Can I self study for the SQE?

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In September 2021, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) introduced the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) as the new route to qualifying as a solicitor of England and Wales. In the traditional qualifying route, law graduates had to do the Legal Practice Course (LPC) through one of around 35 accredited institutions, each setting and marking their own end-point exams. This meant there was room for variation in difficulty level and pass rates. In contrast, the SQE is a standardised exam, mandatory for all would-be solicitors in England and Wales.

And unlike the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), the SQE isn’t a course — rather, it’s a series of exams taken in two stages. It’s a comprehensive exam, comprising the SQE1 legal knowledge tests and the SQE2 legal skills tests and designed to assess thoroughly the legal knowledge of candidates. Therefore, extensive planning, preparation, study and practice are needed to pass this challenging assessment.

The SRA no longer determines which courses candidates should take, which means you’re free to choose how you study for the exams. There are many SQE preparation courses available to help increase your chances of passing, but if you’re considering self-study, you might find it helpful to read this article first.

Also read: How to choose an SQE training course provider

Here we list some of the considerations to help you in your decision. 

The total cost

The SQE route is considerably cheaper and more accessible than the traditional route, but it still bears some costs. The cost of the exams, payable upon booking with the SRA, is £4,564 (as of March 2024). You may be considering doing self-study to save on additional training provider costs. A few things to keep in mind:

  • You will need to buy study materials, such as hardback or digital workbooks, multiple-choice questions, lectures or videos, and mock exams from various different suppliers. BARBRI’s SQE1 Prep Course includes all the study materials you’ll need: digital and hardcopy workbooks, short online lectures by experienced qualified solicitors and barristers, thousands of multiple-choice test questions (more on that below), workshops, and mock tests. You don’t have to pay extra for any materials or services.
  • The SQE2 exam is highly practical and you’ll need to know whether you’re on the right track. Our SQE2 Prep Course includes skills lectures, workbooks, interactive learning activities, self-practice activities, personalised feedback and mock exams in each skill and subject with a BARBRI assessor. You’ll also do a diagnostic test to see if you have any gaps in your SQE1 topic learning as you’ll need this knowledge for the practical skills exam.
  • If your self-study didn’t prepare you fully and you fail the exam, you’ll have to pay the relevant exam fee again to resit. (SQE1: £899 for FLK1 and £899 for FLK2; SQE2: £2,766) 

Volume of material and your available time

The SQE1 covers an enormous amount of study material. Some find the mountain of study material quite overwhelming to get through – and to understand the principles behind it. But it can be done.

For the SQE2, you’ll need to have all the knowledge of SQE1 down pat – and then learn how to apply this knowledge in your demonstration of your legal skills.

Keep in mind:

  • You’ll need a detailed study plan to help you get through all the material, including time at the end to do revision. 
  • With BARBRI’s SQE1 prep course, you will have your own Personal Study Plan powered by machine-learning, which schedules bite-sized modules around your available time (which you can customise and update in your online learning platform). This takes the hassle out of having to create and update your own learning schedule, so you can just jump in and do modules whether you’re on the train, on your lunchbreak, or putting in a good weekend session. “Follow the plan” – you’ll hear this a lot when speaking with our students and learning coaches!
  • If you’re working, whether full time or part time, you’ll have to factor in the actual amount of time you’d be able to spend studying every week, and start early. Our SQE courses are fully flexible and online so you can study around your other commitments.
  • If you start studying topic A and continue to topics B, C and D, you may find it hard to remember what you learned about in topic A. Switching things up will help you to retain more information.
  • BARBRI’s pedagogy is based on 50 years of experience and successful outcomes on the US Bar exam side. It includes the principle of spaced repetition: You’ll be told not to try and memorise everything from the start, but to simply follow the lectures and topics as they appear in your PSP. You may do topic A, then B, then C, then more about A, more about B, then topic D, etc. You’ll keep circling back to previous topics so everything remains fresh in your memory. Our top pass rates vouch for the efficiency of this approach!
  • For SQE2, you may need personalised feedback and coaching from experts who know the exams to see if you’re on the right track.

The format of the FLK exams

The SQE FLK tests are all in a multiple-choice question (MCQ) format. However, these MCQs would be better described as “single-best answer questions” – they don’t offer you one right and several wrong answers, but instead offer you a handful of plausible answers, and you have to use your knowledge to choose the most appropriate option.

