The truth about the SQE: students reveal all on their exam journeys

The College of Legal Practice 200“No pain, no gain.”

At The College of Legal Practice. we’d love to tell you that the SQE assessments are simple. Straightforward. A breeze. But while students certainly find them absorbing and exciting, ultimately, they’re tough. Perhaps the toughest exams you’ll ever take. The bottom line is, they need to be.

After all, the SQE is the central assessment process that ensures new solicitors in England and Wales are qualified to a high standard—ready to support real clients and uphold the very legal system that our countries are built upon.

So, what does all this mean for you? Well, we think it’s important that you know the full extent of what you’re committing to before you begin. And there’s no better way to find out about an experience than hearing from the people who’ve been through it themselves.

That’s why we’ve asked some of our most recent students to tell us what they really thought about their SQE journey—warts and all. So, let’s dig in.


  1. The prep courses are time-intensive

“Be prepared – it’s much more intense than university and really tests your knowledge.” – La’Charn, student at The College of Legal Practice

According to many of our students, the prep courses are some of the toughest commitments that they’ve ever attempted. This is partly because of the large number of skills and knowledge that the courses require you to master, but also because of the nature of post-grad studying.

Lots of students opt to take a part-time course because they also have work or family duties that they must remain responsible for. This type of course enables them to continue working or caring alongside their study, but it also means they need to dedicate many of their evenings, weekends, and other periods of leisure time to revision. Some will also have to set aside time during the day to remotely attend live surgeries and ‘town hall’ sessions. For the duration of the course, you may need to accept that you won’t have nearly as much free time for yourself as you did before.

“Managing work around the course is intense, and anyone going into it needs to know they must commit a certain number of hours to their studying each week. Me and my personal tutor worked on a study plan to fit it all into my very busy life.” – Ben, student at The College of Legal Practice


  1. The onus to learn is on you

“Remote learning is not for everyone. You have to be able to manage your time on a weekly basis and be ready for assessments.” – Lucas, student at The College of Legal Practice

As part of our prep courses, The College of Legal Practice creates study timetables for our students, and schedules them regular, one-to-one catchups with their supervisors to help them structure and improve their studies. But ultimately, the student themselves is responsible for keeping up with the courses’ progression and staying on top of their workload.

Flexible, remote, and part-time studying offers students a large amount of freedom. But, in practice, this isn’t always for everyone. Without robust supervision, some people find it tough to remain as organised and proactive as is required to keep on track. Similarly, the SQE is not a course you can cram. There’s such a large breadth of material that you must work systematically from the start to make sure you can cover everything you need for the exams.  If you’re looking to successfully qualify as a solicitor via the SQE, you’ll need to be strict with your time, and book out blocks of your day to focus on the course, from the moment you begin.

“Stay disciplined with the deadlines that your course provides. Try to keep on track, because if you fall behind it could be hard to catch up again.” – Samina, student at The College of Legal Practice.


  1. The SQE exams are uniquely tough

“I hold a baccalaureate in biology and physics and a law degree. However, the SQE was the hardest test I’ve faced so far.” – Lucas, student at The College of Legal Practice

Full qualification via the SQE is split into two stages: SQE1 and SQE2. The assessments for SQE1 are long and intense, as they cover several areas of law. You need to complete four exams over two days, lasting five hours each day.

The structure of the questions may feel new and different, too. Each question is multiple choice, but not as you know it. Instead of selecting the one correct answer from the remaining incorrect ones, your task is to choose the ‘single best answer’. In other words, every multiple-choice answer for each question can theoretically be correct, and it’s up to you to pick the answer that you feel is most appropriate for each scenario. It’s this style of questioning that makes the SQE1 assessment so tricky. You can’t simply learn facts and figures and regurgitate them in the exam—you need to be able to apply the legal principle you have learn, like a real solicitor.

However, some students find the SQE2 assessment even tougher. SQE2 tests your oral and written legal skills across 16 assessment ‘stations’ or exercises, from advocacy to legal research. You’ll need to read a huge amount of material, to effectively demonstrate your legal skills in the context of five practice areas, all in a relatively short space of time, and there are no answers to choose from. Not only does the SQE2 assess you on specific legal skills, but it also incorporates much of your SQE1 learning, too. Passing your SQE1 will be a relief—but your hard work will continue.

“SQE2 is even more challenging. My routine changed as I had to add in revision sessions for SQE1 knowledge, on top of learning the new SQE2 skills and doing the assessments. This doesn’t simply involve rereading; you have to make sure you’re comfortable with your knowledge in order to be able to apply it. Having a basis of work experience definitely helped me feel less daunted by some of the tasks.” – Emma, student at The College of Legal Practice


  1. However, all your hard prep work pays off

“As soon as I sat down to take the real SQE1 exam, I felt relieved, as it was so similar to The College of Legal Practice’s mock assessments.” – Dan, student at The College of Legal Practice

Technically, you aren’t required to take a prep course to sit the SQE assessments. However, almost everyone already studying for and working in the legal professions will recommend that you do. After all, specialist SQE prep courses are the only sure-fire way of accessing all the up-to-date knowledge and materials that you need to be able to pass.

On programmes like The College of Legal Practice’s SQE courses, you receive everything you need to be successful, from online learning materials to one-to-one support from a professional supervisor. Plus, you practice so many multiple-choice questions and tests that once you reach the assessments, they feel familiar and feasible rather than daunting. Everything is laser-focused on supporting you to succeed.

“My experience with the College has been nothing short of the absolute best, and I’m really grateful for the opportunities it’s provided. As the days go on, as I take more and more assessments, and as I get more comfortable with the exams, I can definitely see myself getting closer and closer to my ultimate goal of becoming a solicitor.” – Salma, student at The College of Legal Practice


  1. Finally, what are our students’ top SQE tips?

  • “Making a study plan is key to keeping up with both studying and outside commitments like work and socialising. Writing a to-do list, and including one or two things you’ve already completed, gives you the motivation to keep progressing.”– Dan, student at The College of Legal Practice
  • “Even if you complete a unit, continue to revise that area of law so it stays in your mind. Continuous revision will mean you’re ready for the assessment.” – La’Charn, student at The College of Legal Practice
  • “The one thing I wish I knew prior to the SQE was to work hard from day one. By starting early, you can work through the materials consistently and at your own pace, rather than rushing in the final few weeks.” – Lucas, student at The College of Legal Practice
  • “Never miss a feedback session. Even if you didn’t turn any work in or think you performed poorly, feedback sessions also help you get up to speed and brush up your knowledge of what you know about a particular practice area. Your skills get a little bit more polished, a little bit sharper, and you start to really crack what the examiners looking for.” – Salma, student at The College of Legal Practice
  • “Be kind to yourself. It’s a very taxing, difficult course, so be realistic with your timings and what you can achieve.” – Samina, student at The College of Legal Practice
  • “Be organised. Be ready to give it everything you have. It’s your qualification, it’s your future, and you’re in control of it.” – Emma, student at The College of Legal Practice
  • “SQE is an intense assessment, so choosing the right provider is very important to support you on your SQE journey.” – Ben, student at The College of Legal Practice

For a more in-depth look at how to study for and pass the SQE, featuring more tips and tricks from real students and supervisors, download the College’s FREE Secrets to SQE Success guide here.


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