51% of students pass latest SQE

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Lowest success rate yet

Just over half of candidates passed the latest Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) revealed in a statistical report published yesterday.

The report shows that of the 3,031 candidates who attempted the January 2023 sitting of SQE1, the first part of the two-part assessment, just 51% passed and are able to continue on to SQE2. The pass rate was slightly higher among those sitting the exam for the first time, at 54%.

The SQE was formally introduced in September 2021 as the new route to solicitor qualification. SQE1 examines functioning legal knowledge (FLK) whilst SQE2 focuses on legal skills.

There have so far been five SQE assessments: three for SQE1 and two for SQE2. This latest SQE1 pass rate is lower than the first two, in which both instances 53% of candidates made the grade.

The report further reveals the pass mark for the two papers (FLK1 and FLK2) that comprise SQE1. These were 57% and 56%, respectively.

For FLK1, the report shows the highest score achieved was 90% and the lowest just 19%. For FLK2, this was 90% and 0%. The maximum possible score on both papers is 100%.

The 2023 Legal Cheek SQE Providers List

The report again highlights a disparity in the SQE1 performance of different ethnic groups: some 63% of white candidates passed the assessment, compared to 47% Asian and 29% Black candidates. The regulator has commissioned independent research into the issue which is expected to be published in November this year.

Interestingly, the pass rate among those who, prior to taking the exam had completed Qualifying Work Experience (QWE), the two-year period of training to qualify as a solicitor, was lower than those who had not, coming out at 49% and 55%, respectively.

Good undergraduate grades are a strong indicator of success, with the SQE1 passed by 73% of candidates with a first-class undergraduate degree, 52% with a 2:1 degree, 23% with a 2:2, and 13% with a third-class undergraduate degree.

Earlier this week the City of London Law Society’s training committee raised concerns over the SQE1 pass rate, urging law firms not to abandon failing trainees. Instead, the committee recommend “a supportive, understanding approach” for this “new, little-known assessment regime” and to consider options such as deferrals.

Join us tomorrow (Thursday 30 March) for a virtual student event focused on the SQE assessments with BPP University Law School. Apply to attend the event, which is free, now.



Anyone know how this compares to the LPC pass rate?



Not sure what the overall pass rate was but it was all over the place depending on what provider you went to. That’s one of the key points of the SQE…one exam, one pass rate etc. Would be interesting to know how 51% compares to other professions like medicine and legal professions in other parts of the world e.g. USA.



I’m aware UK Patent Attorney Final exams have pass rates that range from 30%-50%. But those are notoriously unfair. Very competent Attorneys with 6+ years experience can fail those numerous times in a row.

Medicine PLAB exams are around 70%.

Professional accounting exams are around 60%.

Structural Engineers professional exam with IStructE is 35%

Summary: SQE pass rates are poop. But not exceptional poop. Some professions have even more nonsense to deal with.



Much lower



SQE really is a farce



A very expensive one!



I think it’s 56% or higher but just give a google search



Are you talking about the pass MARK? This article is about the pass RATE, i.e. amount of people who took the exam and passed it.



SRA ‘fixing’ something that didn’t need to be fixed – LPC is fine!



I don’t disagree with you in terms of the LPC contents/curriculum (I don’t agree either, I just don’t feel either way about it)…

But I think it was a genuine problem having lots of different unis run their own LPC exams with significantly different pass rates. If we’re trying to enter the same profession, fairness and public interest says we should be sitting the same exam…



Why not unify QLD exams while we’re at it smh



The QLD means you get an academic degree.

The SQE means you can be admitted as a solicitor and perform reserved legal activities.

Big difference, no?



Don’t agree with this at all. By that reasoning, all degrees should be nationalised, especially those leading to professions such as medicine or accountancy



Both of those degrees have their own standardised exams or assessment criteria when you actually enter the industry.

Same with Engineering.

Law was one of the few “respected” degrees that doesn’t.



I’m really thinking of reneging my TC offer that took 3 years to get due to this. Not only is the sqe a hard exam as outlined above, the firm I have a tc with is putting us through an intense masters course that requires a 5,000 word statement that will be marked internally. All this and a measly £7k grant too! It just doesn’t seem worth it. I don’t want to not pass due to the overwhelming stress of the course (and having to work a part time job to live in London) and be in 30k debt.


