The Legal Cheek View

US-based legal education provider BARBRI, previously best known in the UK for its New York and California bar exam prep courses and Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) prep courses, launched its Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) Prep course in January 2021 and has quickly grown to become a leading online player in the market.

What sets it apart

BARBRI’s SQE offering differentiates from that of traditional market players on both price and delivery. SQE1 and SQE2 Prep courses are offered at £2,999 respectively, with SQE2 Prep costing £3,499 for non-BARBRI alumni.

Using its existing investment in technology and more than 50-years’ experience in training candidates to master multiple-choice exam questions, BARBRI’s courses are delivered mostly online, with some workshops taking place on-campus at the universities with which it has partnered.

Doing an SQE course and being told to not make any notes may seem rather counterintuitive, but this is BARBRI’s advice to students.

Its SQE Prep courses come equipped with ISAAC, an Intuitive Study Assistant and Coach. This handy tool generates a ‘Personal Study Plan’, or PSP, which updates based on time left until the exam and allows each student to customize their schedule. You can block out days off if you’ve got a holiday planned, and take weekends off if you’d like. The PSP then generates your daily schedule, outlining the number of hours of work you have to do each day, as well as the assignments to be covered. On the 20-week SQE1 Prep course, daily study hours can range between 2 and 4 hours, depending on how many days off you take per week.

Assignments on the course vary between reading material from BARBRI workbooks (which are available as hard copies or in digital format), 30-min lectures and practice questions. The lectures are interactive, with short exercises incorporated at checkpoints throughout, to ensure you’re absorbing the content and not tempted to reach for your phone. They also go in the order of the content in the study guides, so if you’re more of a visual learner, you can follow the lectures on there as well. BARBRI points out that the key thing to keep in mind about the practice questions is that they’re part of the learning process, rather than a test. So, it’s important to not get bogged down by bad scores, and not too elated at the good ones – always read the explanations for the answers, whether you’ve got them right or wrong.

The standout point of the “BARBRI method” is a study technique called ‘interleaved practice’. What this means is that rather than covering each topic in its entirety (lectures, study guide reading, practice questions) before proceeding to the next, the PSP interleaves the different topics so that students are exposed to the content in frequent intervals to aid memory retention. So, you’ll watch the lectures on a certain topic, do some practice questions on it and then revisit it a few days later when the Plan tells you to read the study guide chapters relating to it. BARBRI recommends that you follow this structure laid out for you by the PSP — so don’t give in to the temptation to whiz through a topic you like by completing all its components at once!

Another part of the course is your Learning Coach, who you can contact with both substantive legal questions as well as study technique queries. It’s quite flexible, so you can be in touch with them as much or as little as you’d like. BARBRI also hosts 2-hour online workshops at various points throughout the course, covering study techniques, test guidance and wellbeing. Since these are recorded, you can choose to attend them live if you want to ask questions, or watch them once they are uploaded and appear in your PSP.

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Deals, teams & tie-ups

BARBRI has cut deals with several leading institutions, including City law firms, in-house teams and Russell Group universities, to prepare future solicitors to pass the SQE.

Notably, BARBRI will train up Reed Smith and Baker McKenzie rookies to sit the centralised assessments as part of exclusive SQE training deals. It has tied up with Metro Bank to support future in-house lawyers through the SQE, and will also offer students at King’s College London and the universities of Manchester and Sussex SQE workshops and fee discounts. Further, BARBRI’s partnership with the O Shaped Lawyer integrates necessary commercial, human and business skills into its training.

There are further limbs to BARBRI’s SQE offering. The new entrant SQE provider has teamed up with organisations like Flex Legal and the National Association of Licensed Paralegals to support paralegals to sit the exams. BARBRI offers them SQE scholarships and fee discounts.

Back in 2020, BARBRI also announced its partnership with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb), a professional membership body for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practitioners. The duo have developed ADR training as part of BARBI’s SQE course, while CIArb members and BARBRI alumni are offered fee discounts.

Courses on offer

BARBRI’s SQE1 Prep courses are offered in three different forms. The first is a 40-week flexible part-time course, suitable for non-law graduates or law graduates currently in full-time employment. The second is a 20-week course, best for law graduates who have been out of law school for three or more years and currently not working. The third, aimed at recent law graduates looking for an efficient course, runs full-time for 10 weeks.

