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Got a question about the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE)? You’ll find the answers below.

These FAQs have been curated from a number of questions which have been raised at our SQE themed events with BPP University Law School. For more information, please visit the SRA’s SQE web pages.

Syllabus and assessments

What is the SQE?

SQE stands for ‘Solicitors Qualifying Examination’. It consists of two assessments:
• SQE 1, which is assessed by 360 multiple-choice single best answer questions; and
• SQE 2, which is assessed by way of 16 skills tasks – 4 oral skills and 12 written skills.

What does the SQE syllabus cover?

The syllabus which is examined across SQE 1 and SQE 2 includes:
• Areas of law which form the core of any LLB, GDL, PGDL or Law Conversions Course, such as Tort, Contract, Administrative and Constitutional Law, Trusts, Criminal Law, Land Law, EU Law, the Legal System of England & Wales; and
• Areas of law and practice which still make up the core modules of the LPC: Business Law & Practice, Property Law & Practice, Dispute Resolution, Criminal law and Practice, Wills & Administration of Estates and Solicitors Accounts.
The SRA refers to the syllabus as ‘Functioning Legal Knowledge’, which is often abbreviated to ‘FLK’.

How are the 360 MCQs for SQE 1 divided up?

They are assessed across two papers. For Paper 1 (known as ‘FLK1’), you sit 90 questions in the morning (for 2 hours 33 minutes) and another 90 questions in the afternoon (for 2 hours 33 minutes) on one day and you do the same around a week later for Paper 2 (known as ‘FLK2’). That means you have an average of 1 minute 42 seconds to answer each question.

The SRA has published which topics are covered in each paper, but within each paper itself the questions are randomised. So, for Paper 1, you could answer a question on Business, then Tort, then one on Contract, then Dispute Resolution and so on.

The SQE1 pass rate at BPP may be relatively high, but it's still a toss of a coin if you pass [the current pass mark is just over 50%]. Is the pass mark very high or number of people passing is low?

The pass rate for SQE1 has consistently ranged between 51% and 54%, which means that just over half the people sitting each time are passing. So far, the pass mark for each SQE1 paper has varied between 51% and 57%.

Does the SQE require a 'pass', or is it graded (Distinction/Commendation and Pass)?

The SRA will mark you on the following details in relation to each SQE assessment you sit: your attempt number, the pass mark, your mark and your “quintile” – i.e. if your mark was in the top 20%, the second 20% and so on. We anticipate that candidates’ quintiles will be a metric which law firms will note as part of the recruitment process as candidates in the same sit can be benchmarked against each other. This isn’t the same for the LPC, because providers set their own assessments.

Is SQE 1 more challenging than the LPC in terms of the content and the exam?

The LPC and SQE 1 differ in a number of ways, with a key difference being the fact that the SQE is examined to the level expected of a newly-qualified solicitor, whereas the ‘bar’ is lower for an LPC exam, being that of a ‘Day 1 trainee solicitor’.

One of the key differences is the syllabus for each of the assessments. Whilst they have a fair degree of overlap, there are significant differences. The entire SQE syllabus is compulsory, whereas LPC students study three specialist electives and can choose which ones to study from their provider’s list. For example, at BPP, we currently offer a choice of nine electives which are divided into three streams: corporate, commercial and general practice. In contrast, unlike the LPC, SQE 1 revisits core ‘black letter law’ subjects from candidates’ law degrees and law conversion courses (PGDL/GDL), such as tort, contract, land, criminal, equity and administrative law and there are no elective subjects.

The exams also differ in terms of the way students are assessed. At the moment for the LPC, each provider can decide how they want to assess students. At BPP, we include a range of assessments including open book exams (NB some LPC providers have a ‘closed book’ LPC policy), multiple choice questions, oral assessments and coursework. The SQE 1 exam is ‘closed book’ and is assessed entirely through multiple choice questions (MCQs), where students are required to give the ‘single best answer’ from five plausible options.

Is it harder to pass SQE 2, if you did the LPC?

Not necessarily, but LPC graduates who attempt SQE 2 without a undertaking an SQE 2 preparation course will find the SQE 2 assessments challenging for three reasons: 1) although most of the SQE 2 skills are similar to the ones covered in the LPC, only 50% of the SQE 2 marks are for the relevant skill: the other 50% is for knowledge covered in the SQE 1 syllabus; 2) the knowledge areas cover not only core modules on the LPC, candidates will be expected to apply key ‘black letter law’ subjects covered in a law degree/PGDL, such as tort contract, land, trusts etc; 3) the SQE ‘pass standard’ is that of a ‘Day 1’ qualified solicitor, whereas the LPC ‘pass standard’ is that of a ‘Day 1 trainee’.

What does SQE 2 test?

The SQE 2 assessment is about testing legal skills in the context of the syllabus assessed in SQE 1. The skills include oral skills, which are examined through Client Interviewing and Advocacy and written skills which are examined through Case & Matter Analysis, Legal Research, Legal Writing and Legal Drafting. There are four assessments in the oral skills over two days and twelve assessments in the written skills over three days. The general context you are tested in will be pre-determined and won’t change.The context for the written skills cover Business Organisations, Property, Dispute Resolution, and Wills & Administration of Estates.

As elective modules commonly studied on the LPC, such as Corporate Finance, Private Acquisitions and Debt Finance (amongst others) are not on the SQE programme, how should prospective trainees get their training in these areas if they aspire to join a corporate or city law firm?

In terms of skills and knowledge, the SQE is a minimum ‘floor’ not a maximum ‘ceiling.’ This essentially means that although passing the SQE ensures you meet the minimum standard required to practice, you may want to consider an SQE preparation course which allows you to add on electives and additional skills teaching to ensure you are best prepared for day one of your Qualifying Work Experience (‘QWE’). One such example is BPP’s LLM SQE1&2 which incorporates ‘Essentials for Practice.’ This includes enhanced skills training a choice of one of three specialist knowledge streams: Corporate, Commercial or Individual Client/General Practice.

