The Legal Practice Course (LPC) is being phased out, which means that from 1st September 2021, any new aspiring solicitors must take the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) to test their legal knowledge.
If you’ve completed a non-law degree and you decided you wanted to become a solicitor in England and Wales after this date, you’ll need to start thinking about whether you want to enrol on an SQE course.
If so, you should be prepared for the fact that the syllabus is comprehensive, covering English law in almost its entirety. The content of the course is similar to that of a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree and the LPC – both of which take several years to complete, while the SQE can be done in as few as nine months.
Because there’s so much to learn in a relatively short space of time, we’ve put together a list of SQE study tips to help you get through.
What are the best Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) study tips?
Some of the best tips for studying for the SQE include taking an SQE preparation course, drawing up a study timetable, joining study sessions with other students and ensuring you have a quiet place to learn where you won’t be distracted.
When it comes to exam time, it’s essential that your revision notes are clear and concise and it’s a good idea to do mock tests, so you’re confident answering the multiple-choice questions that are most likely to come up in the exams.
Continue reading for more details on the tips above and to find out how you’ll be tested in the SQE1 and SQE2 exams.
Top SQE study tips
Take an SQE preparation course
If your degree is in a subject other than law, it’s highly recommended that you take an SQE preparation course to bring you up to speed, although law graduates may wish to do one too.
BARBRI offer SQE Preparation courses twice a year in the run-up to the examinations. Candidates can choose between the 10-week full-time SQE1 Prep course or two part-time courses which can be done over 20 or 40 weeks. The SQE2 Prep is a 12-week part-time course.
Be prepared to work up to 20 hours a week
The SQE is an intensive course that can be completed in less than a year, so you need to be dedicated to your studies and prepared to work hard.
It’s important to prepare for the SQE assessments thoroughly, which means studying is a serious time commitment.
How long you should spend studying for the exams depends on your circumstances and whether you have any prior legal knowledge. However, as a guide, it’s recommended that you devote 15 to 20 hours per week for five to six months to the SQE1, and 15 to 20 hours per week for three to four months to the SQE2.
Remember that this is just a guide, though, as you could choose to extend your studies over a longer time period.
Draw up a study timetable
Each student is different according to their background and circumstances, which means there’s no universal study plan that each individual should stick to.
When drawing up your own personal study timetable, you should be realistic about how long you can and should commit to preparing for the SQE assessments. Some of the things you might want to consider include:
- How long you have to study before the exams
- How much time you can commit to studying each week
- Whether you have any extra time off work or other commitments for studying in the lead up to the exams
- Whether you have any previous experience in law
- How good your English is (for foreign students)
Organise study sessions
By getting together with other SQE students, you can motivate each other and identify and rectify any gaps in your knowledge.
Find a quiet place to study
It’s no good setting aside time to study if you can’t concentrate on what you’re supposed to be learning. Whether it’s the library, a friend’s house or your own home, wherever you decide to work, make sure there are no distractions and that you won’t be interrupted.
Write out everything you’ve learned again
Repetition is one of the best ways to make sure something sticks in your head. So as the exams get closer, it’s a good idea to re-read everything you’ve learned and write it out again in a more concise way.
While doing this, it’s important to make sure you fully understand everything you’re reading and that you’re not just mindlessly copying out text.
Take effective revision notes
Once you’re sure you’ve fully grasped the subject matter, you can condense your notes down into a quick-and-easy-to-read format.
Flash cards, colour-coding, highlighting, bullet points and acronyms are some of the best ways to make notes that jog your memory and ensure past cases and facts stay in your brain.
Another effective way of summarising large chunks of information is to use the Cornell note-taking system. Instead of writing across the whole width of the page, you divide it into three sections, with the key prompts in a column on the left, a wider column with the main notes next to it and a summary at the bottom. As well as helping your notes to be more succinct and well-structured, this system is ideal for when you want to refer to a particular topic or case quickly, as the summaries at the bottom enable you to identify the subject matter at a glance.
