The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) – Managing the pressure

Jul 10, 2023

If you’re getting ready to take the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) you might well be feeling under pressure and apprehensive about the assessments. If you do feel the pressure is having a negative effect on you, there are some simple steps you could take to help.

What to expect

You will have been working hard on your knowledge and practising your skills. But you should also make sure you know what to take with you to, and what to expect on, the assessment days. This could help to reduce any exam stress or anxiety and support you to perform the best you can.

There is plenty of information about the assessment days on the SQE website.There is also a webinar, featuring some recent SQE candidates, that includes their hints and tips on how to approach the assessments on the SRA website.


SQE1 takes place over two days – with FLK1 being assessed on the first day and FLK 2 on the second day. You will be asked questions that cover ethics and professional conduct on both days.

You hopefully will have found the 90 published sample questions. We know from analysing the website that more candidates look at the early questions in the list and fewer candidates look at the later questions. Try to make time to work through them all, to get the best sense of the types of questions you might be asked.

Each day is split into two parts – morning and afternoon. You will answer 90 questions in each of the sessions (180 questions on each day, 360 questions in total). You will be told what time to arrive at your test centre. Give yourself plenty of time to get there, as even risking being late will mean a stressful start to the day.

You will also be reminded what documents to take to prove your identity in your email confirmation. You will not be allowed to take the exam unless you have the correct documents – so get them ready in advance.

Don’t be surprised to find people taking different types of assessment at the centre. Most centres are not dedicated to the SQE.

There is more information, including a video of what to expect when you arrive at a Pearson VUE SQE test centre and what to take with you on the SQE1 assessment days page. You should read this information and watch the video so you know what to expect.


The written SQE2 assessments take place over three consecutive half days. These assessments are held in the same centres that are used for SQE1.

The oral assessments take place over two consecutive half days. Your assessments will be held in either a hotel which is configured for the assessment or, if you’re taking the assessment in London, in an oral test centre.

You should follow the instructions given to you about the time you must arrive. Arrival times for the oral assessments are not the same for all candidates, so don’t worry if you have been told to arrive at a different time to someone you know. But do make sure you arrive at the correct time for you and that you have the correct documents with you.

During your oral assessment days there will be some waiting times. This is inevitable because of the nature of the assessment, which means a limited number of candidates can be assessed at the same time.

There is more information on what to expect when you arrive at a Pearson VUE SQE test centre, including the video mentioned in the SQE1 section above, available on the SQE2 assessment days page. You should read this information and watch the video so you know what to expect.

There are published SQE2 sample questions. There is also a useful explanation of how to use the copy and paste function on the assessment platform. You will be given information about the copy and paste function at the start of the exams, but you’re advised to read it before the exam too.

Exam stress and anxiety

It’s normal for candidates to feel stressed when taking exams, especially high stakes exams such as the SQE. There is research that suggests a certain amount of stress can help a candidate’s exam preparation, boosting motivation, focus and energy.

But exam stress can tip into anxiety, before, during or after an exam.

There’s plenty of published information and advice on managing exam stress. See, for example:

Student Minds - Exam Stress

YoungMinds - How to deal with exam stress

 NHS - Breathing exercises for stress

If you’re preparing to take SQE1, you will, of course, need to prepare to answer questions on the full range of topics. But don’t panic if, during the exam, you don’t know the answer to some questions. You don’t need to get them all right to pass. The pass mark is set for each sitting. So far the pass marks for FLK1 and FLK2 have been under 60%.

If you’re preparing to take SQE2, remember that if you don’t do so well in one of the 16 assessments, you might gain extra marks in one of the others to compensate. Your mark will be the average of your marks across all 16 assessments. Again, the pass mark is set for each assessment. So far the overall SQE2 pass mark has been under 65%.

What if you’re not ready?

You do have the option to withdraw from the assessment for which you’ve entered if you decide you’re not yet ready. You will have to pay a cancellation charge (the closer to the exam date you withdraw the higher that charge) - see costs and fees for more information. If you formally withdraw, the attempt will not count towards one of the three attempts candidates have in a six-year period.

Final points

  • Check you know where you are going to sit the assessment. Consider doing a ‘dry run’ to the venue if you can.
  • If you have a reasonable adjustment plan in place, make sure you understand the adjustment that has been agreed.
  • The standard of the exams is high. Their purpose is to find out whether you are ready to practise as a solicitor. But the questions aren’t designed to catch you out. If you don’t immediately know the answer, keep calm and think like a solicitor. You will be able to flag SQE1 questions you want to come back to if you have time.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself, or judge yourself against others.
  • Once you’ve taken the exam, don’t dwell on how it went. Look forward, not back.