The transition period when SQE exams will be phased in will begin in autumn 2021, although, with the disruption caused by Covid-19, accommodations are expected to be made by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for those who have already begun law degrees.
You’ll be able to take the SQE1 exam once you’ve completed your undergraduate degree - this can be either Qualifying Law Degree or any other level 6 qualification, as the route into the legal profession will now be standardised across the board. Unlike the previous system, there will be no conversion course necessary, and you’ll be able to go straight to the SQE1 on graduation.
The SQE1 assessments will have to be passed in order to move on to SQE2, although you can do these before, during or after your two years of qualifying work experience. That said, generally speaking the SQE1 will be completed in the interval between your degree and the start of the work experience, whilst the SQE2 is taken nearer the end of your placement. As the SQE is primarily made up of technical knowledge that law students will have covered in various subjects throughout their degree - whether that’s on the LLB or on another QLD,
If you’re coming from a non-law academic background, the best option would be to take an extended preparatory course, for instance The University of Law’s, in order to acquire the foundational legal knowledge needed to pass the SQE1. If you already have a training contract lined up, your employer might have already set out a specific training course for you to prepare the exams.
At what point in the year can I sit the exams?
Ultimately, although arrangements are subject to change as a result of the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it seems that you will have a range of slots throughout the year to undertake SQE1. The SRA has planned for there to be four different exam periods throughout the 2020-21 academic year - November, April, May and October, with bookings for each period closing two months before.
For SQE1, you’ll need to enter the November and May sessions. The assessment will be made up of ten hours’ worth of exams, consisting of two multiple-choice tests of 180 questions each.
Can I sit the exams more than once?
You should bear in mind that you’ll also only be allowed three attempts at the exams, and once you’ve completed them you’ll have to finish SQE2 within six years.