Assessment Specification for SQE Stage 1 pilot

Overview of the SQE Stage 1 pilot

Structure of the pilot assessment

The Stage 1 pilot assessment will consist of Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK) assessments and a practical legal skills assessment.

Stage 1

The FLK assessments will cover three domains, each comprising the following subject areas:
  • Business law and Practice, Dispute Resolution, Contract, Tort.
  • Property Practice, Wills and the Administration of Estates and Trusts, Solicitors' Accounts, Land Law.
  • Public and Administrative Law, and The Legal System of England and Wales, Criminal law and Practice.

Questions may draw on any combination of the topics within each of the above domains, which might be encountered in practice.

Ethics and Professional Conduct will be examined pervasively across all three domains above.

Principles of taxation will be examined only in the context of:

  • Business law and Practice, Dispute Resolution.
  • Property law and practice, Wills and the Administration of Estates and Trusts, Solicitors' Accounts.
The Legal Skills Assessment will cover the following:
  • Legal Research
  • Writing.

The subject areas for the FLK Assessments are grouped within each of the three assessment domains. For each subject area, Assessment Objectives are set out, followed by the knowledge of law and practice (taken from Annex 2 of the June 2017 SQE Draft Assessment Specification) which candidates are expected to apply in order to answer questions in the assessments.

Annex 4 provides an overview of how the Stage 1 pilot is mapped against the Statement of Solicitor Competence (SoSC) (Annex 1).

Annex 6 contains an extract from pages 5 and 6 of the June 2017 SQE Draft Assessment Specification, referring to how the approach to Stage 1 of the SQE draws upon Miller's pyramid.

This Assessment Specification is for the Stage 1 pilot. The final version of the Assessment Specification for Stage 1 of the SQE may contain changes and will be subject to stakeholder views.

Assessment format

Over the Stage 1 pilot examination period of two and a half days, candidates will complete:

  • for the FLK Assessments, three multiple choice tests (MCTs) of 120 questions each, corresponding to the three assessment domains, completed over a period of two days
  • for the Legal Skills Assessment, two practical legal skills assessments, each containing a legal research and two writing exercises, completed over a period of half a day.

For the MCTs, candidates should answer all 360 multiple choice questions (MCQs). On each day, the questions will be divided into three sections of 60 questions each. Each of these three sections will cover one of the assessment domains, so candidates will answer 60 questions from each assessment domain on each day. Candidates have 110 minutes for each section.

For the MCQs, each question is followed by five possible answers. Candidates should choose the best answer from the five stated alternatives. Candidates should mark only one answer for each question; multiple answers will be scored as incorrect. Marks are not subtracted for incorrect answers.

The Legal Skills Assessment will consist of a legal research exercise and two writing exercises, and candidates will be asked to complete this cycle twice, answering all questions.

The legal research exercise will require the candidate to investigate a problem for a client. Candidates will be given an email from a partner which asks the candidate to research an issue or issues, so that the partner can report back to the client. Candidates will have to write to the partner explaining their legal reasoning and the key sources they rely on, but they will not need to produce a research trail.

Candidates will be provided with the sources for the legal research exercise: these may include both primary and secondary sources. Some of the sources provided may not be relevant. Candidates have 60 minutes for the legal research exercise.

For the writing element of the assessment - which is a separate exercise and not on the topics that candidates are asked to research - candidates will be asked to write a letter or an email as a trainee acting in a matter. Candidates have 30 minutes for each writing exercise.

There are no permitted materials for the Stage 1 pilot. Candidates will not therefore be able to bring their own materials, such as books or notes, into the assessment.

Functioning Legal Knowledge

The depth and breadth of knowledge of the law of England and Wales required of candidates is that of Functioning Legal Knowledge. This means that candidates must apply their knowledge of the law to demonstrate the competences required to the level of a newly-qualified solicitor of England and Wales.

The core legal principles and rules a candidate will be asked to apply are identified by subject area below. A candidate should be able to apply these fundamental legal principles and rules appropriately and effectively to realistic client-based and ethical problems and situations which might be encountered by a newly-qualified solicitor in practice. The Stage 1 assessments are closed book. The questions in the FLK Assessments are designed to test the application of fundamental legal principles which can be expected of a newly-qualified solicitor without reference to books and notes. They are not designed to test matters of detail which a newly-qualified solicitor would be expected to look up.

Candidates will be tested on the law as it stands at the date of the assessment. They will not be assessed on the development of the law.

The relationship between the SoSC and the legal principles and rules which candidates must know and apply is indicated at Annex 2. In the FLK Assessments, candidates will be tested at level 3 of the Threshold Standard - ie that of the newly-qualified solicitor - as set out in Annex 5. For the practical Legal Skills Assessment, candidates will be tested on whether they have a threshold skill level to enable them to work effectively in professional legal services in an unqualified capacity.

Legal authorities

Candidates are not required to recall specific case names, or cite statutory or regulatory authorities, save where reference to such authorities is in very common use in practice (e.g. Rylands v Fletcher, CPR Part 36, Section 25 notice).

Subject matter

The FLK Assessments of the Stage 1 pilot will sample from the content indicated in this Assessment Specification. A blueprint is provided at Annex 3.

Ethics and professional conduct

As set out in SoSC (A1), candidates are required to demonstrate their ability to act honestly and with integrity, and in accordance with:

  • The purpose, scope and content of the SRA Principles.
  • The purpose, scope and content of the SRA Code of Conduct.

Ethics and professional conduct will be examined pervasively across all subject areas.

Stage 1: Functioning Legal Knowledge assessments

Assessment Objectives: Business Law and Practice, Dispute Resolution, Contract, Tort

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Assessment Objectives: Property, Wills, Solicitors' Accounts, Land

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Assessment Objectives: Public and Administrative, Legal System, Criminal

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Stage1: Legal Skills Assessment

Assessment Objectives

Candidates are required to:

  1. Carry out research into a legal issue and provide advice for the client on that issue:
    1. using appropriate resources
    2. interpreting, evaluating and applying the research results
    3. providing appropriate advice for the client.
  2. Produce a letter or an email providing correct and appropriate advice for a client:
    1. communicating clearly and effectively
    2. establishing a professional relationship with the client
    3. responding appropriately to the client's concerns.


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