If you have done the LPC but have not secured a training contract, would you need to do the SQE as well?

LPC graduates can still qualify without needing to pass any of the SQE PROVIDED that they secure and complete a traditional training contract. If you have passed the LPC and don’t secure a traditional training contract, there is another way to qualify: you would need to pass SQE 2 and complete two years’ QWE.

Do I have to do a preparation course to sit the SQE?

Although it is possible to sit the SQE without taking a suitable preparation course, it is not advisable. These are very high stakes exams with the SQE exam fees alone costing £4,564, with no discount for re-sitters. Only 51% of candidates passed SQE1 in January 2023, so you need as much preparation as you can get to maximise your chance of passing first time.

There are a variety of courses on offer which prepare you for the SQE. Some will be purely SQE preparation courses and others will allow you to add electives and additional skills teaching, similar to those included in the LPC syllabus. Many firms prefer candidates to have much more of a grounding in these additional areas than the relatively narrow SQE syllabus.

Since the SQE is relatively new, and there are only a very limited number of sample questions from the SRA, how can we and BPP ensure optimal prep for the exams?

At BPP, we spent over five years designing our SQE programmes before they were launched to align with the SRA’s centralised assessments. As at September 2023, apart from BPP, no provider has published their pass rates for SQE1 in January 2023: BPP’s was over 73%, 22% above the national pass rate. Our SQE2 pass rate from April 2023 was 97%, 20% above the national pass rate. This indicates that the pedagogy we have adopted in designing our SQE preparation courses is working well and does, we believe, offer the best preparation for students who will be sitting the SQE.

Do non-law graduates need to take a conversion course, such as the GDL, PGDL or Law Foundations Course, before starting an SQE Preparation Course?

Whilst the SRA only requires SQE sitters to have a degree (law or non-law), virtually no students without a full academic grounding in English law’s foundation subjects should entertain taking on such a high stakes exam like the SQE without a GDL, PGDL, CPE or equivalent (such as BPP’s Law Conversion Course). It would be like turning up to an advanced driving course without having passed your driving test.

It is for this reason that some providers, like BPP, require non-law graduates to have passed a law foundations course as part of their entry criteria for the SQE 1 Preparation Course. At BPP, we offer an SQE training package for non-law graduates which includes our law conversion course (PGDL) and the SQE 1 Preparation Course. The package initially builds your core foundational legal knowledge, before developing the knowledge of the specific legal practice areas that will be assessed in the first part of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE 1). It will also start to develop the portfolio of skills that are assessed in SQE 2, giving you a head start and the confidence to impress prospective employers. As this package results in a Master’s level qualification (LLM Law Conversion Course with SQE1), eligible students are able to access postgraduate funding of £12,167 in the 2023-24 academic year.

You need to remember that non-law graduates are lining up for the SQE alongside LLB graduates who have been studying law for 3 years. The whole point of a conversion course is to get the non-law students up to the standard of law graduates in the core foundational law modules. Teaching providers have been hugely successful over the years in ‘equalising’ the non-law graduates in this respect to the extent that it has become impossible in an LPC class for a tutor to work out who the law graduates are and who studied a non-law subject. That simply wouldn’t be the case without the solid grounding of a GDL/PGDL/Law Conversion Course.

The expectation of most leading firms is that non-law graduates should continue to get that solid grounding in a law conversion course like the ones listed in the question.

Are the SQE courses offered as a part of a one-year Master’s degree in BPP?

Yes, at BPP we offer an SQE Master’s degree called ‘LLM SQE1&2’ which includes 1) SQE 1 Preparation 2) SQE 2 Training and 3) Essentials for Practice. For non-law graduates we offer a Master’s course which combines 1) our law conversion course with 2) SQE 1 Preparation. Both of these Master’s are eligible for Student Loans Company Finance (£12,167 for the 2023-24 academic year).

When would we be expected to sit the SQE 1 if we study a part-time Master's law conversion?

It really depends on which course you have taken and at which education provider. Some law conversion Master’s courses don’t include any SQE preparation, but at BPP, we include our SQE 1 Preparation as the last part of our law conversion Master’s. As candidates can only currently sit SQE1 in January or July, a full time September starter on either our LLM SQE1&2 or postgraduate diploma would be eligible to sit SQE1 the following January and SQE2 (if they pass SQE1) in the April sit a few months later. There is no requirement at BPP that you sit the external SQE 1 assessment at the first opportunity, but because there are only currently two sits per year, you would have to wait 6 months if you deferred your first sit.

I am studying an LLM in university now. Can I apply for the Legal Practice Course or SQE1/2 in the next year?

At BPP we open applications for our law programmes around 11 months before the start date of the course, which means we accept applications on a rolling basis. We have start dates in February 2023, September 2023 and February 2024 for our main SQE courses. We have start dates for our various SQE courses at various dates throughout the year. All start dates are aligned to the first available SQE1/SQE2 assessment dates.

Do you expect the poor pass rate for SQE1 to improve, and if so, why?

The overall pass rate for SQE1 has been consistently just above 50% (up to January 2023). In our view, this is unlikely to change significantly in the near future. The SRA has made it clear that as the SQE is the end point assessment, the standard which candidates need to achieve (that of a ‘Day 1’ qualified solicitor) is necessarily high in order to protect the public from poor practitioners. In contrast, the LPC is assessed to the standard of a ‘Day 1’ trainee, which is why most LPC pass rates have been much higher.

The overall pass rate for all SQE1 sitters in January 2023 (which was the first meaningful sit, statistically speaking) was 51%. The pass rate for SQE2 in April 2023 was much higher, at 80%, because most candidates need to pass SQE1 before they can sit SQE2, so SQE2 cohorts are always going to be much stronger overall.

What is the timeline for the SQE exams?

There are currently two sittings for SQE1 each year: in January and July. SQE2 is currently sat three times per year but is moving to four sits in 2024. Remember that you have to pass SQE1 before you can Register for SQE2. It takes around 5-6 weeks for the SRA to publish the results for SQE1 and 14-18 weeks for them to publish the results for SQE2.

