5 top tips to support your students through the SQE1 exam

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Authors: Jonathan Worrell, Business Development Director and Tracy Savage, Learning Director at BARBRI 

“Wait? What? A 10-hour exam?” 

For employers that are new to SQE, a key challenge is preparing students for the SQE1 style of exam.  

This 10-hour mammoth assessment over two days (it is a whopper!) is unlikely to be anything like candidates have experienced before. With 1 minute 42 seconds per question, it is a test of mental stamina, focus, resilience as well as functioning legal knowledge. 

But it is achievable! 

Here is how you can support your SQE 1-ers:   

  1. Practise, practise, practise!: Think multiple choice exams are easy? Nope! For the best chance of success, ensure that students are taking practice questions and mocks seriously (ideally in exam conditions). This exam is about technique as well as knowledge. Not sure of an answer? Move on. Legal subjects are mixed throughout the entire exam – this can take some getting used to. Remind students to see this as an exam where they can show how much they know (rather than an exam where the assessors are looking to see what they don’t). Flipping the mindset can help with anxiety.  
  1. Acknowledge that stress levels can be high: From booking the exam and waiting for confirmation of centre location (some candidates may not know where they are sitting until a few days before) to the intense exam experience and waiting 5 weeks for the results… the process is loaded with stress. Listen to how students are feeling and accept that this is a challenging time. Gen Z these days are much more open to talking about stress, wellbeing and mental health (this is a good thing!) – make sure you are equipped to have that conversation and show your support.  
  1. Be ready that they may feel anxious immediately after the exam: Due to the nature of the SQE1 exam, it is difficult for students to know if they have performed well – which is disconcerting and can lead to anxiety. In a problem-based or essay-style exam, the points you missed are not obvious compared to the SQE1 multiple-choice questions (MCQ) exam when you don’t know the answer. We hear stories of students contacting their L&D team or managers directly after the exam, stating how difficult it was. Take these views on board and share them with your training provider but also ask students to take a breath and wait for the result. In our experience, often these students pass! It is human nature that the questions that we struggle with stick in our brain, but they were likely in the minority. Students forget to remember all the questions they likely got right! Finally, allow some time for students to decompress – don’t expect them to be able to come in the day after and complete a “normal” working day. 
  1. Remember they can get some questions wrong. It may not sit well with you, but in this style of exam it is expected that students will get some questions wrong. And that’s okay. Obtaining 67% in the exam (which is a solid pass) means getting 60 questions wrong on each day of the exam. Again, the student should focus on what they got right, as that is what counts!  
  1. Apply early for reasonable adjustments (RA). For candidates that need extra support in the exam – this may include additional time, breaks, access, or equipment – due to a condition or disability, the SRA will require evidence from a qualified professional. This takes time to assess and you cannot book a place on the exam until your reasonable adjustments are agreed. So, ask students to apply early to avoid increased stress. 

Want to hear how BARBRI can support your organisation? Get in touch to book a meeting.

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