Keep in mind:

  • This can take some getting used to and you’ll need plenty of practice to not just master the subject matter, but the format too.
  • The SQE exams are in the same MCQ format as the US bar exams. BARBRI has been helping 1.4 million candidates pass the US bar exams for over 50 years – and lately the SQE exams too – and we really understand the MCQ format, and how best to teach it.
  • We offer more than 3,000 practice MCQs as part of our prep course across all subjects, and we give you a score report so you can see where you need more revision.
  • Each question is turned into a mini-lesson: Once you’ve chosen an option, we explain which law is applicable to the question, why the correct answer was the best choice – and also why the others weren’t. This is a crucial step you help you understand the principle behind the law. See a demo in our on-demand MCQs masterclass with
  • We also offer another product: SQE1 Boost, for self-study candidates. It’s available a month before each SQE1 exam and includes a bank of around 2,000 practice questions and a mock exam each for FLK1 and FLK2.


Preparing for and sitting the super exam is nothing short of mammoth. You will need support – your family or the people you live with will have to have an understanding and respect for your new study regime. If you’re employed, your manager and teammates would similarly have to be supportive – in order to get all your work done and manage your study load, you’ll pull late nights and it may be stressful. Some sympathy and encouragement would go a long way!

Keep in mind:

  • You may also have questions about the law, the interpretation of the law, or the exam itself. Ensure you have someone who knows the SQE inside-out who can help. BARBRI SQE1 Prep students can submit any number of legal queries through our system and one of our legal tutors will answer them swiftly.
  • The BARBRI SQE1 course is entirely self-paced (using the PSP), but you can book unlimited one-to-one sessions with a learning coach, who is a qualified solicitor and will mentor and assist you with tips on how to study, which areas to focus on, and generally being your number one cheerleader.
  • If you haven’t yet lined up Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) or a permanent position with the promise of promotion later, you’ll want some career support to help you update your CV, practise for interviews and attend networking events. We have a dedicated Careers & Employability support team and the CareerHub, where you can do an AI-scanning CV assessment, improve your interview skills, and get tons of legal careers resources and campaigns to help you get your foot in the door (or a bigger door, if you will.)
  • You may want to get extra support for your mental health if needed during this time. BARBRI has dedicated mental health first aiders – any student can contact us when you’re feeling overwhelmed or otherwise mentally unwell, and our first aiders will point you to help and resources.
  • It’s been found time and again that active learning achieves better results than passive learning. On an SQE preparation course, students have the opportunity to engage with the content, rather than trying to self-teach by reading in an isolated environment.
  • The SQE2 course is very practical and hands-on. Even though it’s entirely conducted online, you’ll get personalised feedback on every SQE2 skill from a BARBRI tutor. Here too, you will have the opportunity to join workshops and strategy sessions, and you can meet your mentors during our Office Hours sessions.
  • For the SQE2 exam, we also offer a standalone product called SQE2 Mock Exams, which is available a month before the exam to those who aren’t studying with BARBRI. It includes 4 mock written assessments and 2 live assessments, and we’ll give you an indication of whether you would’ve passed.


Studying in a vacuum is a lonely exercise and makes it really hard to know whether you’re on the right track. You’ll want to have a study buddy or join a workshop or two along the way to meet other SQE students.

  • The BARBRI learning coaches host livestream workshops to help you prepare for the exam, and here you can connect with fellow students.
  • You’ll also be added to voluntary Whatsapp study groups where you can encourage each other and chat.
  • Your PSP dashboard will not only show you your own progress, but also how you track against the other candidates in your course.

Continued professional development

Once you’ve qualified as a solicitor, you may be interested in further skills development. BARBRI offers various skills courses, from our BARBRI Negotiation Skills Course in association with the IBA to our Litigation Programme and beyond. As an alumni, you will receive discount on our skills courses, and you’ll be invited to networking events and given a platform to speak and be profiled.

Your unique circumstances

However, your individual circumstances could help you determine for sure whether you should enrol on an SQE prep course:

Law graduates

If you hold a law degree, it may be that your degree contained everything that’s assessed in the SQE1. But some universities offer law degrees that don’t include SQE1 training, so you should double-check which topics you covered. If you weren’t taught all of the topics covered by the SQE, then you can top up your learning either by enrolling on a prep course or through self-study.

