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SQE Exams - What to Expect?

Having just about recovered from sitting SQE2 assessments, I wanted to help others navigating their way through these exams, and I have outlined some useful information which may be of some use to anyone sitting these exams.  I did consider thinking of some extended war metaphor to describe the experience, but the reality is, whilst it is undoubtedly a tricky exam, it wasn’t really that bad. Really.

The legal skills assessments in SQE2 are:

  • Client interview and attendance note/legal analysis
  • Advocacy
  • Case and matter analysis
  • legal research
  • legal writing
  • legal drafting


These things seem straight forward, skills every lawyer should be striving to have, and something that can easily be gained, when working within a legal practice.


The assessment areas narrows following SQE1, which seems like somewhat of a relief, but there is still a hefty amount to work to get through.

  • 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.


Whilst there is no part of the SQE2 that is specifically looking at negotiation you are expected to be able to identify appropriate times where negotiation woul be useful, and this can often be a good safety net when you aren’t quite sure if what you are saying is right!

As those of you taking this path will already know, the SQE2 comprises of 16assessments covering both lists above.  Luckily for me, business is only covered in the written, so I could forget about that once they were done and dusted.


I found that for SQE1, it was about the principles of law rather than the specific finer details, however with SQE it was about rules and procedures. When revising for example, I made myself quizzes of what needs to be met when making or dismissing an application.


Preparing for the SQE2 can seem daunting – you have all this knowledge and you need to be expected to apply it, correctly and comprehensively. I remember thinking that I’d much rather redo SQE1 than this, at least the answer was going to be one of5 in front of you. Whether you are self studying, paying for your own course or doing it through the apprenticeship, preparing for this assessment is no mean feat.


The assessment days seem a little cloak and dagger on the website as I personally didn’t find that much information in there - as someone who likes to know about everything in advance - and I spent the night before doing everything humanly possible to ensure a good night sleep as fear of the unknown can cause crippling anxiety. Hats off to those that breeze through, do tell me your secret. The reality was, it wasn’t that bad.


Similar to SQE1, I found the questions/tasks fair. Yes, there were things there to catch you out but on the whole, I felt they were accessible. All the tasks set were things you can get your teeth into, and (apart from a property drafting task and a business research task) I had plenty to say about them.


The written tasks are completed similarly to SQE1. You’ll attend a test centre for3 days. You’ll arrive for a 9am start (with two lots of ID!), and get logged onto complete two tasks, a 15 minute break, then the final two tasks.


For the oral assessments, you’ll arrive at a nice hotel and the Kaplan staff will sort you out. The day runs like, but not quite, a well oiled machine. You are given a timetable of what is happening, have refreshments provided and your own pace to prepare for the exams.


Having the experience of doing my own advocacy was invaluable. I would absolutely recommend getting a few under your belt – if you are able to – prior to sitting the assessment. It gave me confidence knowing that I had already done this in areal life situation, not role play. It was the same for the interviewing task; I felt almost totally at ease during this task -partly because legal knowledge isn’t assessed here – but talking to clients is something we do day in day out, and I couldn’t help but think the experience I’ve had so far stood me in good stead.


I also spent a significant time looking myself this time round. During SQE1, I was wound rather tight, and I am not ashamed to admit there were some anxiety related tears in the lead up. This time round, I was determined not to do that again. I really hate to be one of these people, but I cannot stress the important of eating well and exercising.  This time round I ate well, did exercise that I enjoyed and took everything in my stride. While I definitely don’t want to count my chickens, I felt it really made a difference and going into an incredibly stressful time with a somewhat level head did help. 


To those considering the SQE, it really is not as bad as some people can say. Yes, it can be expensive, yes, it seems tough, and yes, it will be stressful, but if you are well prepared and have taken every opportunity you can to gain experience you should be in good stead.


To those preparing for it, good luck!

Kim Tate
Kim Tate
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