Report flags differences in SQE pass rates between white and BAME candidates

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Plus exam fee increases on the way

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has today published a report with pass rate data for the more than 3,000 candidates who took the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) between September 2021 and August 2022.

The SRA has also said the cost to sit the two-part exam will increase by 11% from September 2023. The rise is due to inflation and means SQE1 will go from £1,622 to £1,798 and SQE2 from £2,493 to £2,766.

“We realise any increase in fees won’t be welcome, and the impact of high inflation has resulted in a more significant rise this year,” said the SRA’s chief executive Paul Philip. “We will continue to do all we can to make sure the SQE delivers value for money, and that there continues to be a range of affordable ways to prepare for it.”

The annual report came to the conclusion that SQE was generally delivered successfully but highlighted significant variations in the performance of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) candidates.

Statistics from this first year showed that 63% of white candidates passed the SQE1 exam compared to 28% of Black candidates. The SQE2 exams showed a similar disparity with 85% of white candidates and 53% of Black candidates passing the exam. Among Asian candidates, the pass rate was 48% for SQE1 and 72% for SQE2.

The 2023 Legal Cheek SQE Providers List

This is not the first time the discrepancies in SQE pass rates between ethnicities have been revealed. Last year the SRA statistics for SQE1 exams sat in July 2022 revealed a gap in pass rates between Black candidates and other ethnic groups.

The SRA report acknowledges these gaps but says there is “no evidence of systematic bias in the SQE assessments overall”. The regulator has commissioned independent research into the issue which is expected to be published in November this year.

Overall the report puts the SQE1 and 2 pass rates at 53% and 77% respectively. Pass rates for those resitting the SQE1 within the same year were 17%.

Good undergraduate grades were a strong indicator of success, with the SQE1 passed by 71% of candidates with a first-class undergraduate degree, 58% with a 2:1 degree, 32% with a 2:2, and 14% with a third-class undergraduate degree.

Social class was not a predicting factor, with pass rates indistinguishable between candidates from professional and working-class backgrounds. There were only minor differences between candidates from state schools (65%), selective schools (66%) and fee-paying schools (73%).

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Honestly this is such a joke…the SqE Is Meant To Widen The DiVERSity GaP…please



What do you mean?



So they publish these reports but never say anything on how to resolve this…



There is nothing to resolve.


Joke man

This is such a joke…SQE Is MEANT To Widen DIversity GaP..please



So it looks like SQE 2 is slightly easier than SQE 1?



Not necessarily – you have to have passed SQE1 to take SQE2. The higher pass rate is just indicative of the fact that only higher performing students pass the SQE1, and of those that pass SQE1, 77% also pass SQE2.



Woke virtue signalling pervades everything these days. Why are we discussing this. We might as well be asking why candidates who prefer marmite over jam on their toast aren’t doing better.



Lost your slippers again, Alan?


alan's mum

You’re such a cheeky scamp our alan.


As much as they want to play it down and say the assessments are valid, some of those diversity statistics are particularly concerning in regards to adverse impact.

If this was in the US, it would be identified as adverse impact and would be deemed a discriminatory assessment.


Ode to the Mets

thank for we are not in the US then and we still value merit over diversity quotas.



“Particularly concerning?” The divergence is between those with native English and those for whom it is a second language. The exam has already been dumbed down because long sentences were considered a diversity problem. Let’s not dumb it down even more.



It would be very helpful if they would also capture data around nationality, language ability, and training undertaken before sitting the exam.

Those data points might add a little more clarity to what causes some of the differences. There are no explanations offered here and no consideration of intersectionality. It’s not very helpful.


7 years PQE

It would be interesting to see some background data on people taking the SQE given a law degree is no longer required. SQE1 concerns a lot of the “black letter” law you would undertake at LLB/GDL stage, so I would be keen to see a comparison between SQE1 results by people who didn’t hold a legal undergraduate qualification against GDL students in the same boat.

In respect of SQE2, while not “easier” per se, I would imagine that the more practical and vocational nature of it (akin to the LPC) would make it “simpler” to navigate compared to the sheer volume of knowledge needed to get through SQE1. Having to remember so many different topics in SQE1 exams must be a slog and I feel for anyone undertaking it for sure.



Definitely easier for GDL students given they’ve gone gone over the underlying law more recently.



The report covers background, education level, parental education level – in fact I think they captured nearly everything! Have a look:



I’ve had a look thanks. It captures some points, but not the probably useful data points on nationality, English language ability, and what, if any, training the candidate undertook (and at which provider).






Feel sorry for those that are forced to do SQE as opposed the gdl/lpc route


TikTok lawyer

This is so wet


Mr Woke, the Wokest Woker of Woking

So are your DryNites!



Would be interesting to see a breakdown of undergraduate grades by ethnicity for those sitting the 2 exams.


Bored of this

Pathetic empty data sets. No English as first language data. So pointless. This is the crowd that complained against long complex sentences in the exam because it led to diversity issues. Because understanding long sentences in complex is completely irrelevant to those wanting to practice English law. What are the wokerati suggesting? Lowering the pass rate until everyone gets in, in a triumph of virtue signalling over quality control? When are the powers that be going to stop this nonsense?


alan's mum

alan…is that you? It’s past your bedtime.



Deal with the point instead of deflecting with clichéd ad hominem responses. What is the point in churning out these reports when the single data point that explains most if not all the difference in outcome is missing?


alan's mum

People who use terms like wokerati and virtue signalling don’t deserve a reasoned response. Unless you show that you are really up for that I’ll continue to treat you and alan (if you aren’t the same person) as very naughty boys who are overtired. Now put your jamas on and go upstairs.



So you don’t have any point to make on the substantive issue. I didn’t use the term “wokerati” or “virtue-signalling”.

alan’s mum

… and don’t forget your “big boy pants”!

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