SQE2 assessment specification (Updated 28 April 2023)

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is your gateway to becoming a solicitor in England and Wales. This comprehensive assessment is divided into two parts - SQE1 and SQE2 - testing your legal knowledge and practical skills.

Updated 28 April 2023
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SQE2 assessment specification (updated Updated 28 April 2023)

SQE2 assessment specification

Practice areas

The practice areas in which these legal skills are assessed are:

  • Criminal Litigation (including advising clients at the police station)
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Property Practice
  • Wills and Intestacy, Probate Administration and Practice
  • Business organisations, rules and procedures (including money laundering and financial services).

Questions in these practice areas may draw on underlying black letter law in the Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK) as follows:

  • Criminal Litigation: Criminal liability
  • Dispute Resolution: Contract law and tort
  • Property Practice: Land law
  • Wills and Intestacy, Probate Administration and Practice: Trusts
  • Business organisations, rules and procedures: Contract law.

Professionalism and ethics will be core parts of SQE2. Questions on ethics will be pervasive throughout SQE2. Ethical issues will not be flagged, and candidates will need to identify any ethical and professional conduct issues and exercise judgment to resolve them honestly and with integrity.

Questions involving taxation may arise in Property Practice; Wills and Intestacy, Probate Administration and Practice; and Business organisations, rules and procedures.

Detail of the examinable content covered is given in Annex 1. Property Practice is under the headings freehold and leasehold real estate law and practice and core principles of planning law. Annex 1 is a sub-set of the FLK in SQE1. For the avoidance of doubt, the legal system of England and Wales, constitutional and administrative law and EU law, legal services (apart from money laundering and financial services), and solicitors’ accounts are not examined in SQE2. Money laundering and financial services are examinable in the context of business organisations, rules and procedures.

The cut-off date for the law upon which candidates are examined in the SQE will be four calendar months prior to the date of the first assessment in an assessment window. Candidates will be tested on the law as it stands at that date. They will not be tested on the development of the law.

Organisation and delivery

For practical purposes, SQE2 is divided into two parts as follows:

SQE2 oral

The assessments in SQE2 oral are:

  • Interview and attendance note/legal analysis
  • Advocacy.

SQE2 oral will take place over two half days. The following table shows the assessments candidates will undertake on each of the days. Candidates will take a total of four oral legal skills assessments.

Please note that different candidates may complete the assessments in different orders. Candidates may therefore start with either the interview and attendance note/legal analysis or the advocacy.

Further details of the assessments are available in Assessments in SQE2 as follows: Client interviewing and completion of attendance note/legal analysis and Advocacy.

SQE2 written

The assessments in SQE2 written are:

  • Case and matter analysis
  • Legal research
  • Legal writing
  • Legal drafting

SQE2 written takes place over three half-days. You will take a total of 12 written legal skills assessments.

You may complete the assessments in a different order than that listed.

Further details of the assessments are available in Assessments in SQE2 as follows: Case and matter analysis, Legal research, Legal writing, and Legal drafting.

Marking SQE2

Overview

The interviewing station will be marked by the assessor playing the role of the client and will be marked on skills only. The attendance note and all other stations will be marked by a solicitor who will assess candidates on both skills and application of law.

The assessment criteria against which candidates will be judged in each of the six types of legal skills stations are provided at Assessments in SQE2 below. Performance in each of these criteria will be assessed on a scale from A – F by trained assessors making global professional judgments related to the standard of competency of the assessment1 as follows:

  • Superior performance: well above the competency requirements of the assessment
  • Clearly satisfactory: clearly meets the competency requirements of the assessment
  • Marginal pass: on balance, just meets the competency requirements of the assessment
  • Marginal fail: on balance, just fails to meet the competency requirements of the assessment
  • Clearly unsatisfactory: clearly does not meet the competency requirements of the assessment
  • Poor performance: well below the competency requirements of the assessment.

