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Students unable to sit SQE exam after London test centre suffers ‘IT issue’

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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.”

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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.

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33 Comments

Ha Nice

The SQE really goes from bad to worse…

The 6th important point to remember about the SQE should be Murphy’s law.

No wonder some city firms have requested that TC holders switch from the SQE to the LPC last minute …

I knew SQE would be shit

Oh wow lol, which firms?

You Are Correct.

One of the international firms with a three letter short form name, that’s all I’ll say 🙂

Huh

Lol say the firm or shut up. What’s with the parables?

Future Trainee

I didn’t realise this was a common trend – my future firm has told some of its 2024 cohort to do the LPC with my cohort this September

anon

Really awful. I hope these students will still be able to sit the exam this summer? It will be appalling if they have to defer to the next sitting.

Anonymous

Could have happened on any exam tho

Alan

In the old days people would bring a pen to an exam and write on actual paper. Never went wrong, even once. Some times technology is not necessary.

Cheers Alan

I always forgot my pen 🙂

Alan

That’s your mistake. I bet you’re the type, though, would stand in the exam hall crying and blaming everyone else for your error.

a_jasmine

We also had issues at the Chiswick centre – we managed to sit the exam but it started nearly 2 hours late. Most unprofessional experience ever.

I feel really sorry for the candidates at the Hammersmith Centre, hopefully they get a good resolution.

Doyouwanttomeltasnowflake

Cue snowflakes trying to make excuses when they don’t perform when they eventually sit the exam.

Anonymous

what an inconsiderate response to a very serious issue. No we are not snowflakes and if you were there yesterday you would have seen the caliber of students who were ready to take the exam. so how about you keep your ill founded comment to yourself and learn some self compassion.

Ok Fresher.

Ok fresher.

P Dant

Would these students be of the calibre to use the correct form of ‘calibre’?

Doyouwanttomeltasnowflake

As I said, snowflakes. Look at 2.05pm’s poorly written hysteria.

Archibald O'Pomposity

“what an inconsiderate response to a very serious issue. No we are not snowflakes and if you were there yesterday you would have seen the caliber of students who were ready to take the exam. so how about you keep your ill founded comment to yourself and learn some self compassion.”

1) one really can’t assess the calibre of examinees by observing their physical appearance
2) you means “learn some compassion”, not “self compassion”

Other than these errors, you are correct. This sort of shambles is inexcusable and is not restricted to law exams. Suitable contingencies should be built into the process. There should be consequences and accountability for such incidents. And yes, it must be an appalling and dismaying experience for those involved.

Greg the Cynical Lawyer

kicking around for 5 hours not knowing if it’s happening or not is pretty good preparation for a court practise at least

Archibald O'Pomposity

I have to say I agree.

Lazzer

This isn’t a great look when students are forking out over £1500 to sit the thing

Oracle

Student reading this who can still choose between the LPC and SQE: DO THE LPC

Student in the dark

Has Kaplan said what they’re going to do about it yet?

Anon

No they have been useless, the SRA have been even worse

AM

What an absolute mockery this article is! You have mentioned the ‘IT issue’ but forgot to add all the other non-IT SEROUS ISSUES with this FLK1 session…
Registration of candidates wasn’t even completed by 10:30.
Staff in the exam rooms did not know how to turn on a computer and confessed in an embarrassed voice that ‘it’s their first day on the job’.
Several members of the staff shouting at us. Being denied leaving the premises to buy food or beverages until 13:30.
Not informing candidates about the ongoing issues and not even informing Kaplan about the situation until 11:00!
At 15:00 being told that ‘if your computer works you can do the exam, if not you can sit and wait or leave’.
Up to this time not being informed whether we are still sitting the FLK2 exam on Monday or not.
And sadly… Legal Cheek editors being aware of all this information and failing to mention even an inch of it. Shame on you!

Anon

Could not agree more the whole thing was an absolute shambolic disaster. After being stuck in a room with no air con at 40 degrees, no food since 6:30am, I had to psychically beg to access my bag to have a banana before I collapsed. The venue was unsafe, awful, and this has been an absolute mess from the moment we entered the “test centre” (where no tests could take place)

Mind reader

Psychically begging? I would have thought telepathy would be a big help in law, and might even make up for poor spelling of big words.

bert

Thanks for that hun, really constructive

Kirkland NQ

Cute.

Anonymous

I was a candidate at the Hammersmith centre. The use of the term “snowflakes” is quite insulting given 100% of the candidates at the centre were still prepared to sit the exam at 3pm after 5 hours of hell in an unventilated room with no food or drink. If that isn’t resilience. After persevering all day, we were dismayed to have to be sent home.
This article massively downplays how candidates were treated that day and stress we went through, only to be told our exam was cancelled.

Jane

Utterly unacceptable. Every exam should start on the dot exactly at the start time always as indeed they do with UoL and BPP.
Any law firm who has given trainees offers in time to put them within the LPC system should stick with the LPC until the very last moment this ridiculous awful new system with 100% multiple choice SQE1 is forced on everyone.

Anonymous

It is happening in Sydney today too (Monday 25/7) you would have thought that it would be fixed by now

Contingency planning for dummies

Maybe I am oversimplifying things but couldn’t this issue have been easily solved if a back-up paper had been created? Contingency planning 101?

Kathy

I personally think that there are many things about the SQE exam that the SRA and the Kaplan should work onn and further improve. One thing they should consider is by establishing an exclusive location/place for SQE candidates to do their exams and not in those Pearson Centres which simply do not have the sufficient resources (ie, up to date computers) for students to do their exams effectively.

Staffs at the centre should at least test all the equipments and systems before the exam date so that any system error or failure could be detected at the earliest opportunity and be reported promptly to the SRA. I can totally relate to the frustration of those students who sat their exams in Hammersmiths. I would be equally furious and humilated because I have dedicated so much time, effort, expense and energy in this exam.

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