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First SQE exams get underway

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SRA confirms students won’t be tested on Covid laws

Over 1,000 students will sit the first-ever Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) this week, as the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) confirmed they won’t be examined on laws introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The first stage of the assessment, known as SQE1, takes place across Pearson VUE test centres today and Thursday. It involves two exams, each being over five hours long and made up of multiple-choice questions on black-letter law subjects.

In a notice last week the SRA said that students won’t be examined “on any change to the law of England or Wales nor on the content of any other legal notices introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic”.

The assessment scenarios and characters within them are to be treated as being unaffected by the coronavirus, the update said.

The 2022 Legal Cheek SQE Provider List

It comes as students reached out to us asking the regulator and SQE examiner Kaplan for clarity as to whether they will be tested on the law as it stands at the date of assessment. They told us they are expected to know, in relation to laws around insolvency, the specific amount a statutory demand has to be to permit a winding up petition after 21 days. There was confusion among exam takers on whether this would be the pre-Covid £750 figure or the £10,000 introduced following the easing of restrictions last month.

The SQE officially went live on 1 September 2021 and will eventually phase out the Legal Practice Course (LPC).

According to SRA figures, 1,155 students are signed up to take the first-ever SQE1 exam.

Are you one of them? Let us know how it goes at tips@legalcheek.com.

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47 Comments

Ghh

Is the SQE a shit show or nah?

Bamboo

It’s not since it will replace the LPC?

Al

I did the BVC in 1997; just before the CPR (or ‘Woolf Reforms” as they were back then) came in.

“Congratulations you’ve passed. By the way, everything you’ve just learned is now obsolete.”

Archibald Pomp O'City

Same as doing GCSE Physics.

Archibald Pomp O'City

Same as doing GCSE Physics.

Al

I suppose it’s good practice for real life. A few years back an issue arose in a court martial. So the prosecutor and I both pulled all-nighters to get our respective skeleton arguments in for the next day. We arrived bleary eyed to have the JA greet us with “Have you gentlemen seen this morning’s Times law report?”

Ooof

5 hours of multiple choice questions?
That sounds like torture – sure lots through tiredness lost concentration and with multiple choice questions with similar potential answers it must be easy to slip up…

D

Spot on, that was the feeling.

The SQE Cassandra

10 hours assessing legal knowledge via MCQs is a cliff-edge drop in standards. My GDL was assessed via 7 x 3-hour written papers (handy that, given that lawyers rarely tick boxes in real life). So below halfway and that’s without even starting to think about the legal knowledge exams (predominantly written, admittedly some MCQ) for the LPC. So maybe a third of the previous assessment level overall when it comes to legal knowledge? And let’s not forget that the qualifying work experience Regulations say that having the opportunity to acquire the necessary skills is all that’s needed, as opposed to having actually demonstrated them. SQE is going to be an unmitigated shitshow and heads should (metaphorically) roll at the SRA / Legal Services Board.

James

Passing SQE1 is tough! I graduated with a high 2.1 from LSE, and struggled with yesterday’s exam. Most people did…

D

Agree with James, it’s really tough. I have done an LLM in Banking and trust me this exam was 10x harder.

Ellie

I agree with James and D.

Colin

I passed my LLB this summer with a first class.

I have was part of the first SQE1 exam cohort.

The SQE1 exam was extremely difficult.

I recall on the FLK2 session, question 12 on the second part, I literally could not focus. The computer had been buzzing all day. My eyes were stinging and I recall getting a very simple crime question wrong which I could answer correctly 10x out of 10 under any other circumstance (having looked it up afterwards).

Everyone I spoke to after the exam, felt the same way.

It will be interesting to see the pass percentage as compared with the LPC.

Emily

I have done the GDL and am now doing the SQE and in my opinion the exam the other day was far more exhausting than a GDL exam where you could choose which questions to answer.

Heather

My GDL was an absolute walk in the park compared to the SQE. Absolutely no comparison. I easily achieved a GDL with distinction but will be lucky to pass the SQE if Monday’s exam is anything to go by. Multiple choice does not make it easier when the answers are all so similar and the questions are deliberately trying to trip you up. I’d much rather be writing essays, it would be a LOT easier!

James

It was extremely difficult! I’m sure 90% of MC trainees would fail it. Such a tough exam today – all answer choices were so similar and questions worded incorrectly!

Ellie

Fully agree.

Anonymous

..

Anonymous

agreeing with James on this. The questions were poorly worded and vague with certain information. the exam was more like an attrition test in tricking you.

D

It was also about testing your legal thinking than actual knowledge of the subjects. A lot of questions where you need to apply common sense

Anonymous

I think the person above has this pretty much correct. a 5 hour exam, in itself, is ridiculous. let alone the poorly worded questions. the exam is just a rehash of the gdl and lpc, why is there not an exemption for those that have completed both? to note, the same exam was sat in multiple different companies at different times (scope for cheating). this is awful!

JC

The transitional arrangements do provide an exemption from SQE 1 for those with an LPC: https://www.sra.org.uk/become-solicitor/legal-practice-course-route/substitute-qwe-sqe2-equivalent-training/

Anonymous

*countries not companies!

Anonymous

Totally true, the whole idea is illogical as long as the sra still offer the traditional tc route. if the gdl and lpc cover the academic side of that route then it is only logical that it covers the new sqe route, the only thing that differs is the employment and practical side (tc v qwe). There needs to be exemptions for those with the relevant academics. I can see a big backlash with this, JR any bad exam results?