Interestingly, we see similar-ish pass rates among those with and without a law degree, suggesting that even for law graduates it’s not a walk in the park. Also remember that the MCQ format is completely different to what you were used to at university and without sufficient practice, you may trip up. And for the SQE2, unless you’ve undertaken a training contract or another type of work experience in a legal environment, you might also find that a prep course helps you pass the practical element of the exam. 

If you’re a recent law grad keen to get qualified as soon as possible and concerned that a prep course would take too long, we offer the SQE1 Prep Accelerated 10-week course to help you ensure you’ve covered all the topics and you understand the FLK MCQ format. We can also help you with career advice to help you get your required Qualified Work Experience.

Non-law graduate

Having a law degree isn’t a requirement for qualifying as a solicitor of England and Wales, but you still need to learn all the topics that are assessed in the SQE to pass. While it is possible to self-study by reading or practising area summaries, if you’ve never studied law before, you should definitely consider taking a preparation course. It’s the most effective way to familiarise yourself with all the legal terminology and gain a general law background. It will also help you to decide whether a legal career is really the right option for you. 

For non-law graduates, we suggest the SQE1 Prep 40-week course, which will give you extra time to get through and understand all the material. We also have an optional online 6-week Foundations in Law course that will explain the basics of common law, terminology you’ll come across and some skills like legal research.

GDL graduate

If you’ve converted your non-law degree to a law degree by taking the GDL, you will have more legal knowledge than a non-law graduate. But perhaps you haven’t yet secured a training contract and you’re now considering switching to the SQE. Bear in mind the GDL does not contain enough topic information to prepare you for the SQE1 exam so you’ll need to factor in a good amount of time to prepare. And an SQE2 preparation course will also be useful in providing you with the practical experience needed to understand and apply concepts in the realistic scenarios that you’re tested on in the SQE.

Legal professional

If you have a legal background that goes beyond studying – for example, you’re a foreign-qualified lawyer, or a paralegal with years of work experience, or a barrister looking for a career change – you may be exempt from one of the exams. You’ll probably have a lot of deep knowledge about certain areas of the law, but the SQE tests broadly so a prep course may help you ensure you cover it all and that your studies are as efficient as can be in-between your career demands.

Should I self-study for the SQE?

We know of students who have self-studied successfully, but we also understand it’s not for everyone. Unless you are extremely self-motivated and able to learn without feedback or support, or you already have extensive knowledge of the law, it’s a good idea to enrol on a course to prepare you for the SQE so you’re fully familiar with all the topics that might come up in the exams. It’s not just about passing the exams, though: The SQE has been designed to ensure that you qualify as a competent professional solicitor, and a preparation course will greatly assist you in this goal. 

The SQE is a big and exciting next step in your preparation to become a solicitor. Whether you choose to go it alone, or with our SQE prep courses, BARBRI will be here for you throughout your career.

Three self-study tips

If you’ve considered all of the above and you still decide that self-studying is right for you, here are some tips to help you get the most from your studies:

Tip one: Decide what and how to study

It may sound obvious but before you do anything else, you should look at the assessment specification on the SRA’s website.

Then, you should determine how to study based on what kind of learner you are. Whether you’re a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learner, you can adapt your study methods to suit, choosing to use flashcards, videos or any other resources that are available online.

Tip two: Manage your time effectively

Drawing up a study plan is the best way to ensure you’re managing your time effectively.

First, work out how long you have until the date of your assessment and then map out your study plan, taking into account the areas of the law you need to focus on more.

The areas of law that usually require the most amount of time are business law and criminal litigation, with dispute resolution and property practice and wills or probate law taking the least amount of time.

If you don’t have a legal background, you’ll need to spend the first part of your revision timetable reading books, watching lectures and taking revision notes. If you do have a legal background, you should use this time to review everything you’ve learnt so far.

The two months before the exam should be an intensive period of study, where you immerse yourself as fully as possible in your revision, taking time off work and other commitments, if possible.

Tip three: Do as many mock exams as possible

It’s a good idea to start answering sample questions as soon as possible. This is so you can get a sense of how difficult the exam is and work out where your weak spots are.

You should also make sure you do a complete practice paper at least once, so you have an idea of time constraints.

Remember that if you’ve tried self-studying and it isn’t working out, you can always change your mind and enrol on an SQE prep course to boost your knowledge.

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