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Junior lawyers call for super-exam delay as it warns MCQs may be too easy

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War of words between JLD and regulator rumbles on

A group of junior lawyers has urged the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to delay its rollout of the new solicitor super-exam, just days after the regulator signed off the final design.

In a lengthy letter to the regulator’s chief exec Paul Philip, The Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) lists off a series of concerns it has with the Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE), a two-part assessment due to come into force from September 2021.

Primary among the concerns is the reliance on multiple choice questions (MCQs) to assess candidates’ functioning legal knowledge as part of SQE1. The JLD says it has been in contact with a “small number” of individuals who tested these sample MCQs as part of the pilot, with “worrying results”.

These SQE guinea pigs include a young paralegal with “no formal legal training” who took 30 minutes to do the first 30 questions. He scored 43%. Another candidate, now working as a paralegal but who had not done the Legal Practice Course (LPC), scored 60% after completing 30 questions in 30 minutes. The letter also cites the example of non-legal PhD holder with no legal training who scored 73% after completing the 30 questions in just eight minutes.

On this, the JLD says: “This small number of examples produce troubling results and would suggest that the MCQs are not overly difficult, confirming the current concerns of the profession, and that the SRA is potentially setting the level of legal knowledge and/or question standard too low.”

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They continue:

“Undoubtedly in order to set a higher standard it would be necessary for individuals to have the requisite legal knowledge to complete the assessment and we refer back to our concerns about the lack of a requirement to complete a QLD/GDL. We consider that further work needs to be undertaken in relation to MCQs and the level of legal knowledge candidates are expected to have, and that the data from the SQE 1 pilot should be released in a similar manner to our examples above.”

The group — which looks after the interests of roughly 70,000 LPC students, trainees and solicitors with up to five years’ post qualification experience (PQE) — goes on to argue that the SQE is not yet ready for final approval and that more time is needed to ensure it is fit for purpose. It adds: “We believe that a further delay is needed and that the SQE should not be brought in, in its current form, in 2021.”

On Monday the SRA revealed the final design of the super-exam. It will seek final sign-off from the Legal Services Board (LSB) this summer.

Read the JLD’s letter in full below:

9 Comments

Als

The SQE will be a car crash

(12)(0)

MyName

I have actually participated to the SQE Pilot 1 last year and can confirm that the MCQs were far too easy for a solicitor-qualifying exam. For full disclosure, I did study law before and was a trainee in a City Firm at that time, nonetheless, without any specific preparation for the test whatsoever, and without even having any understanding of what the test would actually consist of, I went on to scoring approx. 75% which was enough to be ranked in the top 10% of all candidates. Many MCQs were based on pure common sense rather than knowledge of law and typically, it was quite easy to be able to eliminate one or two options purely on how silly they were given the context… The SQE definitely does not hold up to the standards of an LLB/GDL and LPC degree…

(18)(0)

Anonymous

NEXT WEEK EXCLUSIVE: Some other irrelevant body yet again calls for the delay of the SQE so another repetitive article can once more be written

(1)(8)

SQEeze me

Alternative view: It demonstrates that the skill of being a Solicitor has little to do with having a law degree or a formal training course. Degrees are there as a proxy for firms choosing the ‘right sort of people’.

Being a lawyer is a vocation dressed in requiring a degree.

(7)(10)

Anonymous

MCQs have no place in a professional exam. But there is a major push by the SRA to dumb down SQE1 to appease the diversity warriors. Apparently testing potential future lawyers’ knowledge of the law using questions that required written answers caused diversity issues, and we can’t have that.

(8)(2)

SQEeze me

That’s your considered pedagogical view, is it? Not just reactionary claptrap based on MCQ bad, scattergun writing down whatever you like, good?

MCQs are part of legal exams the world over, Royal Colleges of Medicine and more.

‘Apparently’ – Wholly inaccurate. Try reading the report before commenting on it.

(2)(6)

Bored

Read the report. Agree with 3.17. As for MCQ they always seemed too easy when I did them, but maybe they work in sorting out the wheat from the chaff, which is the point of these low level sorts of tests.

(3)(1)

Archibald Pomp O'City

Glad you’re so honest about being chaff!

(2)(1)

FlourPour

Does anybody think that the LPC is particularly difficult now? These tests aren’t meant to be a firewall keeping the dumb dumbs out of the profession (and if they are they’re not working) they’re just meant to equip students with the bare minimum to start work as a solicitor. All the experience comes on the job.

The GDL is just a huge memory test that flushes from your memory the second you leave the exam hall. As long as students remember the core principles and retain an idea of the key statutes then they’ll be fine in the profession. Very few (junior) lawyers rely on their education and memory to recall the law. They look it up and I’m sure partners and insurers prefer it that way.

Anyone that’s capable of getting a decent university degree and bluffing their way into a training contract already has all the skills required to be a half decent lawyer and the GDL/LPC were never intended to be an impediment to that.

(4)(0)

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