Students sent home after waiting six hours to sit SQE exam

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By Thomas Connelly on


Exclusive: IT issue… again

Students have expressed their frustration after an IT issue meant they were unable to sit one of their Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) assessments this week. This is despite, they say, waiting around for nearly six hours in the hope it would eventually go ahead.

The tech problem occurred on Monday and impacted over 30 students sitting their SQE2 written assessments at a test centre is Chiswick, West London.

Several students have told Legal Cheek that they arrived for 9am but were held in a waiting room for nearly three hours while invigilators attempted to rectify the problem. Students, who were unable to use their phones or even read over their revision notes during this time, were eventually told to come back after lunch.

Having returned at 1:15pm, students say they waited for a further hour and a half before eventually being told they would not be unable to sit their exams today.

And while some students at the Chiswick centre did successful sit their assessments as planned, those who were left waiting around have been left less than impressed.

“The hardest part of the day was having to wait and be ready to take the exam at any moment,” one student told Legal Cheek. “We lost preparation time, were exhausted, stressed out about how the situation affected our individual circumstances, and left in a state unfit to sit such a high stakes exam.”

Exam provider Kaplan emailed students that evening with two options: sit the exam the following day at a different test centre, or reschedule the SQE2 sitting for January.

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A spokesperson for Kaplan told Legal Cheek: “There were IT issues at two floors of the Pearson VUE Chiswick test centre on Monday 30 October. This prevented 33 candidates sitting the first day of their SQE2 written assessment and a number of other candidates were significantly delayed in starting.”

“To avoid the risk of further disruption,” they said, “we relocated the exams scheduled on the affected floors on Tuesday and Wednesday to an alternative test centre and out of pocket travel expenses will be refunded to candidates.”

The spokesperson continued:

“We have arranged for candidates that did not test in Chiswick on Monday to take a rescheduled assessment on Thursday, 2 November. A full refund is also available for those who are unable to attend. We will also be making a goodwill payment of £250 to each candidate who was unable to complete their assessment on 30 October. We apologise to all candidates affected.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time IT issues have prevented students from sitting SQE assessments.

Last summer we reported that a glitch at a test centre is Hammersmith meant some students were waiting around for five hours before eventually being sent home. In response, Kaplan provided students with refunds and “goodwill payments” of £250.

More recently, students expressed their frustraion at having to sit in an online queue for over three hours in a bid to secure an assessment slot. Kaplan apologised for the delay.


Curious Cat

Which law school(s) did this affect?


It isn’t law school specific.


Harvard and Yale I am told


The SRA really needs to investigate Kaplan for their continuous failure. For every SQE round they failed to uphold the standards regarding various situations. I do not understand how the *SRA* allows them to create these shitshows – and how they are not penalised in any way. It is always the students.


Why wouldn’t SRA just hire more people and run this in-house to maintain standard? Given the large number of people sitting the exams this could be a feasible option going forwards.


Because they signed a contract with Kaplan being the sole provider for the SQE. That contract is being upheld. Now who cares that Kaplan is breaching their side of the contract with the SQE candidates?

We can’t even get through to the SRA to complain. We can only complain to the SQE team which is Kaplan.

- -

You need a lot more than just hiring some extra people to deliver assessments like this.

The SRA are trying to limit their responsibilities, not take on more. But even if they did, I wouldn’t want to SRA to deliver this, they aren’t exactly the best at delivering the responsibilities they already have.


Absolutely right, this exact thing happened for my sqe1 last year. It’s a disgrace the way things have gone the SRA couldn’t care less – they are making huge profits no doubt.


Bring back LPC


SRA are complicit in allowing constant failures:
– people loosing time in the middle of exams again computer issues
– server issues meaning entire exams are cancelled

Kaplan has provided an exam that is not fit for purpose!

Increasingly anti-SRA man

I almost admire the way the SRA fails to take any responsibility for the litany of failures that have dogged the SQE. Outsourcing crucial functions and then failing to oversee/rectify failures is a shocking dereliction of duty.