Just do it

Just suck it up and do it

Also what you mean marked internally? Pretty sure firms could care less about those masters essays


We're not in America

Couldn’t care less*


Junior barrister

I mean, a lot of practising lawyers routinely write more than 5,000 words a day so I don’t think having to do it once now should be such a big obstacle?


7 years PQE

I completed a 4 year LLB and then my LPC over 2 years all while working full time hours in law firms as a paralegal at the time. It’s doable.



You’re scared of a 5000 work personal statement? I think youre right – law isn’t for you, go elsewhere.



I don’t think law is for you because you clearly have bad reading comprehension. They didn’t say they couldnt do the statement, they said that the workload is too harsh combined with the money offered. Clearly you don’t know London very much if you think you can survive on 7k without a part time job with plenty of hours.



5,000 words? What’s the problem with that? This is for qualified adults not year 9 kids. You can knock that off in a weekend.



Man up, snowflake. If you can’t pass the SQE, you won’t make it in private practice. If you can’t whip up a competent 5,000 word statement, you won’t make it in private practice. So are you giving up because you think you won’t make it or because you are lazy and don’t want to put in the effort? Perhaps the offer should have gone elsewhere. Be grateful you got it in the first place you little sh*t.



Clearly a privileged idiot (seen your comments elsewhere). Working 30 hours a week, doing a masters and trying to pass this CLEARLY hard exam is a really hard feat. I’ve put in effort for the past 6 years, shown by great academics and work experience. There’s other routes to qualify – I don’t have to be grateful for anything, especially if a firm doesn’t care about their future trainees.



To be brutally honest, if you can’t / don’t want to do this, then you probably won’t enjoy being a trainee / solicitor anyway.


Hate this

I hate the SQE



Seems like it is doing what it ought to do. separating the wheat from the chaff. The correlation between undergraduate performance and SQE pass rates is extremely encouraging.


Metropolitan Elite

All the worse now with grade inflation when a 2:1 is really a 2:2 a lot of the time and a First is really just decent 2:1 if the candidate went anywhere outside the top 5 or 6 unis.


We’re gonna be fineeeeeeee

I go to one of the ‘top 5 or 6 unis’ and can confirm grade inflation happens here too.



Don’t disagree with you but think it’s worth caveating that (at least with some of the SQEs that have taken place so far), apprentices have outperformed grads.


We’re gonna be fineeeeeeee

Who are these diversity warriors? Is it possible you created an imaginary enemy to blame for your own inadequacy? Is there any chance that it’s you who thinks he/she has a ‘birthright to enter the legal profession’? You’re also just suggesting a conclusion which doesn’t follow from the correlation. Leave the D



Honestly the SRA needs to think of scrapping this or doing a complete overhaul because this might deter people from even practicing law.



The thing that seems so nonsensical is why there can’t just be two routes, like firms should allow those to lpc and that there is a SQE option for those that have years upon years of experience. Why must it be everyone has to go through SQE route…

How can someone with little to no experience be assessed the level of a newly qualified solicitor just because you have foreign qualified lawyers or people who have been paralegallling for 10 years who are now at that level. They tried to make things fairer but in the process made it more problematic from those starting a career in law.


Public announcement

If you’re at SRA, please scrap this SQE bs. It’s okay, everyone makes mistakes. You tried to do a good thing and failed miserably


I love the SQE sooooo much

I for one love the SQE. The challenge of doing something new and exciting is really interesting to me.

And no, the SRA have not made me write this to ensure transparency


We’re gonna be fineeeeeeee

This is either sarcastic or your classmates at BPP hate you…



Fuck me, I thought the lpc was bad



I wonder how many of those re-sitting SQE1 in January failed for the third time and now have to wait 6 years?



Is it just me or is the six year thing confusing?

Either be strict about it e.g. “fail three times and you’re clearly not competent to be a solicitor so you can’t attempt again”.

Or let people take it as many times as they like without a time restriction because, if the SQE does what it says, they will only ever pass if they’re competent.



I agree. Especially given it’s a new exam and the kinks are clearly still being worked out



Just seems another elitist bullshit tbh. Basically if you’re in a top uni and get a 1st you’re fine



This sounds like meritocracy rather than elitism.


Oxford 3rd year

And what is wrong with going to a top uni and getting top grades?



There is nothing wrong with it but, whilst it might increase the likelihood of the individual being bright and potentially well geared for the profession, it doesn’t automatically mean that they will be well suited to it.



