The route to becoming an English qualified lawyer has changed significantly since the introduction of the SQE. One key change is the introduction of centralised exams that candidates must now take, the SQE1 and SQE2. There are numerous SQE books and study materials that candidates can use in order to prepare. This article will explore the best options available to candidates right now.
What is the SQE Exam?
Under the SQE (Solicitors Qualifying Examination), candidates must pass two exams in order to qualify as a solicitor: (i) the SQE1 exam; and (ii) the SQE2 exam. Both exams are very different and are broken down below.
The goal of the SQE1 exam is to test candidates on their functioning legal knowledge of the law. Thus, instead of examining candidates on just the black letter law alone, candidates are assessed by way of scenario-based questions. In order to pass, candidates must be able to successfully apply their knowledge of the law in the context of various scenarios presented to them. The reason for this is that, for the SQE1 exam, candidates are assessed to the standard of knowledge that a day one newly qualified solicitor would have.
The format of the SQE1 exam is multiple choice. Candidates are required to answer a total of 360 multiple choice questions across two days. One may initially think that this may mean an easier time in passing the exam. However, the historical pass rate for the SQE1 exam is approximately 50%, so the exam should not be underestimated. Candidates will have to ensure that they are thoroughly prepared, for example by using appropriate SQE books and study materials, before sitting for the exam.
The areas of the law that are examined on the SQE1 exam are the following:
- Business Law and Practice
- Dispute Resolution
- Contract Law
- Tort Law
- Legal System of England and Wales
- Constitutional and Administrative Law and EU Law
- Legal Services
- Property Law and Practice
- Wills and the Administration of Estates
- Solicitors Accounts
- Land Law
- Trust Law
- Criminal Law
- Criminal Practice
This exam differs quite significantly to SQE1. With the SQE2 exam, candidates are tested on their practical legal skills. Candidates are now expected to apply their knowledge of the law in a practical and scenario-based context. Examples of practical legal skills that are tested include advocacy, legal research, legal drafting and more. Although one might think that this examination is harder than the SQE1, the historical pass rate for the SQE2 exam is approximately 70%, which is much higher than the SQE1 exam.
The areas of the law that are tested on the SQE2 exam are much fewer than SQE1, these areas include:
- Criminal Litigation: Criminal liability
- Dispute Resolution: Contract Law and Tort Law
- Property Practice: Land Law
- Wills and Intestacy, Probate Administration and Practice: Trust Law
- Business organisations, rules and procedures: Contract Law
There are numerous ways in which candidates can prepare for the SQE exams. This will mainly depend on one’s learning style, work commitments etc, so it is important that the chosen method is tailored accordingly.
The four main options that candidates have available to them regarding SQE preparation are:
- Prep Course
- Combination of the above
SQE Books and Study Materials
Self-studying is an attractive option because it provides the candidate with maximum flexibility when it comes to preparation. The disadvantage of choosing a prep course or receiving tutoring is that candidates may find that these options do not quite fit their schedule. Additionally, self-studying is by far the cheapest option for candidates compared to the other options available. Prep courses and tutoring services can cost well over £3,000 plus. The cost of self-studying is limited only to the SQE books and study materials that you use for preparation and will only cost candidates approximately £500.
Many students pass the SQE without using a prep course or tutoring service. For those who are pursuing the self-study route, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:
1. Choose the right SQE books and study materials
Choosing the correct SQE books and study materials is the most important element when it comes to self-studying for the SQE exams. These materials will be vital in providing you with the correct information that you will need for the exam. Do not be afraid to spend on SQE books and materials that are worth it – you should view this as an investment. Passing the SQE exams is absolutely critical to becoming a qualified solicitor, so spending on the correct materials will be worth it as passing will have a long-term positive impact on your life.
In deciding on the correct SQE books and study materials, make sure that the syllabus covered in the books and materials cover the areas of the law that are assessed on the exam. There’s nothing worse than taking the exam and finding out that the materials you used don’t cover a particular area of the exam. The areas of the law mentioned above for SQE1 and SQE2 should match the books and materials that you are looking to purchase. For example, contract law is an area that is assessed on the SQE1 exam, so make sure your materials cover contract law.
You should make sure that the books and study materials you are picking are tailored exactly for the SQE. This will go a long way in making sure that you’re learning everything you need to know and also not learning things that you don’t need to know.
You can take a look below at some of the SQE books and study materials that we currently think are the best.
2. Give yourself time to prepare
A key factor that will decide if you pass or not will be your level of preparation. Therefore, it is important that you give yourself plenty of time to prepare. It would be a mistake to sit the exam unprepared, as you would just be wasting time and money. For the best results we recommend you give yourself three to six months to prepare for the SQE exams. If you have other commitments, for example a full-time job, then consider giving yourself a longer period of time to prepare.
3. Prepare a schedule
After deciding on the length of time you need in order to prepare, you should create a schedule that fits around your life. As self-study candidates don’t have organised classes, creating a schedule will ensure that you have an element of structure when studying and preparing. In creating an effective study schedule, you should assess your other time commitments realistically and create a study schedule that fits around that. If you find it difficult to block time out to study given your routine, then consider putting your other commitments on hold or extending your timeline for preparation. You should be studying for at least ten hours every week if your intention is to study for 6+ months.
4. Flexibility and adaptability
Don’t be afraid to be flexible and adapt your game plan after a few weeks of studying. If you’re struggling with a particular area of the law or concept, then make necessary adjustments and dedicate more time to improving your knowledge in that particular area. Additionally, if you’re experiencing burn out after a few weeks then consider relaxing the pace of your studying.