Please could you tell us as to how additional time for disabilities works with SQE exams as the SQE1 assessments are already over 5 hours on each of the two SQE1 assessment days

The SRA will allow extra time in exams for students with a recognised learning support need. Any student who thinks/knows that they are eligible for extra time should contact the SRA directly before they book to sit the relevant SQE assessment. If you are eligible for extra time and that is approved by the SRA, the exam length will be adjusted accordingly.

Are students who have completed an LLB required to essentially resit core modules under the SQE or are there exemptions if they have already completed these as part of their degree?

There are no such exemptions for LLB graduates. So, effectively, SQE1 re-assesses students on the foundations of legal knowledge covered in an LLB or law conversion course (Tort, Land, Contract, Criminal law, Trusts, Constitution and Administrative Law plus some EU Law) as well as practice-based subjects which most recent LLB and conversion course graduates will not have covered.

What are the contact hours like on the full time SQE prep course at BPP?

Contact hours on our full time face to face SQE1 preparation course are on average 10 hours per week (5 x 2 hour live taught sessions with a tutor). Remember, there is a significant range in the amount of live face to face teaching on SQE courses, with several providers offering very little if any live teaching.

Contact hours on our full time face to face SQE2 Preparation Course varies depending on where you are in the programme.

Are all the centralised SQE assessments closed book exams?

The centralised SQE assessments are all closed book exams. At BPP, the assessments for our SQE courses tend to be open book, as they are developmental to the end goal of passing the SQE assessments.

The recent SQE pass rates appear to be quite low. Does this rate change for, say, firm-sponsored SQE students compared to unsponsored students who do the prep course?

The SRA has not yet published any pass rates for individual providers or in any granular detail to show how sponsored and non-sponsored students are faring. Anecdotally speaking, we can report that, in general, the SQE1 fail rate for sponsored students at ALL providers is higher than the LPC fail rate ever was for sponsored students. That is not surprising, given the fact that only just over 50% of students pass any SQE1 assessment and 27% of students with first class degrees failed SQE1 in January 2023.

Do people generally apply for courses and the SQE exams before or after training contract applications?

There is no hard and fast rule about the timing for when you sit SQE1 and SQE2 and when you choose to apply for and complete qualifying work experience (QWE).

Some people will have completed their QWE before they start on the SQE, others will apply for QWE at the same time as they are studying and some will leave it until afterwards. Everyone’s situation is different and the SQE offers flexibility as to when applicants complete QWE and when they sit the SQE.

What is BPP's pass rate? Do you know the percentage of students that pass having completed your prep course?

Apart from apprentices, the SRA does not share the results of any SQE sitters with their SQE provider. However, BPP undertook extensive research in respect of the SQE1 sitters in Jan 2023, partly because it was the first cohort with over 3,000 sitters which had a significant majority of recent graduates (i.e. 3x the size of the cohort who sat a little over a year previously, which also had a more typical balance of future cohorts between recent graduates and paralegals).

BPP obtained the results of 85% of the whole of its cohort, of whom 73.2% passed both SQE1 papers. As at the summer of 2023, no provider has provided such a recent pass rate statistic, having surveyed the whole of its cohort. In fact, the vast majority of providers remain silent on their SQE1 pass rates. It is for students to form their own conclusions as to why this may be the case, and in respect of other providers who may have published out of date or non-specific pass rates.

BPP’s pass rate for SQE2 from the April 2023 sit was over 96%, compared to the national average of 77%. This is much higher than the SQE1 pass rate, because the overall standard of SQE2 sitters is much higher than SQE1 sitters as most will have had pass SQE1 to register to sit for SQE2.

We suggest that the main pass rate which students should focus on when comparing providers is SQE1, because that is where there will be a significant difference between providers.

How much does the BPP preparatory course cost?

Like any provider which offers a range of SQE courses from Face to Face teaching to non-synchronous materials, from a variety of locations and live online, the cost of our courses will vary. Please refer to our webpages for up to date information for the fees for the course of your choice at your preferred location/method of delivery.

Is the assessment on a computer or on paper? e.g. can we highlight words etc?

SQE1 is a computer based multiple choice assessment taken at a Pearson Vue test centre. You are given erasable markers white boards and markers to use if you wish during the assessment.

There are 16 assessments for SQE 2, 4 of them are oral skills which are assessed in person in London, Cardiff or Manchester, the other 12 papers are computer-based assessments, which are written and are taken at a Pearson Test Centre.

There are a very limited number of SQE1 MCQs to practice online. Do you expect this to improve over time or is there a reason these sort of materials aren't available?

Despite the requests of students and education providers, the SRA has said that there is no plan to share any more sample MCQs. There are currently 90 single best answer MCQs available on the SRA website.

In fairness to the SRA, they cannot provide MCQs covering every possible type of question on every possible topic which may be examined in the future. However, their resistance in providing any further MCQs would appear to be based on the time and cost of producing them and they have also said that providing more MCQs may give a false impression as to how SQE1 will be examined. We at BPP would rather our students had examples of more, rather than less MCQs, even if it means including a health warning that they are just a small example of how the students may be examined.

As a consequence, as well as providing our students with a large bank of MCQs to practice for SQE1, BPP will be releasing some additional questions on our website shortly as we appreciate the need for all students, wherever they study, to get as much MCQ practice as possible.

Questions from international students about the SQE

I am a practising lawyer from South Africa with my own small law firm. I have completed 2 years of training here [in South Africa] before I qualified as a lawyer there and I have an LLM from University of London. Which course would be best in order to convert and practice UK law or join one of the big law firms in the UK?

The position is very complicated for lawyers who are qualified overseas as the position varies widely between jurisdictions and individuals. Whether an internationally qualified lawyer has any exemptions will depend on the professional qualifications they have and, in some cases, how long they have practised at that level.