So people who went to a bad uni and got a 3rd should be the ones who pass?



Apprentices have outperformed grads in at least some of the SQEs so far (possibly all of them, haven’t read all the reports).



I’m pretty sure you’re allowed to be a solicitor even with a 2:1 from a good uni…



The article only mentioned having a first class degree, not where that first class degree came from.


Open book

So SQE is not open book at all?





We’re gonna be fineeeeeeee

Not even a little bit of googling here and there? 🙁



I think the SQE is going to hugely discourage people from pursuing the profession. I know many peers who started the SQE1 and quit early as they became very unwell from the stress/work volume. It’s abysmal from the SRA. Look after your professionals, particularly the younger/newer ones. Do better.



There is already a huge oversupply of solicitors. The SQE is probably a load of bollocks, but at least mediocre people being siphoned out of the profession is a good thing.


average SQE enjoyer

Does anyone have a sense for how this compares to your average US state bar exam? I can’t imagine that they regularly fail half of their candidates.

The biggest issue I feel is scrapping the formal requirement for a QLD while, if anything, having a much more rigorous assessment of technical black-letter law than the LPC. Not to mention the fact that being able to recall random statutory provisions from memory seems a questionable representation of what an NQ actually does.



A quick Google will show that the NY Bar pass rate was 66% last summer. Not too far off the SQE actually. I imagine once all the snags are fixed the SQE will be around the same.



As someone coming from a civil jurisdiction where such exams (although probably more gruelling in certain aspects) are the norm for lawyers, I find the above comments laughable.

What do you guys expect, a smooth sailing and 100% pass rate? You have to study on top of working? Shocking!

In mainland Europe it is completely normal to expect a pass rate of about 30-40% AND many people take the exams a few times because, surprise surprise, it is supposed to be difficult. Also bear in mind, that in other jurisdictions you have to do 5 year long law degree (no GDL) in order to even think about sitting such an exam (that you have to prepare for while you are working full time, for most at least).

When I moved to the UK some 10 years ago I was absolutely shocked at how easy it is to qualify as a solicitor here. You guys have had it easy for so many years and now a slightly more difficult and demanding exam comes along and you complain because the qualification is not handed over to you on a silver platter? Although funnily enough, the old sharks complain that SQE is “dumbing down” the profession as it is too easy… well, based on such polarising takes, I can only assume it is actually a good exam.

Downvote me if you like but maybe also think why you are all so angry with the fact that you need to do more than bare minimum to qualify?



Be honest – is a harder exam really going to make the quality of lawyers better? They seemed to be doing perfectly fine before. There’s not really much point in making something more difficult for the sake of it



Depends how you define and evidence “fine before”, surely?

Anyway, I think the point of the SQE is that the old system didn’t make sure that everyone who became a solicitor had met the same standard. You had different unis assessing their own version of the LPC with different pass rates. Then you had loads of different training contract supervisors deciding if someone was competent to qualify as a solicitor.

Now you just have the SQE…one assessment, one pass rate, one way to qualify.



There are a lot of good solicitors. Unfortunately, there are also a few I’ve worked with who basically cannot write a coherent e-mail, not to mention a contract. I’ve literally seen court orders which required pleadings to be amended because “the original pleading does not set out the case in coherent English” (almost verbatim quote from a recital to the order). I personally find it really upsetting that people pay money to receive that level of service…



Yes. Most people here seem to be commercial solicitors. However, deal with any old high street solicitor who passed the LPC and is now working somewhere in the regions, and you’ll quickly see how insufficient the barrier of entry into the profession is. Most of them are stupid, incompetent and useless.


civil disagreement

And yet the English legal profession is one of the most respected in the world…

High-quality training definitely is hugely important but I really struggle to see how that is guaranteed by ‘gruelling’ exams. Maybe practice in a civil law jurisdiction requires a more academic grasp of the law, maybe not, but it’s hard to see what the SQE accomplishes beyond being an (somewhat) arbitrary bottleneck on entry to the profession.

Also, anecdotally, from having sat the SQE recently, it seems to be people with LLBs from respected universities who have underperformed. My questionable GDL served me very well.


