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Super-exam pilot results: make SQE1 the theory test and leave practical skills for SQE2

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Testing skills during SQE1 doesn’t really work, says examiner

Aspiring lawyers looking to sit the upcoming Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) should have their legal knowledge and practical skills assessed separately, the results of a pilot have suggested.

Kaplan, the legal education giant tasked with delivering the new super-exam, has recommended that the skills element of SQE1, under its current format, be ditched.

The pilot, run by Kaplan, saw over 300 candidates from across the UK, Singapore and France, sit a preliminary version of SQE1 earlier this year. The assessment itself was split into two sub-sections: three multiple-choice papers of 120 questions each covering black letter law, followed by a practical skills test consisting of one legal research and two legal writing exercises.

Responding to Kaplan’s feedback, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said it had decided to take some time to discuss the findings with stakeholders and to explore whether there are any other suitable ways to assess skills in SQE1. Marks for each of the three pilot skills assessments ranged from 8% to 100%.

The regulator accepted the results of the pilot raised questions about the “validity” of the skills assessment, pointing to the low number of practical exercises (three in total) as the reason for this part of the exam not reaching the “high standard of accuracy required”. It added:

“The results also suggested that the skills part of the SQE1 may set an unnecessary barrier to qualification which disadvantages BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) candidates, which would be unacceptable.”

As a result of this, the SRA confirmed it will not go ahead with the proposed approach to assessing students’ skills in SQE1.

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While it remains to be seen whether the practical element will be removed from part one altogether, the SRA did stress that lawyer-hopefuls will still be tested extensively on these as part of SQE2. Under the current proposals, part two will cover a range of practical skills including client interviewing, advocacy and legal drafting.

Elsewhere in today’s announcement, the SRA said it had accepted Kaplan’s recommendation to “further enhance the effectiveness” of SQE1 by amending the design to two 180 MCQ assessments rather than three 120 MCQ ones. This, according to the regulator, “will improve the reliability and accuracy of the exam, helping to ensure that those who pass deserve to pass and those who fail, deserve to fail”. Marks on the pilot MCQ tests ranged from 17% to 85%, with an average mark of 50%.

Commenting on the update, Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, said:

“The pilot was also about understanding what does not work, and there is clearly more to do to establish whether an early stage skills assessment can be sufficiently robust. We will continue to work closely with stakeholders to explore the best options for assessing legal skills through the SQE.”

The SQE, due to come into force in September 2021, will replace both the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). A pilot on SQE2 is due to run in December.

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41 Comments

Anonymous

‘the skills part of the SQE1 may set an unnecessary barrier to qualification which disadvantages BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) candidates’

It’s truly extraordinary to hear so-called liberals making comments about racial determinism like this. The cult of social justice really does regress into fascism eventually.

(27)(7)

Anonymous

Shut up gammon

(6)(22)

Confused

I do not understand the remark regarding BAME students??

So Black and Asian students can’t possibly understand black letter law questions?? what utter nonsense

(29)(2)

Anonymous

Did you just say “black letter law”? I think you mean, “BAME letter law”.

(33)(0)

Anonymous

It may be an issue with tricky technical issues like proficiency in written or spoken English. Which you would hope would not be an issue in a post-graduate vocational legal examination.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Average mark of 50%??

They’ve replaced the LPC with an impossible test

(8)(0)

Anonymous

I think that’s the only good thing to have come from this.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Isn’t it good exam design to have an average mark of 50%, and the bottom mark achieved should be 1% and the top should be 99%? If every single person taking a test gets between 65 and 66, say, then how does that help distinguish between better and worse candidates – what is the point of having a 100-point range of marks if you only use a tiny part of the range? Of course, you should consider what mark counts as a pass…

(9)(1)

Anonymous

“unnecessary barrier to qualification which disadvantages BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) candidates”

Completely insane

(16)(1)

Redonculous

Perhaps it should be a wake up call for BAME to improve their written english, not for us to pander to their weaknesses. If you haven’t got the skills to enter a skilled profession then you cannot enter.

I bet the SRA want an influx of people in the profession at lower standards so that they can just haul more people in front of the tribunal.

In the meantime, I am becoming a rocket engineer because I would like to make rockets. I am not very good at maths, science or physics though.

(22)(14)

Anonymous

Lmao this is right on point

(3)(1)

Anonymous

At least the woman in that stock photo can hold a pencil properly. Trainees now seem to hold pens and pencils in a claw grip, as though they’ve all got terrible arthritis.

Fuckwits, the lot of them.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

There’s only one thing worse than someone who holds their pen or pencil the wrong way. That’s the fuckwit who cares about how people hold their pen or pencils.

(11)(1)

Anonymous

Ah, you’ll be one of the retards who has difficulties mastering the use of an opposing thumb.

(1)(2)

Anonymous

This is pathetic. Exams are meant to be hard. The BAME reference is nonsensical.

(19)(1)

Anonymous

So rascist. Please apologise immediately.

(4)(4)

Anonymous

Get stuffed.

(2)(2)

Anonymous

Wow, doubling down on the rascism. A new low here.

(2)(4)

Anonymous

You’re doubling down on seeing racism where there isn’t any. But then since you can’t even spell the word, I doubt that the issue at hand would affect you whatever your ethnicity. You probably will have to google “ethnicity”.

bme

can someone explain why bme are disadvantaged

(13)(0)

Anonymous

These things don’t need to be explained. The mock tests produced an ethnicity gap and that is alll that matters. Asking for reasons means you are racist.