If you have a legal professional qualification which allows you to practise in the UK or an international jurisdiction, the SRA have said that you will not need to complete QWE.
The best place to start is the SRA’s website, which provides a list of jurisdictions where exemptions may be granted. If you are a qualified attorney in South Africa, you can apply to the SRA for an SQE2 exemption and you would be exempt from QWE.

From what you say, it is less likely that you might be eligible for an SQE1 exemption, but you can look into this further with the SRA on a separate exemption application if you wish. If you don’t qualify for an SQE1 exemption (which I suspect is the case here, unless your LLM covered the usual foundational modules of an English LLB), the option which many large firms in the UK would expect would be to complete BPP’s law conversion course (to provide you the secure grounding you need in English law) plus either BPP’s in person, online or self-study SQE1 Preparation.

For other candidates reading this answer, remember, because the position varies widely depending on where you are qualified, as well as the qualifications and experience you have, separate bespoke advice is always recommended after you have studied the SRA’s guidance on their SQE and QWE web pages.

As an international student, should I do the LPC or SQE?

I don’t think there is an easy answer to give you as we don’t know enough about your circumstances or career aspirations. That said, many international students are now attracted to the SQE pathway because QWE is easier to acquire than a training contract, the number of which is now declining.

There are very early signs of the SQE becoming recognised in some jurisdictions, more so than the LPC, although we do not envisage developments in this regard to be fast or extensive. The other point to mention is that, generally speaking, you only get the choice between the LPC and the SQE if you started an English LLB or law conversion course before 2022 – otherwise it’s the SQE for you!

If I look for QWE in an overseas jurisdiction, should I be looking for firms or international organisations which have an English-qualified solicitor working for them to sign off my QWE?

QWE must be signed off either by a solicitor qualified in England and Wales or a Compliance Officer for Legal Practice. Ideally, you want to be working for a firm or organisation that has such a person working there too. Either way, you should record what you do during your QWE by using the SRA’s QWE record template.

There are other options, such as going through a third party, who is a solicitor to sign off your QWE. They would have to verify your QWE record with those you worked for. There are a few businesses advertising their services for a fee to do this (which we don’t believe was ever the regulator’s intention), and so we cannot recommend any of them, particularly as the SRA have said they are monitoring the situation.

Qualifying work experience and general work experience

What is Qualifying Work Experience (‘QWE’)?

To qualify as a solicitor under the SQE regime, as well as passing the SQE, you need to complete two years of QWE with up to four legal employers. You are not required to develop all of the SRA’s published competences – but you need to have developed at least two of them. For more details, see here.

How do we know what counts and does not count as QWE for the SQE?

The SRA sets out the standard for QWE that it expects employers to provide, but unlike the LPC (which requires trainees to complete at least one contentious and one uncontentious seat), QWE can be in one or multiple practice areas. For more details, see here.

Would the QWE need to be in the area of law you then decide to practice in, or can it differ?

The QWE which you complete does not necessarily have to be in the practice area you choose to qualify into, although you would be best advised to gain some experience in that practice area as part of your QWE.

Do you think firms will offer some form of training to allow students to fulfil their QWE?

Yes. Most firms are simply ‘rebadging’ their Training Contracts as QWE, although a number of firms have taken the opportunity to use the flexibility of QWE to innovate and evolve their training to better suit their practice.

How can you ensure you are obtaining sufficient/a certain level of QWE which meets a future employer's criteria? And what standard is this measured against?

This is a very good question, and it depends on which firms you are referring to. Few firms have yet gone on record to say how they would view a portfolio of QWE across two to four employers. Most will say they will consider the application ‘on merit’, which means that they will scrutinise the nature and quality of the training you have had very carefully. Ultimately, it is the quality of the work, training and supervision which firms will be interested in and that will vary considerably for QWE, particularly QWE which is spread across multiple employers. For more details, see the SRA’s Solicitors Competence Statement.

I was planning on getting non-law work experience in a company in my year between my LPC and training contract. Would I need to re-evaluate and get relevant law work experience now instead, in case I have to take the SQE 2?

Non-law work experience cannot count as QWE, although working in the in-house legal department of a company could do. If you have already secured a training contract, I would discuss your question with the graduate recruitment team. Most larger firms would still insist you complete their two-year QWE programme even if you have experience elsewhere which is capable of counting as QWE, so they probably wouldn’t have a strong view either way as to what you do in that gap year.

However, if you haven’t yet secured a traditional LPC training contract and are planning taking a gap year after your LPC, I would recommend getting some legal work experience during that period – not only to enhance your knowledge of the profession, but part, or all of it might be capable of counting as QWE if you don’t secure a traditional LPC training contract. But remember, if you take the LPC and don’t get a traditional LPC training contract, you will need BOTH a pass in SQE 2 and two years of QWE in order to qualify.

Can a placement year during your degree in a legal team with a company count as QWE?

In theory, QWE could include work undertaken during a placement year on a degree, but in practice most (if not all) is unlikely to count as QWE. Those signing off on the work and the SRA would want to look closely at what you did, as significant parts may not count as QWE given the early stage you were at in your legal education. What is important is the nature of the work and the range of competencies that an individual gains during the work experience/placement. The SRA website has a comprehensive list of the competencies that would need to be included for the work to be classed as QWE.

Can working in my university’s law clinic count as QWE?

Working in a University Law Clinic is fantastic work experience and could, in theory, count as QWE, provided you were being supervised by a solicitor qualified in England & Wales and they can sign off on the work, meeting the SRA’s QWE requirements. However, it would have to be a lengthy commitment for such work to count in any meaningful way. For example, if you did an afternoon per week (say 3.5 hours) across 30 weeks of a three year degree, that would still only work out to be the equivalent of around 2 months’ QWE. So, whilst it’s good to know that Pro Bono/Law Clinic work can ‘count’, its significance as QWE has perhaps been a little overstated.

Would other Pro Bono and CAB work count towards QWE?

