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SQE examiner hit by ‘cheating’ outbreak

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Kaplan acknowledges ‘attempted’ cheating on foreign lawyer exam it also runs

The company in charge of the new solicitor super-exam has been rocked by allegations of cheating in the law exams it already oversees.

Kaplan, which has the contract to run the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), said that it was “fully aware that some candidates attempted to cheat” on a separate test for foreign lawyers re-qualifying in England. But it insisted that it had taken “robust action” and there was “no impact on the overall assessment”.

A foreign lawyer who contacted Legal Cheek with concerns about the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) exams told us that the July and August assessments were “absolutely identical” and candidates in the second group were tipped off about what they were going to be asked.

The QLTS exam regulations warn candidates that “disclosing or discussing details of the content of any element of the assessment unless expressly permitted or required” counts as cheating.

Kaplan didn’t deny that the two rounds of exams were the same, but says the results ultimately showed no cause for concern and that details of action taken against individuals are confidential.

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Our tipster passed, and is now qualified as a solicitor in England and Wales. But, they say, “I feel that I shouldn’t have been able to pass that way, that this exam is just not worth anything”.

A Kaplan spokesperson said: “We are fully aware that some candidates attempted to cheat in a QLTS examination and we have taken robust action in response… candidates clearly attempted to gain an advantage by cheating, but they were not successful.”

The company said that there was “no cause for concern in relation to the results of both the July and the August assessments which reached the very high statistical quality standards (in terms of reliability and accuracy) expected of high stakes professional licensing exams. No adjustments were necessary, or were made”.

The spokesperson added that the marks in the August exams were actually lower on average than in July.

Kaplan was put in charge of the SQE in 2018 on an eight-year contract.

Its exams weren’t the only ones to face criticism this year. The Bar Standards Board has commissioned an independent probe into problems with this summer’s online bar exams, which were overseen by Pearson VUE.

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