(3)(4)

Anonymous

So SQE1 is tough. Maybe if there was a university-level course, or even full degree, that could be mandatory prep stage. Perhaps this degree could be a “Bachelor of Laws”?

You could be really pretentious (because lawyers love being pretentious) about it too and call this Bachelor of Laws degree by its Latin name, Legum Baccalaureus. However this is too long for business cards and email signatures so just abbreviate it as LLB.

The black letter law element of the SQE1, and who knows, maybe even some of the practical research, could be examined at the end of each year of the LLB. Then after the LLB you start the work experience stage (say, two years’ worth?) with practical examination elements of SQE2 dotted throughout.

That would be so ground breaking and refreshing whilst addressing the short falls! You’re welcome, SRA…

Cockwombles.

(23)(1)

Tommy

Here’s an idea… Why not just stick with the LPC and give up dropping standards by a heap of MCQ’S ?

The SQE will just open the floodgates for idiots who have no place in the profession.

SRA you’ve really messed up on the thought process of this one.

(13)(1)

Grad Wreck

Sounds like the SQE is harder, not easier.

The failure rate of the LPC is around 1%.

(2)(6)

Retardero

1%, even though my LPC had four tugheads who managed to fail both Civil Lit and BLP. We were a special bunch.

(3)(0)

Tommy

Not sure where you’re getting the 1% figure from and what institute it relates to.

It can’t possibly be better to put in multiple choice questions and imply the SQE is harder than the LPC.

The current LPC exam is 90% examination and 10% MCQ, replacing this with 120/180 MCQ’S is easier than a practical question that needs you to apply the law, rather than just ticking a box.

I am doing the LPC and this year it certainly wasn’t 1% fail rate at my institute.

The SRA have screwed up and Kaplan have no idea or experience in the course they have proposed.

(13)(1)

US Firm NQ

The LPC is an overpriced and completely unnecessary and impractical course. Like 0 things you learn on it will ever be useful in practice.

I do not know a single person who failed LPC. GDL is another story – most of my group failed it, but they would have failed MCQ exam too.

(4)(14)

Scrap the SQE

Just responding to your comment that the ‘ LPC is over priced ‘

The sad reality is the SQE will be no different, SQE paper 1 and 2 have been quoted and when you add teaching fees it will be the same. So financially there’s sod all difference.

And as for the quality of lawyers the SQE will churn out …
I repeat replacing a question which requires you to apply the law in your answer will give better quality lawyers, not multiple choice questions that just require a box ticked.

Grad Wreck

What I’m pointing out to you is the fact that the SQE1 does appear to be harder given the scores released as part of this pilot.

You seem to suggest because it’s MCQ based that it will easier.

Exams that’s are known to be hard to pass, notably the New York Bar exam, use MCQs.

You might not like the idea of the SQE, but your logic for suggesting it will be easier than the LPC and will therefore lower standards, doesn’t hold up bad on what we’ve seen to far.

(3)(14)

Scrap the SQE

This isn’t New York

I understand what you’re trying to say, but if the results have not been great after this pilot it does not mean it is because the MCQ’S are harder. The students applied at random to do the test and most were still LLB students. So the results are not reflective of the test being more difficult.

It is a fact that we should be assessed on the application of the law in a problem question, not a tick box exercise.

It’s the application of the law that tests a good potential lawyer, not ticking boxes.

Almost everyone has voiced opinion against this stupid test created by Kaplan who do not have a clue on what they’re doing.

Kim Kardashian

American bar exam lols

Isn’t kim Kardashian going to complete the bar exam soon…

Please do not compare American bar exams to the LPC.

Anonymous

Just remember, no-one cares what mark you get in vocational qualifications, indeed trying too hard is seen as a sign of being crushingly dull.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Personality and effort go a long way in the legal profession.

I had to leave a LPC exam as I fell ill and therefore failed it. Because of the “fit to sit” rules they wouldn’t let me appeal the fail/ get an additional first attempt. Resat the exam and got a high mark but still got capped with a Pass for the overall LPC. Everyone said I would be screwed for getting a TC.

At the same time I was meeting 3-4 recruitment partners from London firms a week for coffees. Surprisingly if you just ask, most of them are happy to have some non-client human contact.

I am now a trainee (about to qualify) and many of those in my LPC cohort with commendations/distinctions who said I no longer had a chance are still working in paralegal recruitment.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Sure lol stop lying

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Well that is a nice story. Dull, but nice.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Contender for DHOYA

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Are the SRA now just the marketing arm of Kaplan? When plans for the SQE were announced the SRA were adamant that their research had shown there ‘had’ to be six assessments and there ‘had’ to be a practical element. Once Kaplan won the tender on the basis they would provide this they’ve decided they aren’t going to and the SRA seem so scared of the whole enterprise collapsing they are capitulating on everything. No wonder the price is skyrocketing.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

WTF? The people involved are graduates. How the hell is an exam meant to disadvantage BAME graduates?

(5)(0)

Anonymous

So they are implying that non-white people can’t read or write properly and therefore should be exempt from this task so they are not “disadvantaged” in comparison to white applicants.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Would employers consider your SQE score for training contracts?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Would employers consider your SQE scores for training contracts or “practical training”?

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.

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