It’s not one sitting, not two … literally every single sitting of the SQE has been appallingly handled (from bookings, the venues, glitchy computers, incorrect results)

The fact that the SRA can barely bring itself to even directly acknowledge this mess says it all.

This is now beyond a joke

“A full refund is also available to those who are unable to attend” is neither adequate nor proportionate to the inconvenience caused. It speaks volumes about the culture at Kaplan and the SRA.

Anyone who was unable to sit the exam should be given much more than a £250 goodwill payment, which may only cover the cost of travel/accommodation in some cases. If that £250 payment still means Kaplan is still making a profit from the exams in question, then, frankly, I am disgusted.

No matter how resilient you are, exams like this are very stressful, and those impacted now have to spend an extra 2-3 days making sure all the requisite knowledge is crammed into their brains. On top of that, many will be employed and need to take more time off work at short notice, potentially as unpaid leave. Some might have caring responsibilities and need to arrange last-minute cover, which could incur a cost.

I have faith that the SQE was designed to improve how people access the profession. However, in practice, its primary function appears to be making lots of money for Kaplan and potentially the SRA (depending on the contract). Inadequate student services, poor quality equipment, shoddy IT, inconsistent test centres, persistent failures to deliver a competent service…I could go on.

I’d also like to know what the LSB thinks of all this. It seems to crack down hard on some issues and regulators but is silent about persistent issues with the SQE.

I sense a disturbance

It’s not really a situation that compensation in money is suited for. People would still be whinging even if it was £2,500 comp, so rather than having a moan at the amount, you should be having a go at the fact that they aren’t running the exams smoothly at all. You never know, compensation might one day be a mars bar and a train ticket home..

Having said that, if it’s IT problems at a Pearson Vue centre, it doesn’t sound like a Kaplan problem but rather, one linked to the venue itself. So maybe have a go at Pearson instead?

Your senses are on fire. Your judgement less so.

Students have paid for a service which is governed by a contract. The service is poor. Therefore, monetary compensation is one element of an appropriate response. I neither said it was the whole response nor that the failure to run the exams smoothly should be overlooked.

I haven’t seen the contract and assume you haven’t either unless you work for the SRA or Kaplan. My understanding is that students sign a contract with SRA and that the SRA has subcontracted delivery to Kaplan.

I do not think students sign a contract with Pearson Vue or that Pearson Vue is mentioned in the contract they sign with the SRA. It appears that Kaplan has entered into a contract with Pearson Vue and that Pearson Vue’s obligations are to Kaplan, not students. If that’s correct, it would be pointless for students to raise a complaint about the SQE with Pearson Vue.

The appropriate thing to do is raise concerns with Kaplan and/or the SRA. If Pearson Vue is the cause of any legitimate concerns, it seems that Kaplan needs to raise them with Pearson Vue. Not students.

Well, between us, we can agree something is on fire..

Well you say compensation is only part of the response but it’s one you and other comments seem most concerned about.

Reasonable compensation for an IT (especially one where it’s a third party venue) issue affecting an exam doesn’t and shouldn’t run to more than a few hundred, plus expenses if you can prove those.

It’s part of a package of responses as you say, and if you’re looking for more, then maybe you should sue.

Big SRA fan

I have asked for a new set of example questions at kaplan as impossible to contact the SRA. The current questions on the SRA website are 3 years old and do not reflect the exam. No response off course

Unimpressed Solicitor

Will the SRA be demanding we pay for their kok-up here as well?


This is ridiculous to say the least. This happened again last year at this centre- I should know-I was there. If the centre cannot accommodate these exams it should just be dropped rather than to waste people’s time and resources in commuting.

Archibald O'Pomposity



There are diversity issues to consider here, and we know the SRA love those. For example someone with medication treated ADHD could well be prejudiced by an examination that started 4 or 5 hours after the planned time.

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