From September 2021, the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is replacing the old method of law examinations. This change was made after the Legal Services Board (LSB) approved the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) application. It means the introduction of a centralised exam that tests functioning legal knowledge (FLK) of graduates with a qualifying law degree and candidates with non-law degrees or equivalent.
As an aspiring solicitor you will be required to complete the SQE, in addition to completing other qualifying aspects, such as two years of work experience at a legal services provider. You will also need to pass a set of character and suitability requirements, such as showing that you have no criminal record.
Whilst this new course provides some flexibility in terms of preparation time for the individual exams and distribution of examination fees, the SQE requires a serious financial commitment from each student on top of the educational demands of the qualification. The cost of the SQE must be paid upfront, which is why you need to be aware of the overall exam fee before deciding to pursue this route.
In this guide, we’ll talk you through the cost of the SQE as a whole, as well as a breakdown of the payment requirements for the separate exams and any additional fees that may occur due to unforeseen circumstances.
What does the SQE cost?
The cost of the SQE comes to a total fee of £3,980 per student, which is a combined cost of £1,558 for the first assessment (SQE1) and £2,422 for the second assessment (SQE2). Altogether, candidates must pay £3,980 to partake in the SQE for the first time. This is a set fee for all applicants, except those who are exempt from either one or the other of the exams. It differs from the old assessment process of the LPC (Legal Practice Course) as prices for this examination vary depending on the candidate’s place of study.
Applicants must book the two modules of the first SQE assessment (SQE1) separately but are required to pay the combined amount at the time of booking. The second SQE assessment (SQE2) is booked independently from SQE1. ,
Continue reading to find out more information about what is included in the cost of the SQE, as well as cancellation fees and resit costs.
What will the SQE involve?
The SQE is an assessment process that tests the functioning legal knowledge of aspiring solicitors from any background, whether law graduates or non-law graduates. This means that all future solicitors, no matter their background, have to pass the same examination process before they are able to qualify.
The examination is divided into two sections – SQE1 and SQE2. All candidates must successfully complete both aspects of the examination in order to pass the SQE. The first assessment will take place over two days, whilst the second takes five days to complete.
Below is a brief summary of what you can expect in the two SQE assessments.
SQE1 is a computer-based exam that involves two papers with 180 multi-choice questions. They are closed-book assessments and must be taken in the same assessment window unless the candidate is exempt for a valid reason, such as already being a qualified lawyer.
Both assessments – FLK1 and FLK2 – are broken down into two groups of subjects to test the student’s functioning legal knowledge. Questions within the examinations may also use combinations of any of the topics to provide comparable scenarios that you may find in actual legal practice.
FLK 1 includes topics such as:
- Business Law and Practice
- Dispute Resolution
FLK 2 includes topics such as:
- Criminal Law and Practice
- Property Practice
- Wills and Estate Administration
Ethics and Professional Conduct is assessed across both exams and could appear in any of the tested subjects. Taxation is examined in both exams in the subjects of Business, Property, and Wills and Estate Administration.
This second part of the SQE is a practical legal skills test and is divided into two parts – oral and written assessments. Candidates must complete 12 oral and four written assessments to prove their practical legal knowledge. It features topic areas such as legal research, client interviewing, and legal writing assessments.
Unlike the SQE1, this section of the SQE is not separated into two pass marks. Instead, candidates will receive just one mark for the entire SQE2 exam.
From April 2022, elements of the SQE2 will be available in Welsh, although this will only happen at the Cardiff examination venue. The entirety of the SQE will be available in Welsh from September 2024 onwards.
SQE payment methods
Candidates must pay for SQE1 and pass it before booking and paying for SQE2 You can pay for both exams via credit or debit card. Alternatively, your employer or training provider might provide you with a voucher to pay for the examinations.
The SRA requires that the SQE fee be paid in full at the time of booking. Here at BARBRI, we offer flexible payment plans for the courses and student loan options that can help you pay for the cost of the SQE and the training programmes that you undertake in preparation for the exam.