It could be the Pro Bono/CAB work could count towards QWE, like working in a university law clinic, but you would have to have done quite a lot of it to count in a meaningful way over a long period of time as mentioned above. All QWE must be signed off by a solicitor practising in England & Wales or the firm’s Compliance Officer for Legal Practice. The SRA has issued guidelines for determining whether the work is QWE.

Does working part-time for a year as a paralegal count as 1 year, or 6 months of your qualifying work experience?

The SRA has said that the QWE must be two years’ full-time or equivalent, although there is a little discretion built into the system. It also depends on how ‘part-time’ the role is. The way we have interpreted the regulation is that if you are on a 50% contract as a paralegal, then one year in such a role would probably amount to 6 months QWE, if all the other criteria were satisfied.

Would a legal assistant constitute QWE, or only paralegal work?

It’s not the job title that matters – it’s the work you do. So, yes, if you were developing the solicitor competencies referred to above”. But if the role was wholly or purely administrative, it would not count as QWE.

Do vacation schemes count as QWE?

No. Firms offering vacation schemes aren’t signing off on such experience as QWE. In any case, even if you were able to argue that small parts of a vacation scheme amounts to QWE (although much of it would not), that part would amount to such a small fraction of the two years you need to render it meaningless as QWE – great work experience, but nothing more. Remember, you can piece together your QWE across different employers, but it is limited to four places of work.

How do you get shadowing/work experience at 16 for a career in law?

It can sometimes be difficult to get legal work experience before starting university. Although some firms are beginning to offer experience for younger students, most ‘in-firm’ experience starts later in your academic career. But don’t let this put you off! There are some firms and chambers that offer shadowing experience during the summer holidays. Here’s a great article with tips on how to access legal work experience while you are at school.

You could use this time instead to consider volunteering or work experience in another industry. There is often no requirement to have had formal legal work experience before applying for first-year programmes and vacation schemes. Very often, firms are looking for students who have gained transferable skills from any industry, rather than necessarily having a legal background.

In any event, you can easily get exposure to the ‘law in action’ by visiting your local magistrates and Crown Courts – ask the ushers which hearings are public and whether they could suggest which one(s) would be of interest to a potential law student like yourself.

What help does BPP offer toward gaining QWE?

We provide 5 x 6-month QWE placements for recent BPP SQE students per year in our Pro Bono Centre, which is part of the Social Impact team. This is over and above the work experience they will have obtained in our award-winning Pro Bono Centre during their studies and the expert, specialist guidance which our Law Careers team offers with CV drafting, applications, mock interviews etc.

Can you complete the SQE assessments whilst completing your 2 years qualifying work experience?

Yes, the SRA has not stipulated at what stage you need to complete your qualifying work experience. It can be done before, during or after the SQE or a combination of all/any the above. At BPP, as well as full-time courses, we also offer part time SQE preparation courses which allow you to “learn as you earn” so you can do the SQE alongside your QWE if you wish.

Does going down the Solicitor Apprenticeship (level 7) route have any benefit when it comes to SQE2? I have a law degree already too.

There are two main types of apprenticeships for prospective solicitors: the Solicitor Apprenticeship (which is aimed at A level leavers who take 6 years to qualify via the SQE route and complete an LLB along the way) and a Graduate Entry Solicitor Apprenticeship (GESA), which would be more appropriate for you as you have a law degree already. Legal employers have different approaches to their GESA apprentices: what they all have in common is that they employ and train graduates for around 30+ months, during which time they work SQE preparation courses and the SQE assessments into your schedule.

Where employers differ in their approach is how they deal with the teaching: some have a ‘block teach’ at the start of the apprenticeship when the students are released wholly or substantially from any work in the office until they complete at least their preparation for and sit SQE1. Other firms prefer a ‘day release’ model over a longer period, where you would typically spend 4 days in the office and have 1 study day per week.

As SQE2 assesses your skills, working in practice as you prepare for SQE2 can be beneficial as you will probably be practising some of those skills on a daily basis. That works better for the ‘day release’ model, but the down side with that model is that some apprentices on day release find it challenging to balance their work and study commitments.

How many people undertaking the SQE prep course/ exams have already secured a training contract?

The SRA has not shared extensive data on this. Because of the flexibility in how and when you can acquire qualifying work experience (QWE), candidates are, generally, more confident of securing QWE because unlike an LPC training contract, the 2 years QWE which you need to accrue can be acquired at between 1 and 4 employers.

Do we have any information about how firms are offering jobs/training contracts to students to come in through the SQE route?

Most of the larger firms have committed their future trainee cohorts to the SQE. However, many will still accept applications from LPC graduates. The smaller the firm, the more likely it is that they will allow students to choose the LPC or SQE pathway (if the candidate still has the choice).

Some firms have reviewed how they train their future cohorts and aren’t running their 2-year QWE contracts the same as their old LPC training contracts. For example, instead of a seat rotation structure (e.g. 4 x 6 months seats in different departments), some firms are offering a full two years in a single department so that, upon qualification, each NQ has the experience in their practice area which is closer to a 1-1.5 year PQ solicitor than an NQ solicitor. However the seat-rotation model is still the most popular way of scheduling two year QWE training contract at most firms.

If you do a full time Master’s which includes SQE 1 &2, how do you fit in QWE? Before, during or after?

Some people will have completed their QWE before they start on the SQE, others will apply for QWE at the same time as they are studying and some will leave it until afterwards. Everyone’s situation is different and the SQE offers flexibility as to when applicants complete QWE and when they sit the SQE. One thing we would not recommend you to do is to do a full-time SQE Master’s and any meaningful QWE at the same time. You will be spreading yourself too thin and are likely to significantly underperform in both.

The SQE and Training Contracts

Is there a way of firms funding your SQE like they did with training contracts/LPC?

Yes – virtually all firms who sponsored students for the LPC are doing so for the SQE. Ultimately, it will vary from firm to firm, but it does tend to be the larger firms who provide sponsorship.

Is it more beneficial doing 1) the LPC full time, then doing a training contract for two years or 2) doing the LPC part time mixed in with a training contract?

