Created with BPP University

‘I’m studying the SQE as a non-law student working part-time – this is how it’s going’

Avatar photo

By Erin Williams on

Madelaine Moss, future trainee solicitor at Addleshaw Goddard and current BPP SQE student, discusses her SQE journey

During our conversation, I ask Madelaine Moss, a future trainee solicitor at Addleshaw Goddard, about how she’s found the SQE so far. “Completing the SQE full-time since September has been a lot. From Monday to Friday, 8am to 10pm, I was studying, Saturdays would always be spent working my part-time job, and on Sundays, if I was lucky, I would have a few hours off”.

So, it’s clear the SQE requires a lot of hard work. I was interested to learn how challenging Moss found studying for SQE1 while juggling a part-time job. “I completed the SQE1 exams in January and had to sacrifice time with family and friends during the twelve weeks leading up to the exams. I felt like I was a robot”. Moss goes on to stress that working full-time alongside the SQE would be too much, arguing that she would not have successfully prepared for her SQE1 exams had she attempted to work full-time. With that said, part-time work is manageable and something many of her cohort does, if the position does not require long or regular hours.

Madelaine Moss

But there does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel, with Moss arguing that preparing for SQE2 has been a lot ‘more manageable’ due to the self-study approach used during the SQE2 preparation course at BPP. Moss explains that the practicality of SQE2 does not require processing large volumes of information, making the format less overwhelming – with Moss finding that working part-time has been a lot easier. “I go to the gym now and enjoy going swimming, and have the time to see family and friends, things I couldn’t do while completing SQE1. I feel like I’m back to a level of normality again now”.


Given Moss’s background as a history graduate from the University of Manchester, I was interested to understand how important she believes completing the PGDL is to SQE exam preparation success. “If I hadn’t done the PGDL, I would not have been able to get a basic understanding of the law and be ready to sit the January exams”, Moss notes. This is not surprising: with the SQE’s vast volume of content requiring time-consuming preparation, Moss stresses that the structure the PGDL provided made SQE prep more manageable. “I’m not saying it’s impossible to pass the SQE without completing the PGDL”, she cautions, “but I do think that having a basic level of knowledge already makes it a lot easier”.

Find out more about studying for the SQE at BPP University Law School

Moss went on to discuss what she found most challenging when preparing for her SQE1 exams. “I personally found the volume of information I had to learn the most difficult part; alongside the complete breadth of knowledge the assessments require. On each exam you have five different modules that could come up, and those modules are huge, so it’s been really challenging trying to understand and memorise the law”. Madelaine explains that SQE1 contains 180 MCQs on a wide variety of content — so, a detailed understanding of all the aspects of the law is needed, although that often feels unachievable.

Prior to commencing her SQE studies, Moss worked as a paralegal at two different firms, which she believes is currently aiding her preparation for SQE2, which she will be completing later this year. “Legal writing and legal drafting are the two things I did a lot when I was paralegalling and so I already knew the way they were meant to be written”, she tells me.

Moss goes on to note that having a basic practical understanding is something she would recommend all SQE candidates attempt to gain in some way, due to the knowledge and confidence it has provided her. With that said, she points out that this by no means meant she’s finding preparing for SQE2 easy; just that her prior experience has given her a useful practical foundation.

While it’s clear that SQE2 seems to provide some light at the end of the tunnel, I wanted to know what obstacles Madelaine had faced while preparing for these assessments. “The oral skills necessary are what I find the most challenging. I didn’t do law at university, so I don’t have the practical experience of mooting or doing practice court cases, so I’m finding preparing for the oral exams really difficult”, she tells me.

But this should not deter aspiring solicitors from completing the assessments, with Madelaine pointing out that the exams are supposed to challenge candidates. “If they weren’t hard, everyone would be doing it”, she notes. Madelaine also shares that her cohort and the teaching she has received at BPP has been “really good” and has helped her preparation for these assessments.

As a future trainee solicitor at Addleshaw Goddard, and a previous vac scheme participant at firms including Hill Dickinson and Walker Morris, I asked Madelaine what advice she has for aspiring solicitors hoping to secure vacation schemes or training contracts. “When you’re writing your applications, you’ve got to bring the question back to you and why you want to work at the firm. While it’s easy to say why a law firm is great, I think candidates should bring in an interest or practical experience they have that makes the great thing at the firm pertinent to them. Making an application personal helps show a genuine interest in the firm and that you have engaged with what they stand for and their specialisms”, she advises.

Find out more about studying for the SQE at BPP University Law School

About Legal Cheek Careers posts.

Related Stories

careers SQE Hub

How to make the SQE work for you

We talk solicitor assessments with Caroline Rayson, BPP’s SQE1 Award Leader

Feb 13 2024 8:46am
careers SQE Hub

‘I studied for the SQE while training at AstraZeneca – here’s what it was like’

AstraZeneca graduate solicitor apprentice talks SQE1&2, balancing work and study and revision tips

Nov 14 2023 9:41am
careers SQE Hub

Two years on: 5 reflections on the SQE

BPP joins the SRA to discuss the challenges and opportunities under the new regime

Jul 18 2023 2:54pm