Do mock tests
The SQE1 tests your Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK) by asking you to answer a series of multiple-choice questions – which is a specific skill that requires practice and expertise.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to do as many mock exams and practice questions as you can. This will also give you a good indication of which subjects are likely to crop up in the exams.
BARBRI’s SQE Preparation course gives you the chance to practice thousands of multiple-choice questions to make sure that you are fully prepared for the exam and know what to expect.
Take care of yourself
The pressure of exams can get to anyone, but it’s important to remember to be kind to yourself.
Unless you have a photographic memory, it’s unlikely you’ll remember everything straight away, so have patience and set realistic study goals. Similarly, recognise when it’s time to call it a day. After a while, your brain will be unable to take in any more information and it’s natural for your concentration levels to drop after hours of studying. So, give yourself permission to take a break when you need to.
Most importantly, you should get plenty of rest the night before the assessments and remember to eat properly during exam time.
What’s covered in the SQE1?
The SQE1 comprises two multiple-choice tests of 180 questions each: The FLK1 and the FLK2. They’re both closed-book and each one lasts for five hours and six minutes.
For each question, you’ll be asked to choose between five possible answers – one of which will be the best response, while the others will be partially correct, incorrect or won’t reflect a correct application of the law.
These tests are designed to test how you would address certain legal issues as a newly-qualified solicitor and you’ll be expected to demonstrate your integrity and honesty in accordance with the SRA code of conduct.
The FLK1 tests you on:
- Business law and practice
- The legal system of England and Wales
- Dispute resolution
- Contract law
- Tort law
- Constitutional and administrative law, and EU law
- Legal services
The FLK2 tests you on:
- Wills and the administration of estates
- Property practice
- Land law
- Solicitors’ accounts
- Criminal law
- Practice law
You must pass the SQE1 before you can go on to take the SQE2. You don’t have to do the SQE2 straight away, but it’s wise not to leave it too long between the two.
What’s covered in the SQE2?
The SQE2 comprises two parts: Oral and written. The oral part is made up of four assessments, which take place over two half-days, and 12 written assessments, which take place over three half days.
You’ll complete the written parts of the assessment on a computer and the oral part will assess your practical skills via role-play, covering court-based scenarios, solicitor-client interactions and file reviews.
You’ll be tested on your ethics and professional conduct, and you’ll be required to demonstrate that you can apply fundamental legal principles in a way that addresses a client’s needs and concerns, rather than your ability to memorise legal knowledge.
The SQE2 oral legal skills test covers:
- Client interviews and attendance note
The SQE2 written legal skills test covers:
- Case and matter analysis
- Legal research and written advice
- Legal drafting
- Legal writing
The practice contexts are:
- Criminal litigation
- Property practice
- Dispute resolution
- Business organisations, rules and procedures
- Wills and intestacy, probate administration and practice
The SQE is an intensive law exam, which is being phased in to replace the LPC. It’s designed to give aspiring solicitors a strong academic background in law, covering much of the content that’s taught on an LLB or the LPC.
However, instead of taking years to complete, you can do it in nine to 12 months. This means you must take in a great deal of information in a relatively short space of time. But there are some study tips that can help you with this.
You should be aware of how much work is involved in taking the SQE exams and, especially, that SQE preparation courses are very helpful – especially if your degree is in a subject other than law.
It’s a good idea to draw up a timetable, so you can allocate manageable blocks of time to your studies, taking into account other commitments you might have, such as work.
Getting together with other SQE students can help you to identify and rectify any gaps in your knowledge, but make sure you always study in a quiet place, with no distractions.
In the run-up to exam time, revision can be made easier by re-reading everything you’ve learned and condensing all the information down into an easy-to-read format, using flashcards, highlighters, bullet points and acronyms.
Doing mock tests can help you hone the skills you need to answer multiple-choice questions, and give you a good indication of the topics that are most likely to come up in the exams.
When studying for the SQE, one of the most important things is to look after yourself by remembering to eat properly, taking breaks when you need to and setting realistic goals.