They both have their pros and cons and it will depend on the individual. The main objective would be securing the training contract: it would then be a discussion with the firm about whether to do the LPC full time before your TC, or part time alongside your TC. At BPP, as well as running full time programmes, we offer both the LPC and SQE courses on a part time basis to allow students to earn as they learn, with many working full time.

Will traditional LPC training contracts still be offered by big firms in 2026? I am a first-class law student looking to do my LPC in January and want to completely opt out of the SQE.

By September 2024, we expect almost all leading law firms to be training the main intake of their future cohorts via the SQE pathway. It’s unlikely that many (if any) of them will be offering traditional LPC Training Contracts by 2026, although several have commented that they won’t turn away talent simply because candidates have an LPC. Such firms may require LPC graduates to qualify via the SQE route, which means requiring a pass SQE2, as LPC graduates are exempt form SQE1. Smaller firms are, as a whole, less concerned about which pathway you have chosen and are likely to offer traditional LPC training contracts for longer, with some offering them alongside QWE.

I have passed my LLB in 2016 and BPTC in 2019. Which course should I do to avail a training contract easily and will I be eligible for exemption of courses of SQE 1 or SQE2 or LPC?

Firstly, no training contract is easy to secure. You can choose either the LPC or SQE route to qualify as a solicitor. If you are a BPTC graduate from BPP, you would normally be exempt from around half of the LPC modules should you choose to study the LPC at BPP. If you studied at another provider, we would have to check your record card to advise further. Unfortunately, the SRA does not routinely provide exemptions from any part of the SQE for BPTC graduates.

As a third year LLB student, should I be concerned about traditional LPC training contracts if I plan on going down the SQE route?

‘Training contracts’ are traditionally part of the LPC route to qualification, but the term is still (confusingly) referred to as a two-year period of QWE at a single employer under the SQE pathway. So, for clarity, we like to refer to ‘traditional LPC training contracts’ and ‘SQE training contracts’. If you are planning on qualifying via the SQE route, you will need to complete two years of qualifying work experience (QWE). The reality is that if you complete two years’ QWE at single law firm, your QWE will, in most cases, look like their previous training contract, with seat rotation, although that is not a requirement of QWE. But, you two years ‘QWE can be aggregated in up to four legal employers.

I am a final year law student. If I take a gap year in order to work next year, can I still apply for the LPC? And what would you advise me to do?

Candidates who started a ‘qualifying law degree’ in 2021 or earlier can choose either the LPC or SQE route to qualification. The concern you might have is whether you would be able to secure a traditional training contract after taking a gap year and then taking the LPC, as the number of traditional training contracts has significantly reduced because of the introduction of the SQE. You might be best advised to see whether you can secure any QWE as part of your gap year and opt for the SQE pathway. If you do choose the LPC and don’t secure a traditional LPC training contract, you can still qualify via the SQE: you would be exempt form SQE1, but would still have to pass SQE2 and complete two years’ QWE

General SQE Questions

What is the professional skills course and is it offered by the BPP?

Those on the SQE route do not do the Professional Skills Course (PSC). The PSC is a requirement for those students who wish to qualify as a solicitor via the LPC route. At BPP we offer various modes of delivery for our PSC, including F2F and online and a fast track course which can be completed in 8 days. This is normally paid for by a trainee solicitor’s employer shortly before or during their training contract.

I'm in the final year of my law degree. Are there any deadlines to apply for the LPC/SQE?

Students can apply for the LPC and SQE programmes right up until the start of our courses at BPP – you will have to check the position for other providers. We would strongly advise submitting an application well ahead of time to ensure you are best placed and ready to start the course at the beginning of term. Students who accept offers early normally receive access to preliminary materials a number of weeks before the start of the course so they can ‘hit the ground running’ at the start of term.

How do we apply for SQE / LPC at BPP or other providers? Is it through the provider university website or is there another platform?

Applications to study full time on either the LPC or SQE are made through the Central Applications Board known as Lawcabs. If you wish to study either the LPC or the SQE on a part time basis then you apply directly to BPP via admissions@bpp.com.

Do you offer a Master's with the SQE?

Yes, for law graduates we offer the LLM SQE 1&2 which prepares students for both parts of the external SQE assessments for the first two terms, followed by additional learning and skills in specialist practice areas. The Master’s option for non law graduates is our LLM Law Conversion with SQE1, following which candidates can progress to our sort SQE2 Preparation Course.

I'm a first/second year law student, what steps do I need to be taking now?

As a first/second year law student, we would recommend (if you haven’t started already) considering what type of practitioner you want to be and to research the practice areas you are most interested in. You may be starting to consider whether to go down the Solicitor or Barrister route. One way to find out which you would prefer is (if you haven’t already) to join the Law and Bar Societies at your university and attend events they put on. Your university careers service is also a great first port of call, as they will be able to offer advice around applications, the type of firms available as well as helping you with interview preparation for vacation schemes and other key parts of the recruitment process.

BPP also runs a number of career-focused events which will support your longer term plans. See here for BPP’s latest events.

We would recommend treating your research like an additional module at university, perhaps spend 2-4 hours each week researching and attending events. There are also a lot of opportunities for you to ‘try out’ the different career paths available to you. Many firms have insight schemes, open days and vacation schemes which will all give you a window into the type of firms they are, and the work they do.

Take the opportunity of attending as many in person and online law fairs and pupillage fairs that you can. It’s a great way to meet and hear from a wide range of practitioners and recruiters.

In order to apply for an 'SQE graduate-apprenticeship' when do you join the firm? Immediately after university,? is there any need to do any SQE prep course first?

All candidates who choose the SQE pathway to qualify as a solicitor will be required to pass the SQE, as the SQE is the end-point assessment to qualification, unless you are still able to qualify via the LPC pathway. If you secure a graduate apprenticeship role at a law firm, you will be ‘earning and learning’ at the same time, although some firms release their apprentices for most (if not all) of their apprenticeship to complete their SQE preparation and assessments as full time students before starting work in the office in earnest. What that means is you will be preparing for the SQE alongside your work in the office. The training and development team at such firms will advise when you will be studying and which provider’s course they require you to enrol onto. You do not need to complete any SQE training before applying for such a role.