5. Practice questions
As the saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect’, and this equally applies to the SQE exams. If you’re preparing to sit for the SQE1 exam, then make sure that you are doing as many practice questions as possible. This will allow you to get a sense of what to expect from the real exam. Furthermore, it will allow you to identify any particular areas of the law that you are weaker on. We have a Telegram group where we send practice SQE1 questions every day so you can ease into your prep. Link to the group is here. Downloading the Telegram app is recommended.
We recommend not doing practice questions in timed conditions. Despite the fact that the actual exam is timed, it’s important that you gain some level of familiarity with the question format before doing them under timed conditions. This is overall a more effective way to approach prep.
6. Enjoy the process
Studying for the SQE can be a stressful process and it will take time for you to be comfortable with the SQE books and study materials. Try and enjoy the process and approach studying with a positive mindset. Try and also find a study buddy to study with if possible as this will make the overall experience more enjoyable. It’s important to remember that studying for the SQE exam is a temporary process and that, once you pass the exam, you will be able to reap the benefits long into the future.
SQE Strategies during the Exam
Here are some strategies that you can employ when sitting for the SQE exam. These strategies are tailored specifically to the SQE1 exam (but in most cases can also be applied to the SQE2 exam).
- Process of elimination – the key thing to remember about the SQE1 exam is that the format is multiple-choice. Candidates have a total of five options to choose from when answering a multiple-choice question. Instead of attempting to select the correct answer, it is often more effective to eliminate the incorrect answers. This slight change in mindset is very useful as there are often some answers that are obviously incorrect. You may not be able to detect the obviously incorrect answers but not to worry, if you are able to eliminate some of them then your odds of answering the correct answer is now increased. For example, if you can eliminate let’s say two obviously incorrect answers, then your odds of selecting the correct answer will have gone from 20% (1 in 5) to 33% (1 in 3).
- Balance accuracy and speed – it’s important to finish the exam as quickly as possible (so you can re-visit any questions you found particularly tricky). However, it is also important that you don’t sacrifice finishing the exam quickly over getting the answers right – it’s a fine balance. The pass rate for the SQE1 exam is approximately 50%, so it’s better to ensure that you have given each question your full effort than to rush through the entire thing.
- Answer the easiest question first – on the SQE1 exam, all questions are weighted the same with respect to marking (i.e. they all have the same value). Thus, the easy questions have the same value as the hard questions. Knowing this, it would be a mistake to over-allocate your time trying to answer a particularly hard question. Instead, you should skip the question and move on to the next (hopefully easier) question. You can then come back to answer the hard question after you’ve worked your way through the entire exam. If you find yourself running out of time, then just quickly give your best guess as this may earn you a mark. In contrast, leaving questions unanswered should not be done, as this is a guaranteed way to earn you zero marks on that question.
- Time allocation – the SQE1 exam is a timed exam. You should first game-plan how much time you should be spending on each question before you take the exam and then stick to it once you’re in the exam. The recommendation is to allocate approximately two minutes to answering each question. The easy questions will likely take you less time, which is why you should look to skip hard questions (and come back to them later) and secure marks on the easy questions quickly. It’s important not to panic and to make sure that you are always aware of what the time is when taking the exam.
- Relax – preparing and then taking the SQE1 exam can be a stressful experience. Make sure to take regular breaks when studying for the exam and try not to over-study as this will affect your performance in the actual exam itself. When in the exam, try to relax and bring a bottle of water with you to stay hydrated during the exam.
The above are just a few strategies that you can apply when taking the exam. It may be that, by doing practice questions, you develop your own strategies that suit your learning style and preferences. This is why it’s important to do lots of practice before the exam. You’ll have more time to prepare and become more familiar with the questions and generally be in a better position to develop test taking strategies that suit you best.
3 Best SQE Books
Let’s now take a look at some of the SQE books currently available for students to use.
SQETestPrep was specifically established to cater to people that are intending to self-study for the SQE exams. SQETestPrep provides SQE books, revision and study materials to assist those who are self-studying for the exam. SQE books currently available are the following:
- Business Law and Practice
- Contract Law
- Land Law
- Tort Law
- Trust Law
- Constitutional Admin and EU Law
- English Legal System
All books provided by SQETestPrep follow the SQE syllabus and provide readers with all the legal information they will need to pass the exams. A lot of other SQE books contain irrelevant information, which slows the learning and revision process. SQETestPrep books are stripped of all unnecessary information and only contain information that you will need to pass the SQE exams.
Additionally, SQE books from SQETestPrep are much cheaper in comparison to a prep course or tutor. Prep courses and tutors can cost up to £3,000+. With SQETestPrep, the SQE books range from £35 – £40. The idea behind SQETestPrep is to give students the tools they need to pass the SQE exams as cheaply as possible. You can take a look at our sample books here.
2. Law Express
Books from Law Express are essentially revision guides that provide a condensed overview on a given area of the law (for example contract law). The major disadvantage to these books are that they are not tailored to the SQE. So, you are likely to learn information that you won’t need for the exam. Additionally, the books do not follow the SQE syllabus, so you will also miss out on learning the key information that you will actually need to know in order to pass the exams.
3. Law Concentrate
Books from Law Concentrate also mirror the revisions style guides provided by Law Express. Again, the disadvantage with these books are that they are not tailored to the SQE exam, so the drawbacks mentioned above also apply here.
To conclude, the introduction of the SQE has marked a significant change in the way one becomes an English qualified solicitor. Candidates must now pass two sets of exams to qualify. There are numerous options available to students when it comes to preparing for the exams, and they should think carefully about what style of preparation will suit them best. A lot of students will look to self-study for the exam, so it’s important that the appropriate SQE books and study materials are purchased in order to help them prepare effectively. The SQE exams can seem daunting, but with the correct preparation and study materials it is more than do-able to successfully pass the exams.