This grading will then be converted into numerical marks such that A = 5 marks and F = 0 marks.

The marking criteria for each of the stations has been divided into marks for skills and marks for application of law. In arriving at a final mark for the candidate across all assessments, skills and application of law are weighted equally. This is to ensure that adequate weighting is given to the quality of the advice provided.

Level of legal detail required

In demonstrating that they have reached the standard of competency of a Day One Solicitor, candidates will need to demonstrate that they can apply fundamental legal principles in the skills-based situations covered by SQE2 in a way that addresses the client’s needs and concerns. They will need sufficient knowledge to make them competent to practice on the basis that they can look up detail later. Candidates will not be expected to know or address detail that a Day One Solicitor would look up unless they have been provided with that detail as part of the assessment materials. See also the legal materials section below. Sample questions and indicative answers will be published on the SQE website.

Application of law

The assessment criteria for SQE2 refer to correct and comprehensive application of law. The following is a non-exhaustive list of what this may include:

  • Identifying relevant legal principles
  • Applying legal principles to factual issues, so as to produce a solution that best addresses a client’s needs and reflects the client’s commercial or personal circumstances, including as part of a negotiation
  • Interpreting, evaluating, and applying the results of research
  • Ensuring that advice is informed by appropriate legal analysis and identifies the consequences of different options
  • Drafting documents that are legally effective
  • Applying understanding, critical thinking, and analysis to solve problems
  • Assessing information to identify key issues and risks
  • Recognizing inconsistencies and gaps in information
  • Evaluating the quality and reliability of information
  • Using multiple sources of information to make effective judgments
  • Reaching reasoned decisions supported by relevant evidence.

Correct and comprehensive application of law

The assessment criteria for application of law refer to legally correct and legally comprehensive. How each of these is interpreted will depend on an academic judgment about each assessment informed by the Statement of Solicitor Competence (Annex 3) and the Functioning Legal Knowledge for SQE2 (Annex 1). For instance, in an assessment where the candidate has to identify the legal issues, credit for this might be given under legally comprehensive. Where the legal issues are made explicit in the question, credit under legally comprehensive might be awarded for giving a comprehensive analysis of those issues, not just for identifying them.

Application of law in the single jurisdiction of England and Wales

While Wales does not form a separate legal jurisdiction (it is part of the legal jurisdiction of England and Wales), the laws that apply in England may be different from the laws that apply in Wales. In Wales, the Welsh language has official status and can be used in proceedings. These factors have consequences for how the law operates in Wales.

Solicitors of England and Wales are entitled to practice both in England and in Wales. Candidates will be required to apply, at the level of the newly qualified solicitor, their knowledge that, in relation to certain topics, the law is different in the two territories.

Clear, precise, concise, and acceptable language

The assessment criteria for the written skills refer to clear, precise, concise, and acceptable language. This may include:

  • Using clear, succinct, and accurate language and avoiding unnecessary technical terms where they are not appropriate to the recipient
  • Using an acceptable style of communication for the situation and recipient.

Passing SQE2

In order to pass SQE2, candidates must obtain the overall pass mark for SQE2. For the avoidance of doubt, please note that there is not a separate pass mark for SQE2 oral and SQE2 written. There is one pass mark for SQE2 as a whole. For details of how the pass mark is set, see the Marking and Moderation Policy (this will be made available in the future).

Legal materials

For all stations except legal research, candidates will be provided, as part of their assessment materials, with materials that a Day One Solicitor would look up.

Candidates will need sufficient knowledge to make them competent to practice on the basis that they can look up detail later. Candidates will not be expected to know or address detail that a Day One Solicitor would look up unless they have been provided with that detail as part of their assessment materials. However, legal materials will only be provided where it is considered that a Day One Solicitor would need to refer to those materials. Sample questions and indicative answers will be published on the SQE website. For details on the legal research assessment, see Legal research.

Any other materials, such as books and notes, cannot be brought into or used during the assessments.

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