I don't know how to choose between the SQE and LPC...

There are a number of considerations to weigh up when deciding which route to pursue, as there is no single ‘right’ answer for many candidates as it depends on your career aspirations and personal circumstances. The first thing to do is to check that you do still have the option of completing the LPC, as this is only open to you if you have started your ‘legal journey’ prior to 31 August 2021. Also try BPP’s quiz, which may help you reach a decision.

Does the SQE have as much recognition globally as the LPC?

The LPC and the SQE are qualifications for lawyers who wish to practise as solicitors in England and Wales. Neither qualification permits you to practice in another jurisdiction, but it is becoming increasingly common for lawyers to be dual qualified, particularly commercial lawyers who deal with English law as the governing law in contracts.

What is the last cohort of the LPC. Will it be an option in 2024?

In theory the LPC will continue until 2032. However many providers will have decided not to offer the LPC long before that date. Students who still have the option to go down the LPC route should still be able to enrol on LPC courses in 2024, although there is likely to be a diminishing choice of providers and/or modes for studying the LPC by the mid to late 2020s now that the SQE is getting more popular.

Once we have completed the LPC, are there any more exams we have to do? Or do we have to gain a TC and once that has been completed, we can become a qualified solicitor?

At present, if you wish to become a qualified solicitor via the LPC pathway and have completed your LPC, you will need to complete a two-year Period of Recognised training – commonly referred to as a ‘training contract’. During this Period of Recognised Training, you will be supervised by a qualified solicitor and complete the Professional Skills Course. If you do pass the LPC but don’t secure a training contract you can also qualify by passing SQE 2 and completing two years of QWE.

I am undertaking my LPC in 2022 and am working towards getting a training contract for 2024. Will I need to change to the SQE from the LPC? Or would I need to undertake the SQE 2 instead of getting a training contract?

That will depend upon the requirements of the firm(s) you are applying to. It is likely that some firms will still be offering training contracts in 2024 but a number of firms will have transitioned to the SQE/QWE route by then. If you are unable to secure a TC under the LPC pathway, you could sit SQE 2 and complete two years of QWE as an alternative route to qualification.

If you have graduated in law but don’t feel quite as confident yet to get a TC and think you would need at least a few years of experience, would working as a paralegal now and SQE in a few years be a better option compared to doing the LPC now?

If you are uncertain about pursuing a career in law, then working as a paralegal before committing to studying for a professional qualification can be a good idea. It may well confirm (or not) your interest in a legal career and it will give you valuable experience working in a legal environment. It may count as QWE if the work you do meets the competencies outlined by the SRA. On the other hand, some students prefer getting all their education out of the way before they embark on the working world. Neither is a better option than the other – it just depends on your own personal circumstances and preferences.

I've already completed the GDL - does this have any impact on which course (SQE or LPC) I should/can/will complete?

If you started your ‘legal journey’ (i.e. you started an LLB or GDL or equivalent) prior to 1 January 2022, you are likely to still be able to study the LPC, or instead you could start the SQE Preparation course. If you started your law conversion course in 2022 or later, you would qualify as a solicitor via the SQE as you would not be eligible to qualify via the LPC

For someone with a law degree from another jurisdiction, do you require a conversion course along with SQE 1 and 2?

It depends on the legal jurisdiction you have studied. If your LLB is in English law, you would not ordinarily need a conversion course, but if the law you have studied relates wholly or substantially to a different jurisdiction, we would recommend you do BPP’s Law Conversion Course to gain a solid grounding in the laws of England & Wales, which you can wrap up into a Master’s to combine it with SQE1 Preparation: for LLM Law Conversion wit SQE1.

If you have practised in an overseas jurisdiction, the work you have done could also count towards QWE, if you are pursuing the SQE route and you may be exempt from SQE2. See the ‘International Students’ section of these FAQs for more information.

Is there a preference over LLM or MA for postgraduate law?

No, not at all. Whether you choose a Master’s version of the LPC or SQE is a personal decision and is often – at least for domestic students – driven by the ability to access £12,167 of government funding from Student Finance England (2023-24 academic year). There is no general requirement in the profession for students to have a Master’s because the LPC and SQE are, themselves, studied at Master’s level. A very small number of US firms in the past have required a Master’s but they are the exception to the rule.

As a business graduate, I need to complete my conversion course, does the SQE Master's course cover that cost too?

Our LLM Law Conversion with SQE1 is an SQE Master’s which includes our law conversion course plus SQE 1 Preparation. Or you could undertake our law conversion course as a postgraduate diploma and then complete our LLM SQE1&2. Non-law graduates will, in most cases, not be able to start an SQE course without a solid grounding in the foundational law subjects. Once they do that (e.g. on a law conversion course) they are on a level playing field with LLB graduates.

Does BPP offer funding and scholarships for students that apply for the SQE course?

At BPP we have a scholarship fund of over £1.25 million for our postgraduate law courses. We use a variety of criteria when assessing eligibility for our scholarships. We offer career commitment scholarships of £2,000 for those who demonstrate commitment to a career in law and we also have a number of full fee scholarships. We are particularly interested in hearing from you if you have had a challenging academic journey, if you are a care leaver or a care giver, or if you have been a leader in your community through volunteering or through pro bono work.

I heard that another provider offers a full refund if the student fails to successfully receive a training contract offer within 9 months of the completion of the course, do you offer a similar scheme?

You need to read the Ts & Cs of any ‘money back’ guarantees as, in practice, they are not a 100% refund in most cases and eligibility for such schemes is subject to the student satisfying a great number of conditions. At BPP, our SQE Career Guarantee focuses on enhancing a student’s employability by offering further free training.

Why has the SRA said that an LLB or GDL is not necessary for you to become a lawyer via the SQE? Why do you say on these pages that almost all non-law graduates should do a comprehensive law conversion course?

