not looking forward to sitting around for 2.5hours beforehand, mainly because the last thing I want to do just before the exams is revise.

The problem I’ve got is that so many of the comments sections relating to SQE1 and 2 are so negative. My advice to anyone sitting any of these exams in the near future is to keep away from forums that are only heightening anxiety and focus on your own studies. You’re more likely to pass if you go in with a positive mindset (supported by a tonne of studying) than being poisoned by doubts and negativities expressed online by others who generally aren’t going through the same thing you are and don’t know how you are feeling. It’ll be a thing of the past when you pass and you won’t give a crap about any of this after that. Everyone is nervous when taking their driving test, but within a year of passing they forget all of that and get angry and frustrated with Learner Drivers, just like everyone else.

Good luck to anyone sitting the exams over the next three weeks.

Get a Grip

Consistently amused by the regular commenters on these SQE posts whose only purpose seems to be to attack those complaining about the SQE, apparently in the belief that a legal career is some sort of immensely pressured high-stakes Mensa mission.

Less of the self-importance please.


Just come up with different questions for another day. Exam fees are high enough to warrant it.

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