Aspiring lawyers report waiting hours before being told to go home
Kaplan and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have apologised after an “IT issue” meant some students were left unable to sit the first part of their Solicitors Qualifying Exam — despite waiting around for “5+ hours”.
Yesterday’s glitch impacted a test centre in Hammersmith, West London, where students were due sit the first of two computer-based, multiple choice assessments known as Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK). The second assessment is due to take place next week.
While for the vast majority of students the first exam appears to have gone smoothly, the same cannot be said for those who attended the testing centre in Hammersmith.
Several students told Legal Cheek that they arrived at the centre at 8:30am ready for an exam start time of 9am. Unfortunately, by lunchtime, the exam still hadn’t started and students were then informed via an email that an “IT issue” was to blame. They were advised to “get some refreshments” and return to the centre at 2:30pm while “investigations” continue. But at around 3pm — some six hours after the exam was due to start — invigilators broke the bad news that it had been cancelled.
“I am at a loss for words with respect to this situation,” one student told Legal Cheek. “The whole situation was appalling”. Another added: “We are paying over £1,500 for SQE1 exams. This really isn’t acceptable.”
A spokesperson for Kaplan said:
“A number of candidates were unable to take the SQE on Thursday due to an IT issue at the Pearson Vue test centre in Hammersmith. We apologise to all those affected for the stress this has caused. We are continuing to investigate the issue and are communicating directly with affected candidates. We will provide updates as more information becomes available.”
Some students took to Twitter to complain. Responding to an SRA scam alert, one wrote: “Shame you cannot run your own internal exams with such efficiency. How would you feel stuck in a room for 5+ hours waiting to start an exam with no idea when or even if it will start. Is that ideal preparation?”
The SRA responded: “We’re aware of the situation and are very sorry that you have had this experience. Kaplan’s SQE Candidate Service team are getting in touch and will provide updates on next steps.”
A spokesperson for the SRA told Legal Cheek it was aware of the situation and was “very sorry for the stress this has caused candidates”. They said “it is important candidates have clarity as soon as possible” and was “liaising with Kaplan to understand the issues and what next steps need to be taken”.
This isn’t the first SQE students have encountered IT problems. Earlier this year Kaplan issued an apology after a “technical issue” left some aspiring lawyers unable to access their exam results, and a “small number” receiving other candidates’ scores. Fast forward a month and Legal Cheek reported that a number of students faced wait times of up to two hours on the SRA’s website when attempting to book sittings for SQE2.