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Super-exam pass rates could be higher than LPC, says boss of new SQE mega provider

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Comments come after Linklaters training chief revealed fear that more magic circle rookies could fail SQE

The managing director of global legal education giant Barbri has moved to allay fears that the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) could be too difficult — predicting that pass rates could actually be higher than on the soon-to-be phased out Legal Practice Course (LPC).

Recalling the introduction of the LPC 30 years ago, Sarah Hutchinson told Legal Cheek:

“Typically when a new exam is introduced, you would expect the examiner to give the benefit of the doubt to the students and it is not in the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s best interests to produce dramatic fail rates. After all, they want the SQE to succeed. For instance, when the LPC was first introduced the distinction rate was high. Over time, this was adjusted down to make it more challenging.”

Hutchinson, a former board member of The University of Law who is now spearheading Barbri’s push into the burgeoning SQE market, was responding to comments made by Linklaters’ global head of training Patrick McCann.

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In a quote picked up by the Law Society’s Gazette magazine, McCann said:

“The SRA is basing [SQE1] on the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme and that has something like a 50% fail rate. Currently the law degree fail rate is about 2% and the Legal Practice Course fail rate is about 10-20% — and for firms like Linklaters it’s 0-2%.”

A higher fail rate worries City law firms as it could undermine their reputations for intellectual excellence.

Hutchinson agreed with McCann that the SQE will be tough, adding: “What Patrick says is correct in that the SQE1 is a final test on ‘everything’, the MCT format is demanding, and the pass rate on QLTS (an equivalent exam operated by Kaplan [which will also be examiner for the SQE]) is between 50-60%.” But she expects that after a gentle super-exam launch, “the market will adjust to whatever syllabus and assessment methodology deployed, and we will reach an equilibrium that will be sufficiently demanding for practice but fair to the students”.

The SQE — which will be split into two parts, one assessing knowledge and the other practical skills — is scheduled to replace the LPC from autumn 2021.

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18 Comments

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The whole thing is a waste of time

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No it’s not. I bet you are the sort of person who (justifiably) complains about the current system (which sees students charged far too much to do the LPC), but when someone tries to do something constructive about it and make changes for the better, you just throw up your hands and say actually let’s not bother, it’s a waste of time.

To the SRA: keep going, ignore the naysayers, you have a duty to replace the current system with something that is better.

Anonymous

Higher fail rates would sort out the wheat from the chaff in an over-supplied market.

Anon

Shouldn’t the pass rate be calculated more on the pass rate should be high for those with a law degree / conversion course. Sure, the pass rate for the LPC is high but all the people taking it have already passed a degree and passed the core subjects so you would expect the pass rate to be 80% plus. If however anybody could literally walk in of the street and take the LPC then the pass rate would be lower.

Given the SRA is taking up the Calafornia model (some states require you to have a degree to take the Bar Exam and some do not – Calafornia does not), the pass rate should also be modled on it. The Calafornia Bar Exam is rock hard if you have not done a law degree first. It can be done and people do pass it without a law degree, but the pass rate for those attempting it with no degree is more like 30% first time and most people have to have a couple of goes at it to pass.

If the SRA is setting an exam at the level where Kim Kardashian has an 80%+ chance of passing it, then that would seem to be a massive reduction in the standard.
If the

SPAG Police

It’s upsetting how many times you butchered the word California in one post😢

Anon

Oh fuck off

Anon

Classy. That sort of repeated error is not a typo, it is ignorance. It is not an issue for the SPAG police.

Wig Jockey

It is for wannabe solicitors. It can’t be that taxing.

Anon

Can’t agree with you there. The QLTT (which is taken after by fully qualified lawyers who wish to switch to being UK solicitors – generally UK qualified barristers and Overseas qualified lawyers and the exam includes essay questions not to MCQ) is only 50%. If its going to be, all you have to do is pass a exam and bingo you are solicitor (which is what the QLTT does), shouldn’t the standard set be similar to the QLTT?

anonymind

Think you might be a few decades late mate, the QLTT doesn’t exist anymore, it’s the QLTS now!

Anon

Correct, think it went about 7 years ago. My point was more, when the QLTT existed you could become a solicitor just by passing an exam (which is what the Super Exam does). If you were a barrister or REL you could just walk in off the street and sit the QLTT exam and if you passed you were a solicitor. So if the SRA are going back to that, where you can just walk in take an exam and you are a solicitor with no training contract, requirement to pass a degree or anything else shouldn’t that exam be up to the same standard as the QLTT. If only 50% of qualified lawyers could pass the QLTT, if the pass rate for the Super Exam should at least be on a par with it.

Anon

QLTS pass rates are actually worse than the QLTT pass rates

Amused

Paul Phillip referred to the SQE as a back to the future like exam. This is in the sense that it will be like the Law Society Finals. The pass rate will therefore be reflected accordingly.

We will then move into a profession where trainees and the like can only give advice on the basis of the questions to them being presented in multiple choice format

Anon

The SRA can’t keep their message consistent. At the early stages of the process, they were selling this as being more robust than the LPC and that there was concerns the LPC pass rates were too high.

Randolph B hoffermeyer

You’d have to be work shy to fail the LPC, now or way back when.

Anonymous

The real solution to the issue was to make the LPC cheaper, tougher to enroll on to and tougher to complete. This new route, whilst cheaper, is going to encourage a lot, lot more people who have no chance of entering the profession to have a go. It’s going to be a rainmaker for providers.

Jane

Slightly relevant to this the new fees for BPP’s new pGDL (September 2020) are now out – London Waterloo (without the LLM option) is £11,590. People doing that may well just do the tradiinoal LPC the year after and then 2 years training. Some may choose the SQE route instead. People obviously have already applied since 1 Oct for starting in Sept 2020 on the new course. https://www.bpp.com/courses/law/pgdl-law-conversion-course. ( see also https://bppassets.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/public/assets/pdf/key-facts/Law-Conversion-Course-PGDL-Key-Facts.pdf )

Those doing the SQE route starting Sept 2020 presumably after April 2021 would then do an SQE 1 couse and then the exam although I don’t think it will be available SQE1 until Nov 2021 at earliest so I hope the transitional position for those starting a GDP in 2020 is being considered carefully particularly for those students who are not sponsored on a GDL starting next September.

The new BPP course is only 8 months to April 2021. I thought it might be a bit cheaper as it is not the usual full course to July or June of earlier years (and because presumably people will have to pay to sit SQE 1 as well on top of that via Kaplan) but it seems to be similar to the current fees or what I remember of the current fees for the existing GDL.

Jane

I think we should leave well alone as the current system is working fine.

If we do make this change and with SQE1 all multiple choice etc which all sounds awful then I suppose itm ight go back to as it was when i did the Finals (before the LPC came out) when yes 50% of people failed – half the class basically.

That was deliberate too as they would work out how many trainees were needed in firms and then ration accordingly.

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