What is the SQE?
Who is the SQE for?
Costs and fees
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Updated January 2024
A number of questions have been raised about the interpretation of the Assessment Specifications and particularly the detail of the Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK).
It is not helpful or appropriate to specify the FLK in minute detail. Doing so can raise as many questions as it answers and can lead to the creation of an unnecessarily large and unwieldy volume of information.
However reading the Assessment Specification holistically should assist those asking for more detail. Within the Assessment Specification for SQE1, the following sections are particularly useful: the assessment objectives for each area of law; overview of the SQE1 Assessments, Functioning Legal Knowledge, Application of Legal Rules and Principles, Legal Authorities, Subject Matter and ethics and professional conduct.
It is worth noting particularly that:
To ensure the fairness and integrity of the SQE, information about the Assessment Specifications will be released to all stakeholders at the same time. There will be an annual review of the FLK to
Any questions raised by stakeholders will be fed into this annual review process.
Please note: a few typographical errors had appeared in the SQE1 assessment specification following its migration to the SQE website. These have now been corrected.
The two SQE1 Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK) assessments comprise the following subject areas:
Within each of the above FLK assessments, questions may draw on any combination of the subject areas which might be encountered in practice.
Ethics and Professional Conduct will be examined pervasively across the two assessments above.
Principles of taxation will be examined only in the context of:
Below subject areas are grouped within two sections giving details of each of the two FLK assessments. For each area, assessment objectives are set out, followed by the knowledge of law and practice which candidates are expected to apply in order to answer the questions.
The depth and breadth of knowledge of English and Welsh law required of candidates is that of functioning legal knowledge. This means that candidates must apply their knowledge of the law to demonstrate the competences required to the level of a newly qualified solicitor of England and Wales.
The core legal principles and rules a candidate will be asked to apply are identified by subject area below. A candidate should be able to apply these fundamental legal principles and rules appropriately and effectively at the level required of a competent newly qualified solicitor in practice, to realistic client-based and ethical problems and situations. Each single best answer question is followed by five possible answers. Candidates should mark only one answer for each question.
The SQE1 FLK assessments are closed book. The questions in the assessments are designed to test the application of fundamental legal principles which can be expected of a newly qualified solicitor of England and Wales without reference to books and notes. They are not designed to test matters of detail which a newly qualified solicitor would be expected to look up.
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. For the avoidance of doubt, changes in the law which are implemented on the calendar date four calendar months prior to the first SQE assessment in an assessment window may be examined.
The relationship between the Statement of Solicitor Competence (SoSC) and the legal principles and rules which candidates must know and apply is indicated at Annex 3. In the FLK assessments, candidates will be tested at level 3 of the Threshold Standard - ie that of the newly qualified solicitor – as set out in Annex 6.
The following illustrations of the range of question style used to test the FLK are not intended to be exhaustive:
Published sample questions will provide examples of the style of questions which may be used to test the candidate's ability to apply the fundamental legal principles and rules that are set out in this assessment specification.
Whilst 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 in Wales. These factors have consequences for how the law operates in Wales.
Candidates will be required to show that they can apply their knowledge of the sources of primary and secondary legislation in England and Wales and how that law is applied.
Solicitors of England and Wales are entitled to practise 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.
On occasion in legal practice a case name or statutory provision, for example, is the term normally used to describe a legal principle or an area of law, or a rule or procedural step (eg Rylands v Fletcher, CPR Part 36, Section 25 notice). In such circumstances, candidates are required to know and be able to use such case names, statutory provisions etc. In all other circumstances candidates are not required to recall specific case names, or cite statutory or regulatory authorities.
The FLK assessments for SQE1 will sample from the content indicated in this assessment specification. A blueprint is provided at Annex 3.
Candidates are required to demonstrate their ability to act honestly and with integrity, and in accordance with the SRA Standards and Regulations as follows:
Together referred to as the Code of Conduct.
See SoSC (A1) at Annex 1.
Ethics and professional conduct will be examined across all subject areas.
Candidates are required to apply relevant core legal principles and rules appropriately and effectively, at the level of a competent newly qualified solicitor in practice, to realistic client-based and ethical problems and situations in the following areas:
Candidates must demonstrate their ability to act honestly and with integrity and in accordance with the SoSC, the SRA Principles and the Code of Conduct.
Candidates are expected to draw upon and apply knowledge from the areas of law and practice set out below.
Questions may draw on any combination of the subject areas within this FLK assessment 1 which might be encountered in practice.
Questions may draw on any combination of the topics within this FLK assessment 1 which might be encountered in practice.
Business organisations, rules and procedures
(Excluding the Listing, Prospectus, Disclosure Guidance and Transparency Rules and any other FCA, London Stock Exchange, market rules or codes)
Business and organisational characteristics (sole trader/partnership/LLP/private and unlisted public companies).
Legal personality and limited liability.
Procedures and documentation required to incorporate a company/form a partnership/LLP and other steps required under companies and partnerships legislation to enable the entity to commence operating:
Corporate governance and compliance:
Partnership decision-making and authority of partners:
Insolvency (corporate and personal):
Taxation - business
Capital Gains Tax:
Value Added Tax:
The principles, procedures and processes involved in dispute resolution
Different options for dispute resolution:
Resolving a dispute through a civil claim:
Where to start proceedings:
Issuing and serving proceedings:
Responding to a claim:
Statements of case:
Disclosure and inspection:
Enforcement of money judgments:
Core principles of contract law
Causation and remoteness
Core principles of tort
Principles of vicarious liability
The Legal System of England and Wales and Sources of law
Development of case law: the doctrine of precedent
The application of legislation made by Senedd Cymru and Westminster to England and to Wales.
