A grammar test and a role-play will form part of the solicitors qualifying examination (SQE) for legal apprentices, the Solicitors Regulation Authority revealed today, saying that candidates will sit the proposed test in two stages.

Julie Brannan (pictured), the SRA's director of education and training, said the proposals would create high standards but also 'encourage flexibility’.

Brannan said apprentices would take the SQE in two stages – one after three to four years of training, and another in the final six months. The overall course would last between five and six years.

She was speaking at an event at the Law Society in Chancery Lane called ‘Apprenticeships in law briefing – what employers need to know’.

Apprenticeship standards, which give young people an alternative route to qualify as a solicitors, paralegals, or chartered legal executives, were announced by then prime minister David Cameron last year.

Brannan said that stage one of the proposed SQE would test candidates on their grammar and writing skills, as well as knowledge in six areas of law.

A second assessment, taken near the end of the qualifying route, would require candidates to perform a role-play and demonstrate interviewing and advocacy techniques, Brannan said.

‘The proposals are in the second stage of a consultation process but we hope to appoint an assessment organisation by the end of 2017, meaning the first assessments will be taken in 2019,’ she told delegates.

The SQE proposals have been criticised by the profession. Earlier this year, the Gazette reported that the SRA had received 250 responses to its first consultation on the scheme.

In February, Anthony Bradney, professor of law at Keele University, told a panel discussion that he thought the exam could devalue the solicitor brand.