Alena

I took the exam on Monday and it was harder than I thought it would be but I didn’t think it was horrific. It will be interesting to see the pass mark. As we are being marked on a quintile basis, it could be interesting as if too difficult the top quintile percentage could be low.

Paralegal silver circle firm

It was more of an exam to trick you than testing legal knowledge. I’ve spent the last 4 months revising full time with Uni of Law and my legal knowledge is good. But the questions were so poorly worded – they must have just taken someone from the street to write them up – SRA have messed this up. Pass rate won’t be more than 50% and this will put off a lot of law firms moving away from LPC model anytime soon. SRA have failed the Nov SQE cohort.

D

What’s with the nay sayers? Just accept this is gonna replace your expensive rich kid LPC lool

D

It was a very difficult exam. It is effectively a bar exam so it’s meant to be that way. It is cheaper than GDL/LPC but consider that it is harder to pass and therefore pass rate won’t be that high.

Jane

the exam was really much harder than anticipated. My materials didn’t really correspond to what was tested. So disappointed. I agree with the above that the SRA adjusts the passing score downwards to 50% tops. Let’s see what happens.

Ellie

Spot on

Anonymous

there isn’t a pass mark as such. to consider the issues with this first run and fairness, the pass mark when calculated should be at the 35/40% allowed in some lpc units

Amy

I don’t think pass mark will be lower than 50-60%. Most people will fail the November SQE. It was such a difficult exam – my prep course was good but the exams this week were a complete opposite to what we have been taught/style of questions.

Joe

Which course was it?
Any insight into good courses for preparing would be really helpful. Am a foreign qualified lawyer

Laura

hi Amy – which provider did you study the prep course through?

Anonymous

in complete agreement that the sra has failed the November first run and should offer appropriate measures if failure rates are high. The SRA must introduce exemptions for those that have previously completed the GDL and LPC amd satisfy the qwe requirement.

Ellie

Ditto this: “the exam was really much harder than anticipated. My materials didn’t really correspond to what was tested. So disappointed. I agree with the above that the SRA adjusts the passing score downwards to 50% tops. Let’s see what happens.”

Really hope they don’t fail more than 50% people. What a disaster …. My materials honestly sucked if this is what was demanded …..

Anonymous

If they do it would be an even lower pass rate compared to the NY bar exam. I really hope not…

Anonymous

Who was your prep course with?

Severus Gotch

One cannot assess the relevance of the comments or any pass rate unless one also has a feel for the academic calibre of those participating. A healthy sorting of wheat from chaff would be thoroughly welcomed.

Useless

The pleb who wrote those questions ought to go back to GCSE English. Never have I seen such poorly worded sentences.

Hmm

100% agree with the comment above.

I am a fee earner and found SQE1 extremely difficult. I have many years of experience and was quite disappointed with the general format of this exam.

Who are the SRA employing to write these exams?! The MCQ’s were poorly written and it could be argued that the “best possible answer” is not the best possible answer.

In practice, everyone will answer a question in a different way, but will still arrive at the same conclusion.

SRA, this seriously needs to be revised. Quite shocking.

Neg

I sat the exams this week. I get that any solicitor exams must be tough because the profession needs to challenge those students taking the exam to ensure that standards are kept high BUT the exams this week will not help win over employers to go with the SQE.
The questions (set out in a multiple choice style format) is not an adequate way to test knowledge. The questions were too long and sometimes the facts in the question irrelevant, the answers were too similar and were set out in a way to catch students out. Unfortunately the SRA / Kaplan have provided ammunition to those who argue that the LPC should not be phased out. Also the current candidates who have taken the November exams have been let down because I have no doubt that once the results come through in January Kaplan will have to change the MCQs for the July cohort. Basically the November candidates have been used as guinea pigs.
I also agree with the posters above who mentioned the standard of the questions – the grammar and way the questions were worded was poor.

Ben

Why did T’rex’s have such little arms?

Harriett

Good thing they didnt have cereal back then, could you imagine? LOL

Russel group grad

I can’t understand what the purpose of this exam was. The questions were poorly worded and too long to answer. The answers were obviously not the “best answers” and all seemed about anything but the law.
Even an associate with years of experience couldn’t score high in this exam.
Law firms will soon start to struggle to hire NQ associates because the SRA didn’t do its job, what a shame

UCL LLM

LPC is much easier to pass – stick with the LPC. SQE questions are ridiculously difficult. I showed some questions to my friend who is an NQ at A&O and even she couldn’t answer them.

Neg

I think in time the SQE1 will work but at the moment the SRA and Kaplan are letting students down.
The MCQs were poorly worded and did not deal with any specific legal issues. I sat there wondering ‘how does Kaplan want me to answer this question?’ because there were rarely any logical, straight-forward options. It was bizarre!
It doesn’t make sense that sample questions, released ages ago by the SRA in order to help students get a feel for the exam, were so different to the real questions used in the exams last week.
Maybe I’m too cynical but it got many students to sign up, pay the £1500 exam fee, and then without any recourse the level of difficulty for the questions were changed. The SQE is suppose to be a less expensive way to qualify but it’s not so if students have to sit the exam a couple of times in order to pass. Lots of money going into Kaplan and the SRA’s coffers it seems.

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