The SQE and What It Means for You

By Victoria Cromwell, Head of QLTS Prep by BARBRI

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has released further details regarding the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). The transition to the SQE will mark the end of the Qualified Lawyer Transfer Scheme, or QLTS, the current route to admittance as a solicitor in England and Wales for foreign qualified lawyers.

What is the SQE?

The SQE introduces national examinations that all prospective solicitors, whether U.K. university graduates or foreign qualified lawyers, will need to pass to qualify in England and Wales from 2021 onwards.

The SQE will be taken in two stages: SQE 1 will focus on legal knowledge and procedure and SQE 2 will focus on practical legal skills.

When is the SQE going to happen and what does it mean for the QLTS?

The SRA has confirmed that the SQE exam will be introduced in Autumn 2021, a year later than originally planned.

After the introduction of the SQE, the QLTS will no longer be available as a route to qualification as a solicitor in England and Wales for foreign qualified lawyers. The first stage of the QLTS, the multiple-choice test (MCT), will be available to sit in July 2021 for the last time. The SRA has confirmed that for those who have passed the MCT prior to the introduction of the SQE, there will be a year transition period during which the second stage of the QLTS exam, the Objective Structured Clinical Examination, or OSCE, will need to be passed.

As a qualified lawyer, does it matter whether I take the QLTS or SQE?

In a previous blog post, we set out a number of reasons why it would make sense to sit the QLTS exam while it is still available.

The SRA has now also confirmed that the first stage of the SQE will consist of 360 multiple-choice test questions, compared to the 180 questions QLTS candidates are currently required to answer. Additionally, the provisional fee range for the SQE exam has been confirmed as between £3,000 and £4,500 for the two stages of the assessment. The QLTS exam currently costs £3,490.

If the SQE assessments come out at the top end of the SRA’s estimate, which is our prediction given the extra complexity of the exam, this will be significantly higher than the current QLTS exam fees. This alone is a good reason to start the process now if you want to qualify as an English solicitor.

How BARBRI can help

BARBRI offers prep courses for the QLTS that are designed to be part-time and flexible, to enable you to study around your other professional commitments. Our 50+ years of success in helping more than 1.3 million people become licensed lawyers and attorneys is reflected in our QLTS student pass rate. In July 2018, 83% of our students reported passing the first time with QLTS Prep by BARBRI compared to the 50% overall pass rate.

We are currently enrolling students for our prep course for the July 2019 exam. Find out more or enrol here.