SQE Update – January 2020

This bulletin covers our recent SQE Conference, SQE1 sample questions and how you can get involved in our January events and webinars.

Reflections on our recent SQE Conference

Our December 2019 annual SQE Conference was attended by more than 80 people. You can read our Director of Education and Training, Julie Brannan's reflections on the conference, as well as how to access all the materials from the day, including video streams and presentations.

SQE1 sample questions published

We have published 90 Functioning Legal Knowledge single best answer multiple choice questions from the SQE assessment pilots, to help both education providers and candidates prepare for the assessment and plan their training. The questions also offer employers and people within the legal sector insight into the level and breadth of what we will be asking. Learn more

We will be discussing these sample questions and answering pre-submitted queries during our live video stream on 15 January at 12.30. Watch it on YouTube

SQE2 pilot now complete

The SQE2 pilot took place in mid-December. The pilot involved five days of testing with 190 candidates sitting at least part of the assessment and 167 sitting the full assessment. We will be publishing the findings in the summer. Before then we will be engaging with organisations and firms on some of the key topics the testing raises. 

Look out for opportunities to get involved in future SQE Updates. More on the pilot and what it tested

Assessing skills – what's next?

In early 2019 we ran our SQE1 pilot. It showed the assessment worked well for testing Functioning Legal Knowledge but raised questions around the approach to assessing skills at this stage in a candidate's journey. Since then we have spoken to employers, as well as other organisations and representative groups, about whether skills should be assessed in both SQE1 and SQE2, or just in SQE2.

We had some good discussions around the options at our recent SQE conference. Slides from this event are available on our website

You can also sign up for our upcoming webinar, which will explore these options for testing skills and give you the chance to offer your views afterwards. Book your place

Get involved: events coming up

SQE1 Assessment Specification and sample questions webinar

  • When: 12.30 on 15 January
  • What: hear about the final SQE1 assessment specification and the sample questions, including what they show about the content and format of SQE1.
  • Who: everyone
  • Watch it on YouTube

Assessing skills under the new SQE webinar

  • When: 12.30 on 22 January
  • What: hear about the options for testing skills in SQE1 and 2, with the opportunity to share your views afterwards.
  • Who: everyone but in particular those who employ trainees
  • Sign up now

Assessing skills under the new SQE event, Swansea

  • When: 14.45—16.15 on 22 January at The Village Hotel, Swansea
  • What: offering an update on the SQE, with the opportunity to share your views on the options for assessing skills in SQE1 and 2
  • Who: law firms and in-house legal teams
  • Book your place

Reflections on our recent SQE Conference

We ran our third annual SQE Conference at the University of Manchester at the end of December. A big thank you to them for their hospitality.

It was great to have so many attendees – more than 80 – who were mainly from universities and training providers. The event was an opportunity for us to update people on our progress and explain in more detail how the SQE will work. Crucially it also allowed us to better understand people’s views and get feedback on our work so far.

For instance, it was good to hear universities with law clinics being positive about the opportunities our more flexible approach on qualifying work experience (QWE) brings. We also heard that they would like more guidance on how QWE will work in practice. We are developing resources for publication in the spring, so it was very helpful to get their insight into what will be useful to include. More input will help us get these resources right, so if you have further suggestions, let us know.

I particularly enjoyed the session looking at six organisations’ different approaches to SQE training, with further insight from the audience. Diversity is a good thing - we want to see a market develop where aspiring solicitors have a real choice about what route they take to qualification, including more affordable options.

We all heard about a real range of provision – from SQE training within degree programmes, to the development of textbooks and online resources, and training which integrates classroom and on-the-job learning. We also heard about the march of legal tech – with AI being used to tailor training to the needs of individual students.

There was a useful session on the process of developing an SQE1 question, which showed how questions will be refined through multiple stages, with solicitors involved throughout.

The diversity breakout groups showed us that we need to do more to inform candidates and other stakeholders how reasonable adjustments will be made for SQE candidates. We will publish the SQE reasonable adjustments policy in good time before the assessment is introduced.

In the meantime the following is a non-exhaustive list of the kind of adjustments that Kaplan has provided or allowed in the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme assessments:

  • additional time
  • enlarged/coloured assessments
  • special seating/lighting
  • rest breaks
  • a personal assistant
  • an amanuensis
  • a reader
  • modification of assessments
  • separate room and invigilation
  • use of specialist equipment
  • rescheduling of assessments.

There was lots of other food for thought and I would like to thank everyone who attended for their contributions. If you want to catch up on what we covered, we have made the key materials available, including video streams and presentations.

Other ways to get involved

Join our LinkedIn reference group. It will help you keep up to date with the latest SQE developments and opportunities to get involved in our surveys and events.

If you are thinking about taking the SQE, or know someone who is, please follow Career in Law for the latest information aimed at aspiring solicitors.

If you have any questions, or want more information on how you can get involved, contact us.


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