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LCN Says

How I aced my SQE1 exams

updated on 15 February 2022

Reading time: four minutes

The Solicitors Qualifying Exams (SQE) have taken the legal world by storm, from their introduction in September 2021 to the first SQE1 sitting in November 2021 and the subsequent release of results on 20 January 2022.

I was part of the first cohort of candidates to sit the SQE1 exams. As a final year solicitor apprentice, I have written this LCN Says to share my experience and advice, with the hope it will help anyone considering this new route to qualification.

For aspiring solicitor apprentices, read this LCN Says on legal apprenticeship’s do’s and don’ts.

What is the SQE?

The SQE is the new route to qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales, comprised of a centralised set of exams, introduced to create a standardised exam leading to a more accessible and diverse legal profession.

The SQE will eventually replace the Legal Practice Course (LPC) as the only route to qualification as a solicitor, with a transitional period until 31 December 2032.

To learn more about the SQE, read this LCN Feature: ‘The Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE): everything we know so far’.

How does it work?

The SQE is split into two exams, SQE1 and SQE2:

  • SQE1 tests the candidates Functioning Legal Knowledge through two exams, each containing 180 single best answer multiple-choice questions, covering 14 legal subject areas.
  • SQE2 tests the candidates written and oral legal skills through 16 individual assessments over five days, covering legal writing, drafting and research, case and matter analysis, interviewing/attendance notes and advocacy.

Both exams require the candidate to use the legal knowledge gained in SQE1 and apply this to the practical assessments.

Find out more about The University of Law's SQE preparation courses!

My experience

As a final year solicitor apprentice, I was part of the very first cohort of students to take the SQE1 exams in November 2021.

Preparing for these intense exams while working, and with little knowledge of what to expect, was no easy task!

As part of my apprenticeship, I took a prep course with BARBRI, in conjunction with City, University of London to prepare me for these exams. It was a 40 weeks long, online prep course and consisted of reading, lectures, mock questions and exams and consolidation tasks. It was super intense, but in my opinion, vital for my success in the exams.

Although I already have a law degree, the SQE exams required a shift in mindset. This is because single best answer multiple-choice questions are not the type of exam that a law degree prepares you for.

Therefore, my approach to revision was practice, practice, practice.

As law students, we are conditioned to answer either problem or essay questions, where we can provide reasoning, explanations and justification for our answers, however with the SQE exams, you are either right or wrong. You either pass or fail. This is pretty terrifying!

The exams themselves were tough, as expected. They were super long (five hours each), and there were many rules surrounding how you sat the exam and the identification process.

For the most comprehensive and up-to-date list of legal apprenticeship opportunities across the UK, check LCN’s list of current vacancies.

The most challenging part for me was trying to keep all the different areas of law at the front of my mind, as we are used to taking one exam in one area of law, and so on. This is where mixing up your revision between subjects is super helpful.

The shift in mindset worked as I passed the SQE1 exams! Now onto prep for SQE2 in April, but not before I leave you with my most important top tips for success in SQE1.

For more information on the SQE, head over to our SQE hub.

Seven tips for SQE1 success

Preparation courses

If you are considering an SQE preparation course, look very carefully into different providers before deciding. Factors to consider are price, length, study materials and support.

Read this LCN Feature: ‘A guide to SQE preparation courses’ to compare the SQE preparation courses by key criteria including fees, learning styles and locations.

Strike a balance

If you are working while preparing for the SQE, allocate a set amount of time each day to study, whenever works for you, and commit to it. Don’t fall behind!

To find out more about maintaining a work/life balance, read this LCN Blog: ‘Simple ways to improve your work/life balance’.

Practice makes perfect

The most important tip. The SQE is very different to a law degree and the examination method of the LPC. Get used to the exam format through practice.

Go with your gut instinct

Your first gut answer is usually the correct one so trust yourself.

To find out how to work on your self-confidence, read this LCN Blog: ‘Self-confidence – a key skill’.

Timing is everything

It’s important to time yourself. Although I didn’t struggle with the allocated time because I had practised doing tests in exam conditions. This goes to show the importance of being conscious of the time during exams. Try to do some papers in timed exam conditions so that there will be less surprises in the actual exam.

Read this LCN Says by QLTS School on ‘How to successfully prepare for the SQE assessments’.

Create revision materials

Condensed notes and flashcards were most effective for me, as the questions often focus on a specific point of law and tiny details.

If you’d prefer digital revision materials, read this LCN Blog for some recommendations: ‘My favourite apps for revision and studying’.

Don’t aim for perfection

This one can be difficult, as aspiring lawyers want to aim for the top mark! However, it is highly unlikely that you will get every answer correct (the pass mark for the first sitting was 56/57%), so don’t get caught up on perfection!

Good luck!

Read LCN’s Law Apprenticeships Guide 2022 to find out more about law apprenticeships and identify whether this is the right route for you!

LawCareers.Net's News section will be regularly updated over the coming months to offer you the most recent information.

Holly Moore (she/her) is an in-house solicitor apprentice at ITV. You can follow her on Instagram: @thatlawblog or connect with her via LinkedIn.