Constitutional and Administrative law and EU law
Core institutions of the state and how they interrelate:
Legitimacy, separation of powers and the rule of law:
Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights:
The place of EU law in the UK constitution.
The regulatory role of the SRA:
Funding options for legal services:
Questions may draw on any combination of the subject areas within this FLK assessment 2 which might be encountered in practice.
Candidates will not be required to demonstrate knowledge relating to foreign law, foreign assets or foreign taxes.
Candidates are required to apply relevant core principles of double entry bookkeeping and the SRA Accounts Rules appropriately and effectively, at the level of a competent newly qualified solicitor in practice, to realistic client-based and ethical problems and situations in the following areas:
Candidates will not be required to demonstrate knowledge relating to foreign assets, foreign law or foreign taxes.
Questions may draw on any combination of the topics within this FLK assessment 2 which might be encountered in practice.
In the context of specified criminal offences, candidates are required to apply relevant core legal principles and rules appropriately and effectively, at the level of a competent newly qualified solicitor in practice, to realistic client-based and ethical problems and situations in the following areas:
Core knowledge areas of freehold real estate law and practice
Investigation of a registered and unregistered freehold title:
Pre-contract searches and enquiries:
Law Society Conveyancing Protocol
Acting for a lender:
Preparation for and exchange of contracts:
Completion and post-completion:
Remedies for delayed completion:
Core knowledge areas of leasehold real estate law and practice
Structure and content of a lease:
Procedural steps for the grant of a lease or underlease:
Procedural steps for the assignment of a lease:
Licence to assign and licence to underlet:
Remedies for breach of a leasehold covenant:
Termination of a lease:
Security of tenure under a business lease:
Core principles of planning law in England and Wales
Statutory definition of “Development”
Matters that do not constitute “Development”
Matters that do not require express planning permission
Building regulation control
Enforcement: time limits and the range of local planning authority’s enforcement powers
Taxation – property
Stamp Duty Land Tax in England and Land Transaction Tax in Wales:
Wills and Intestacy
Validity of wills and codicils:
Alterations and amendments to wills:
Revocation of wills:
The interpretation of wills:
The intestacy rules:
Property passing outside the estate:
Probate and Administration Practice
Grants of representation:
Administration of estates:
Claims against estates under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975:
Taxation – wills and the administration of estates
Income and Capital Gains Tax in respect of the period of the administration of an estate:
Requirement to keep client money separate from money belonging to the authorised body
Breach of the SRA Accounts Rules:
Requirement to keep and maintain accurate records in client ledgers, including requirement to carry out reconciliation of client accounts and to keep a record of bills to include:
Operation of joint account; operation of a client’s own account
Third-party managed accounts
Obtaining and delivery of accountants’ reports; storage and retention of accounting records
Core principles of land law
Nature of Land:
Title to Land:
Co-ownership and Trusts:
Core principles of trust law
Creation and requirements of express trusts:
The distinction between charitable trusts and non-charitable purpose trusts
Trusts of the family home:
Liability of strangers to the trust:
The fiduciary relationship and its obligations:
The nature of equitable remedies and the availability of tracing in equity.
Core principles of criminal liability
The core principles of criminal liability relating to the specified criminal offences listed below:
Specified criminal offences:
Definition of the offence:
Advising clients, including vulnerable clients, about the procedure and processes at the police station
Rights of a suspect being detained by the police for questioning:
Advising a client, including vulnerable clients, whether to answer police questions:
Procedure for interviewing a suspect under PACE 1984:
The procedures and processes involved in criminal litigation
First hearings before the magistrates’ court:
Plea before Venue:
Allocation of business between magistrates' court and Crown Court:
Case management and pre-trial hearings:
Principles and procedures to admit and exclude evidence:
Trial procedure in magistrates’ court and Crown Court:
Youth court procedure:
Preliminary considerations for the use of the Welsh language in criminal proceedings.
This document takes a broad definition of competence as being "the ability to perform the roles and tasks required by one's job to the expected standard" (Eraut & du Boulay, 2001).
The advantage of this definition is that it recognises that requirements and expectations change depending on job role and context. It also recognises that competence develops, and that an individual may work 'competently' at many different levels, either at different stages of their career, or indeed from one day to the next depending on the nature of their work.
The competence statement should be read holistically. By way of example, the requirement in A1e to respect diversity and act fairly and inclusively pervades all areas of work and underpins all of the competences in the statement.
Solicitors should be able to:
The SQE model uses Miller's pyramid* to provide a framework for the assessment of solicitor competence. Miller's pyramid is used extensively for the assessment of professional competence, including within medical and dental training.
SQE1 assesses the application of Functioning Legal Knowledge required for effective practice – the 'knows how' of Miller’s pyramid.
*Miller, G.E., 1990. The assessment of clinical skills/competence/performance. Academic Medicine 65(9); 563-567
The competences candidates must demonstrate in applying their knowledge of the law are indicated below, cross-referencing with the Statement of Solicitor Competence.
This annex indicates blueprinting of the Functioning Legal Knowledge for SQE1. The method of classification used for this blueprint is “Single Best Classification”. This means an item is assigned to the classification that is considered to be the primary focus of that question. This does not imply that questions are discrete and neatly fit into each category as, for example, an item may require knowledge of ‘dispute resolution’ and ‘contract’ in order for a candidate to answer it correctly. As such, a blueprint may describe an assessment as having 20% of questions on a particular classification, but application of the knowledge in that classification would be required to answer more than 20% of the questions included in the paper.
Level 3 of the Threshold Standard for the Statement of Solicitor Competence (SoSC) describes the level at which the competences in the SoSC should be performed upon qualification as a solicitor:
Sample questions give you an idea of the style of questions which may be used to test your ability to apply fundamental legal principles and rules.
Learn more: SQE1 sample questions
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