We’re gonna be fineeeeeeee

I’m also from mainland europe so can provide a different prospective (and yes, my family and friends from home are all very confused at how I can qualify as a lawyer with a STEM degree, because we don’t have conversion courses where I’m from). I basically disagree with OP. It would be a very long, draining and likely inconclusive discussion to weigh the pros and cons of two routes that have almost nothing in common with each other. A jurisprudence degree in my home country is frankly really not that hard, and the fact that it takes five years does not flatter those who undertake it. Not saying european NQs are dumber, I’m saying this comparison is not very useful and this metric is not very relevant. And OP’s comment is on the too inflammatory end for my taste…



I am also from mainland Europe, having studied law in three jurisdictions, and from what I have seen, qualifying as a solicitor in the UK is really rather easy compared to most (but not all, e.g. qualifying in Spain is even easier) continental systems. On the other hand, getting a TC in a City law firm is probably the most competitive process anywhere in Europe due to the large number of rather competent applicants. In Germany for example, you have a massive legal sector with relatively few (compared to the UK) candidates (takes many years to qualify, little international competition as German is not widely spoken), meaning that while qualifying is difficult, getting a good job then is very easy. In the UK, that is the opposite. Nevertheless both systems lead to competent people practising in the top firms either thanks to academic rigour or tan ultra-competitive job market.



I’m 3 PQE at a firm in the City. Tried the first 20 questions of the freely available SQE1 sample questions (on the SRA website) just for fun (lol) to get a sense of how hard it is. Got 17/20. I actually thought it was better than the LPC in that it was testing my latent background understanding of how the law works – I obviously haven’t been memorising SQE materials (and there was a lot of cramming for the LPC too).

I say this not to show off (you’d hope a qualified lawyer could pass it, and I’ve also got no idea how representative doing 20 sample questions is compared to the real thing). More to point out that I thought it was a pretty good ‘general knowledge test’ for a practising lawyer, is actually reflective of the knowledge you need in practice to some extent, and is not impossibly hard.



Haha the sample test is not reflective of the real thing at all.. most people like to do at least 30-40% worse in the actual thing.


SQE 1 prepping

I’m preparing for the SQE in July. The new system is ridiculous and has been misrepresented. It does not test general principles which would have been more acceptable but rather also tests very specific and technical rules things which a lawyer would just look up in practice and not expect to know precisely. Also, questions try to trip you up. SRA need to have a word with Kaplan who write the exam as there is a huge digression from the testing of general legal principles rather than very specific legal rules.



Goodness. I in essence put off doing the LPC at BPP and ULaw in London as I did not want to pay £18K (a great financial burden, on myself, family, etc), and given that no TC had come at that point (after a fair few years of trying), I formed the opinion that I might have to look to qualify without the support of magic and silver circle etc resources behind me.

I looked at doing the LPC at other institutions in London like City Law School for example, the cost of the LPC there was much less than 18K but the pass rate was about 50% (whilst BPP and ULaw is around 80%+). In the event of City Law School, the breakdown amongst different ethnic groups (which would apply to me) was further discouraging. So now, seeing the SQE breakdown amongst ethnic groups with 29% for black candidates rings as comical. I now find myself in an even more bizarre and uncertain position.

I have a final interview with the legal arm of a Big 4 firm(but this would be via the same SQE route, with the higher stress implied from what the statistics suggest) but I am in a queue with no guarantee it will come together. I’m currently working in an (obscure) contracting role which see’s me negotiate, draft, review contracts from firms including GSK, AstraZ, etc (actually very good experience). Don’t ask how, but my ‘decision makers’ are aware of the job opportunity; they want to move me onto a full-time role (from temporary), but long story short, they do not want me to accept it and then go to big 4 legal team later on. “It’s either certainty here or take the risk and potentially lose the role here.” Can’t delay making a decision forever. The Big 4 firm moved me to final interview stage literally beginning of November, I have been asking for updates each month since beginning of January. I thought to stay in my current role as I do like what I do and it is quite legal oriented, and do the SQE independently but I’m not sure whether these statistics would even warrant that approach.

If I may kindly ask, what advice would people give me in this situation, given the wider context?


We’re gonna be fineeeeeeee

Put pressure on the big4 company to give you an answer — use the competing offer from your current employment to do that. If you, very politely and humbly, let them know the position you have been put in, that you would absolutely take big4 over your current offer, but that you need to know by x date, they will likely get back to you with an expedited answer. The SQE is a hurdle, but at this point you should believe that you can do it or leave it. Maybe do a practice paper, if they’ve released one. Get PDFs for the books, see how you feel. Hope everything goes well!!!!



