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Tips and Tricks for Passing the Solicitors Qualifying Exam 1

The Solicitors Regulations Authority introduced the Solicitors Qualifying Exam in 2021 to revamp the process by which solicitors would qualify in England and Wales.

The process is split into three elements - the first of which involves two 5-hour long multiple choice papers known as Foundational Legal Knowledge (FLK) 1 and 2, respectively. Each paper is closed book, consists of 180 questions and takes place in an assessment centre. It covers legal knowledge that the SRA considers essential for a Day One solicitor to possess.

The two FLK papers are infamous for their low pass rates; for instance the July 2023 sitting had a pass rate of only 53%. The St Andrews Law Review spoke to SQE students who successfully passed the most recent sitting of the SQE in January 2024 to help aspiring solicitors hit the ground running and hopefully maximise their chances of success.

Niharika Goyal:

Assessment Specification

Refer to the SRA SQE 1 assessment specification extensively to make sure you’ve covered the entire syllabus. It can also help rule out information that may not be relevant.

Note Taking

Use bullet points and highlight important information while making notes. Remember that this is an MCQ-based exam which means fine details matter a lot more than overarching principles.

Jess Kwok:

Preparing for the SQE exams is a marathon, not a sprint

Preparing for the SQE will be like a full time job with a demanding boss that only gives vague instructions, forcing you to prepare for all eventualities. Ensure that you prepare yourself by doing the following: revising the underlying law asap; surrounding yourself with a support network if possible; and continuing healthy habits (gym, cooking) to prepare your body and mind for this physically and mentally exhausting process.

Simulate the SQE1 test day as often as possible

When you reach the half-way point to your exams, begin simulating parts and the full exam day experience. You know a good portion of the content by this point, and (inevitably) getting questions wrong will deepen and motivate your learning.

You should gradually increase the difficulty by doing this closed-book, timed, and in an unfamiliar room with noises. Review exactly why you got the questions right or wrong afterwards. We fall to the level of our preparation, not to our level of expectations.

Siobhan Ali:

Do as many practice papers as possible

There are no past papers available for the SQE and so try and get your hands on as many practice papers from different course providers as you can. Trying various question styles - which may also cover different content than what your course provider has, will test the breadth of your knowledge as well as your ability to answer single-best-answer MCQs (which is the format the SRA adopts). It also helps you address some of the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the exam because you can go in with extra practice under your belt. Most course providers give practice papers and question banks and you can also purchase additional mocks or question books such as the Revise SQE Practice Assessment books.

Focus on breadth of knowledge

There are 12 broad practice areas and topics covered by the SQE1 which range from contract and tort law to Wills and the Administration of Estates and Ethics and Professional Conduct. It's a scary concept to wrap your head around but you will not know absolutely everything. The SRA's specification is not hugely detailed and therefore there may be some topics that you don't cover. But that's ok - you can afford to (and expect to) lose some marks.

Instead, make sure you don't neglect any of the topics. Cover them all and ensure you have the general principles clear in your mind as this will form the foundation of your knowledge. I found revision videos particularly helpful for offering a broad overview of legal principles. It's easy to keep going over stuff you already know and procrastinate on the harder topics but try and prioritise the topics you don't know as well and put the topics you're comfortable with to one side. Practicing MCQs, as Jess said above, will help highlight your stronger and weaker areas.

Best of luck, you've got this!


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