‘Troubling’ attainment gaps among ethnic groups remain while candidates with some QWE generally performed better
The results for part two of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) have been released today, with 77% of candidates successfully passing.
The first batch of SQE2 exams were sat by 726 candidates across 24 countries and assess wannabe lawyers on practical legal skills including advocacy, research, drafting and client interviewing.
There was a mix of candidates sitting SQE2. Some had previously passed SQE1, which saw a 53% pass rate, while others were exempt from needing to due to their previous qualifications or legal background.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) acknowledged that like with pass rates for SQE1, there was a “troubling” difference in performance by ethnicity. Eighty-five percent of white candidates passed SQE2 compared to 72% of Asian/Asian British candidates. The pass rates for Black/Black British and mixed/multi-ethnic groups were 53% and 92%, respectively.
On this, chair of the SRA Board said: “We have again seen the troubling and long-standing pattern of differential performance for certain groups, particularly Black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates. We have commissioned the University of Exeter to undertake in-depth research into the factors driving the attainment gap for these groups in professional assessments so that we can consider next steps. The data from multiple SQE assessments will also help to provide better insight.”
The regulator also noted that candidates with a higher undergraduate degree classification achieved a higher pass rate. For example, aspiring lawyers with a first-class degree had a pass rate of 92% compared to 57% for those with a 2:2, while pass rates among apprentices was “well above the overall pass rate”.
A higher proportion of female candidates passed (79%) compared to males (75%) and those who had completed some Qualifying Work Experience “also generally did better”.
Geoff Coombe, the SQE’s independent reviewer, added:
“Overall, I felt the SQE2 exams were appropriate for a high-stakes, competency-based exam used for professional qualification. I was reassured and satisfied that the tasks set were valid and that the pass/fail grades awarded were fitting of the standards and competency expected of a newly qualified solicitor. I observed good levels of planning and preparation and a great deal of care and attention in setting valid and reliable assessment tasks.”