Similarly, BARBRI SQE2 Prep course is offered in three guises, starting at different points throughout the years. Students can select from a 10-week full-time course, or part-time courses running for either 12 or 20 weeks.

BARBRI has four scholarships (details below) available to all new students starting on a BARBRI SQE1 Prep course of study. This includes its Humanitarian SQE Scholarship, launched through the BARBRI Bridges initiative, in an effort to help those seeking refuge outside their home country or those displaced by war.

What’s more, BARBRI has teamed up with Linklaters and Breaking Barriers to offer up to five fully funded SQE1 prep courses per year to lawyers with a refugee background living in the UK.


Foundation courses

Please note that you can only enrol onto SQE Foundations as a package alongside either the SQE 1 Prep Flexible (40 weeks) and Focused (20 weeks) courses.

BARBRI SQE Foundations is short course that can help increase your confidence before undertaking your SQE 1 Prep studies. If you are a graduate from a non-law discipline, or have a legal background from a civil law jurisdiction, or have been out of academic study for multiple years, this will provide you with the fundamentals needed to feel confident before starting your SQE 1 Prep course.

SQE1 Prep Course Focused Foundations package

This course helps to increase confidence before SQE1 Prep studies, and is designed to help graduates access learning delivered through BARBRI SQE Prep courses quicker & more successfully. This prep course is packaged with SQE1 Prep 20-week course, starting 29th August 2023.

• Part-time: 4 weeks (then 20 weeks to undertake the Focused SQE1 Prep course)
• Cost:
£3,399 online

SQE1 Prep Course Flexible Foundations package

This course helps to increase confidence before SQE1 Prep studies, and is designed to help graduates access learning delivered through BARBRI SQE Prep courses quicker & more successfully. This prep course is packaged with SQE1 Prep 40-week course, starting 2nd October 2023.

• Part-time: 4 weeks (then 40 weeks to undertake the Flexible SQE1 Prep course)
• Cost:
£3,399 online

SQE courses

SQE1 Flexible Course

Best for non-law graduates or law graduates from a UK or non-UK university and who are currently in full-time employment.

• Part-time: 40 weeks
• Cost:
£2,999 online

SQE1 Focused Course

Best for law graduates from a UK university who have been out of law school for 3+ years and currently not working.

• Part-time: 20 weeks
• Cost:
£2,999 online

SQE1 Accelerated Course

Best for recent law graduates from a UK university looking for the quickest, most efficient course to pass the SQE.

• Full-time: 10 weeks
• Cost:
£2,999 online

SQE2 Prep

• Full-time: 10 weeks (Best for candidates able to study full-time, this course is not suitable for non-BARBRI SQE1 Prep alumni)
• Part-time: 20 weeks (Best for candidates looking for the most flexible option, who have sat and passed SQE1/QLTS MCT or LPC graduates who are exempt from SQE1)
• Cost:
£3,499 (SQE1 Prep Alumni £2,999) online


BARBRI’s courses are only available online.


Public Sector SQE Scholarship

This scholarship is applicable for current/future employees in the public sector with an annual salary less than £45,000.

Value: £600 discount towards your course fees

Deadline: TBC

Essay Competition SQE Scholarship

This scholarship provides financial support to 10 students studying either the focused 20-week SQE1 Prep course, starting 29 August 2023, or the Accelerated 10-week SQE1 Prep course, starting 6 November 2023.

•  1 x full SQE1 fee scholarship
•  1 x half-fee SQE1 scholarship
•  8 x £1,000 towards fees scholarship on SQE1 fees

Deadline: TBC

1st Class Honours SQE Scholarship

This scholarship is for all graduates who received a first-class honours in their undergraduate degree (or international equivalent to a UK first class degree), and will be studying the Accelerated 10-week course, starting in May 2023.

Value: 30% off of the Accelerated SQE1 Prep Course

Deadline: TBC

BARBRI Humanitarian SQE Scholarship

This scholarship is for prospective SQE students, or lawyers qualified in a different jurisdiction the opportunity to study to become a qualified solicitor in England & Wales who can prove asylum/refugee status or displacement due to war.

Value: 50% discount for SQE1 Prep Course

Deadline: TBC

In BARBRI's own words