DO NOT GIVE THESE FIRMS YOUR LOYALTY! Go with the better opportunity to be sponsored and qualified. If the Big 4 are offering you a TC and sponsor the SQE whilst your current firm if doing neither, be wise and choose the opportunity to train and qualify. The SQE looks hard but at least you will be part of a cohort when you prepare compared to doing it solo and not having support from peers or seniors.

Take your current role for now but once that TC offer lands take it and move once the start date begins. You are not tied to anyone



Did the SQE, almost lost my TC as failed one of the exams. Took my firm a while after results to communicate what the outcome would be, it’s safe but my start date has been deferred by one year. Wish my firm had given me a choice as I would have 100% done the LPC. The SQE exams were the hardest exams I have ever sat and the SQE took a big toll on my MH which has made me reconsider whether it’s really worth it. The exam itself is a memory test that intentionally tries to catch you out. Sitting two six hour exams on a computer screen in the space of four days and not even being allowed to take water into the exam is exhausting and unethical in my opinion. At points I was struggling to read the screen. Those who are straight out of uni with a law degree or have done the GDL immediately before the SQE are in a better position because of the need to have underlying law knowledge (tort, contract etc). For context, graduated with a first class law degree in 2018 and have had legal work experience. All you have to go off really is a broad spec, and despite this they still test you in very niche areas. To add to this, the grant my firm provided is shocking compared to their competitors and does not even cover my rent, which has caused me additional struggles. I wouldn’t recommend the SQE to anyone.



Would you mind saying what firm? Or what course provider?



“The maximum possible score on both papers is 100%.” Very informative, thanks!



I do not agree. The LPC route is very restrictive and if you come from an underprivileged background or unsure about a law career and are not prepared or aware of how to deal with vacation schemes and applications to training contracts then you’ll probably be at a major disadvantage to those who have known and prepared for a law career since A-Levels or first year uni. Add to that the fact that the LPC requires a full on two year training contract with only one law firm, in which less than 5% of the country’s law graduates for each year are able to secure. Just like anything that’s newly introduced, the SQE is still developing and there will be a few issues here and there that is bound to be solved eventually which explains why the transitional period will last until 2032. Just like any law, it’s not perfect when firstly introduced and will need to be altered constantly to ensure it’s maximum effectiveness. The SQE route is a much fairer and sensible route.


Can kicker ESQ

“Add to that the fact that the LPC requires a full on two year training contract with only one law firm, in which less than 5% of the country’s law graduates for each year are able to secure.”

Undoubtedly a problem…but what makes you think the SQE solves this? Under the LPC route you had people who had done all their law exams but couldn’t find a law firm willing to give them a TC, and so couldn’t legally be lawyers.

Under the SQE, these same people can cobble together enough work experience that they are legally qualified as lawyers…but still won’t be able to find a law firm willing to take them on.

Ultimately the problem is too many people want to be lawyers and there just aren’t enough spaces per year – not just in commercial law but across the board.

The SQE doesn’t change that. The only difference will be that in a couple of years, legal cheek will contain comments from people who are “qualified lawyers” having done the LPC…but who cannot find a law firm to to work for…



“not just in commercial law but across the board” I think (and hope) this is where you may be wrong. I don’t suppose that the SQE will change who get into the top 20 city firms but it may have the potential to open the doors for a much more diverse pool of candidates at less competitive and profitable places.


Silver Berkle

Potentially. On the flip-side, many of us who sat the most recent SQE felt we would have been much less likely to pass, had we not been sponsored by our firms and forced instead to take up part-time work.

Conclusion – working for a practice unable to afford generous grants, forces you to either;
1) Swap study time for work, to make ends meet. Thereby, placing yourself at a disadvantage vs those sponsored by big firms.
2) Rely on the ‘Bank of Mum & Dad’.

Neither being a great recipe for diversity at smaller practices!



SQE is BS and more stressful and challenging. But what can we do. If most people fails, then the future of law in UK will go to shit loooool



So if I volunteer in my local clinic at uni, that’s comparable to working as a trainee or paralegal in a top US law firm? Lol.



Frankly SQE isn’t that hard. My best friend from Australia took 3 days off before the exam and passed it with 70-odd percent for both papers.


Passed SQE 1

Sorry unless you’re saying they took 3 days off for 100% focus (and not that they only spent 3 days going through all 12 subjects tested on the SQE) I find that incredibly hard to believe.


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