When the SRA changed the route to qualification, the regulator decided to remove the requirement that all future solicitors needed either a qualifying law degree (QLD) or the Conversion course (GDL)/PGDL). This is because under the SQE regime, the SRA has chosen only to regulate the SQE assessments rather than the journey you take to get there.

There will be a very small fraction of 1) career paralegals who have worked in practice for many years and 2) those who may have studied much (but not all) of a QLD who have accumulated a significant amount of the functioning legal knowledge (FLK) which is required to pass the SQE. The SRA believed that it was not fair on those very few candidates to commit to incurring unnecessary expense and time completing a full law conversion course or LLB, which we would agree.

However, this only applies to a fraction of non-law graduates, perhaps 1% or 2%. The vast majority of candidates from a non-law background have little or none of the depth and breadth of knowledge required to pass SQE1, which would include almost all recent undergraduates. Indeed, the SRA has accepted that, for them, a law conversion course is probably the best option for most of them, but they do still leave it open to the individual to make a decision based on their own personal circumstances.

The expectations of the majority of leading law firms is that recent university leavers should complete a comprehensive law conversion course in order to achieve parity with LLB graduates. The thinking of many of firms is that if you have taken a short cut with something as important as your legal education, what questionable short cuts might you take in practice?

At BPP, we believe that for students to take on the extremely rigorous SQE1 assessments, you need to have a solid knowledge of these foundational subjects embarking on any SQE preparation course. This is why, with few exceptions, we require an LLB (minimum 2:2) or a pass in a recognised law conversion course as one of our SQE admissions requirements.

Are there ways of funding the SQE fees?

There are lots of ways to fund the SQE.

Master’s funding: At BPP we offer a Master’s version of our SQE preparation courses (LLM SQE1&2) which will allow you to borrow from the Student Loans Company £12,167 in 2023-24, providing it’s your first Masters. Most providers who are universities offer Master’s courses which are eligible for this funding, but those who are ‘test prep providers’ are unable to do so as they are not universities.

Scholarships: These are offered by most providers, but the range, sums and number of scholarships will vary considerably. At BPP we also offer a range of scholarships from career commitment scholarships of £2,000 to full fee scholarships.

Part-time study: Like most providers, we offer our SQE prep courses on a part time basis to allow students to earn as they learn.

Sponsorship: There are a number of firms in the City and across the country who offer sponsorship for students sitting the SQE. The majority of these are leading City, international or commercial firms who tend to pay their future trainees maintenance during their studies as well as their course and SQE assessment fees.

Private borrowing from a High Street Bank: High Street banks provide loans to cover fees and living expenses, but they will need to credit score you. One down side about private borrowing is that unlike loans from the Student Loans Company, a bank will normally require you to start repaying the loan shortly after you finish the course and you will generally have to repay the loan over a shorter period at a higher interest rate.

Other/specialised lenders: there are some who specialise in lending to postgraduate law students (amongst others), such as Lendwise. Their rates and repayment terms may be a little better than borrowing from a High Street Bank, but the repayment terms will not tend to be as generous and flexible as SLC funding.

Various organisations who help to fund diverse students:

Diversity Access Scheme
Social Welfare Lawyers Qualification Fund
The Aziz Foundation
Aspiring Solicitors

I am concluding a BSc. degree in Criminology (major) with Law as a minor. What is my position: i.e. how long would it take to qualify?

It depends upon a number of factors including which law modules you have studied and how you want to study the additional black letter law subjects not covered in your criminology degree. We suggest you contact our admissions team who will be able to assess your needs and advise you accordingly. In reality, we would normally recommend a person who has not majored in Law to undertake a full law conversion course as you are unlikely to have covered most of the foundation modules which are examined on the SQE. Qualification timings are much less predictable under the SQE regime, mainly because of the very low pass rate (just over 50% in Jan 2023 for SQE1), the fact that SQE1 can only be sat twice a year, but also because it depends on how and when you build your QWE. Most non-law graduates are likely to take at least 3.5 years to qualify.

From beginning BPP’s SQE prep course, to completing both SQE 1&2 exams, is it possible to complete this in one academic year if you progressed without retakes?

In theory, yes. For example, we have students who started BPP’s SQE prep course in September 2022, sat SQE1 in January 2023 and then prepared for and sat SQE 2 in April 2023, getting their results in August 2023.

Getting through the SQE in a single academic year also depends upon the availability of places to sit both SQE1 and SQE2 on your preferred dates at your preferred location(s). Some dates/centres get booked up very quickly and the SRA has not always been able to increase the number of sitters at any particular venue.

Could students completing the LLM SQE1&2 be ready to start their training contracts in Sept 2024 if they are due to start the SQE in Sept 2023?

In theory, yes. We have students who:

– started BPP’s SQE prep course in September 2022;
– sat SQE1 in January 2023;
– went on to do their SQE2 Prep and sat SQE2 in April 2023; and
– received their SQE2 results in August 2023.

Is it advisable to do paid work during both SQE1 and SQE2?

One thing we would not recommend you to do is to do a full-time SQE Master’s and any meaningful QWE or paid employment at the same time. You will be spreading yourself too thin and are likely to significantly underperform (if not fail) in both.

Preparing for the SQE requires a much greater commitment and intensity of study than most undergraduate degrees. The SQE is a significant endeavour and is rigorously assessed, so you need to treat any full-time SQE course as a 35-40 hours per week job. Consequently, it is not compatible with any paid employment commitment of more than one day per week, and for most students, that would be too great a commitment alongside the course.

Remember, there was only a 51% pass rate for SQE1 in Jan 2023 and 27% of students with first class degrees who sat SQE1 in January 2023 failed. So, it doesn’t matter how bright you are: if you don’t put in the time, you will seriously risk failing SQE1.

On the other hand, if you need to work, doing a part-time course at a reputable provider is a much better option, during which time you can be working full-time or part-time clocking up your QWE. But you need to be very organised with your studies and give them as much priority as your paid employment, which means having as few outside distractions as is possible.