Are there SQE cancellation fees?
It’s important that you are prepared to fully commit to the SQE as you may be faced with cancellation fees if you decide that you cannot sit the exams. The costs will vary, depending on when you withdraw your application for the SQE. You must give written notice that you want to cancel your place in the SQE so that the board can process your request and distribute any fees if necessary.
It’s advisable to cancel your SQE place as soon as possible to avoid any cancellation fees. If you cancel your SQE1 within 14 days of booking, you will receive the total refunded amount of £1,558. However, if you cancel either one of the SQE1 assessments after 14 days of booking (but before the booking window closes), you will be given a full refund, minus a £30 cancellation fee. This will apply to the cancellation of either the FLK1 or FLK2 assessments.
As with the SQE1, there are varying cancellation fees depending on when you make the cancellation. However, you cannot cancel a single assessment in the SQE2, only the entire exam. This means that the cancellation fees apply to all 16 oral and written exams.
You must pay a cancellation fee of £250 if you cancel the SQE2 before the booking window closes, but 14 days or longer after the date you booked the exam. The SRA will refund the remaining cost of the original SQE2 charge to you following the deduction. Cancelling the SQE2 after the booking deadline will provided that you had given notice of more than 14 days before the first assessment day was due to commence.
There is no cancellation fee if you give notice within 14 days of booking, and you will therefore be given a full refund. However, there are no refunds for candidates that cancel 14 days or fewer before the first day of the assessment.
How much does it cost to resit the SQE?
Candidates who do not pass either the SQE1 or SQE2 can attempt the exams up to three more times within a six-year period.
You may pass one half of SQE1 without passing the other. In that case, you only have to pay for the SQE1 exam you fail, because you will only have to resit the failed exam. It costs £779 to retake either FLK1 or FLK2. If you fail both FLK exams for SQE1, you will have to pay the full resit fee of £1,558.
If you fail SQE2, you will have to resit the entire exam, which will cost £2,422.
Whilst the prospect of taking the SQE can seem daunting, we can give you tailored help to prepare you for the examinations so that your chances of resitting the SQE are significantly reduced.
How much does it cost to appeal an SQE examination decision?
Although it is rare, there are some instances that a clerical check may result in an error during the collation or calculation of your exam. If you notice one, you can pay a one-off charge of £100 for an issue to be investigated. If an error is found, the full £100 that you initially paid will be refunded to you.
Appealing a decision made by the SQE Award Board is split into two stages, each with their own cost. The first stage costs £350 and the second costs £850. Each payment will be fully refunded to you if the appeal is upheld.
Due to the nature of the charges, you should only appeal an SQE examination decision if you believe you have a strong case. You will be issued with a refund if there a clerical error or mistake following the grading of your assessments by the SQE Award Board is found.
The SQE is split up into two sections – the SQE1 and the SQE2. Candidates are required to sit two multiple choice exam papers for SQE1, which costs £1,558 in total. SQE2 features both written and oral tasks that test the candidates’ legal skills and costs £2,422.
Although you can resit the exams up to three times if you don’t pass them, it will cost you £779 to retake either FLK1 or FLK2, or £1,558 to retake the entirety of SQE1. It costs a total of £2,422 to retake the full SQE2 assessment, and it is not possible to only resit a portion of the exam. You need to pass both SQE1 and SQE2 in order to complete the SQE successfully (unless you are exempt).
There are potential additional costs associated with taking the assessments, such as cancellation fees if you cannot make the set time and date of either assessment. However, you can avoid these fees by giving written confirmation that you want to cancel your SQE within 14 days of booking. After this point, the cancellation fee will increase until you reach a set point before the assessments are due to begin, after which you won’t receive any refund. For SQE1, this is with 48 hours of the exam, whilst it is within 14 days of the exam for SQE2.