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Students face long wait for SQE2 exams

By Catherine Baksi >>

(28 February 2022)

Hundreds of students will have their qualification as solicitors delayed following the regulator’s quiet announcement that they will not be able to take both parts of the professional exam this year. 

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has revealed that students who take the first part of the Solicitors Qualification Examination, SQE1, in July will not have results in time for successful candidates to sit the second part, SQE2, in October. Instead they will have to wait until April 2023, delaying their qualification by almost nine months.

The setback is the latest problem to hit the SRA’s new qualifying regime, after the results of the first exams revealed that the pass rates were significantly higher for white students (66%), compared with black (39%) and Asian (43%) candidates.

The SRA has been criticised for failing to make a formal announcement to students or course providers about the timetable change.

It was revealed in the question and answer session, one hour and 14 minutes into a webinar about the results of the first batch of students who sat part one of the new exams last November. 

Responding to questions asked in the webinar, Zoe Robinson, director of qualifications at Kaplan, which assesses the exams, said ‘it will not be possible for the SQE1 in July, for candidates to move onto the SEQ2 in October’ because of the length of time that it will take to mark the first exams. She said it has always been the ‘aim to set a timetable which will permit candidates to move through the assessments and the overall qualification quickly’. 

The news came as a surprise to students and law schools. One student, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the Gazette that she found out about the change only from a friend’s Facebook post. The delay has caused her to lose a job offer, the student said. 

She has decided to qualify in Australia, because she cannot afford to wait until September 2023. ‘Hundreds of other students have been affected – and a lot don’t have the money to be able to fund themselves while they wait for the SRA to sort out its processes.’

Another student whose qualification has been delayed by the change, told the Gazette that he did not apply for a traditional training contract when the new qualification route was introduced because he already had the required two years qualifying work experience. 

To become a solicitor, he just needed to pass the two sets of exams. The delay means he will have to continue working as a paralegal. He said: ‘It’s really frustrating. I feel I’m absolutely ready to do these exams.’ 

He warned that students preparing independently for the exams, without signing up to any preparation courses, could be unaware of the change. 

Lucie Allen, managing director at Barbri, said the change was ‘disappointing’ for students hoping to sit the SQE2 in October, but that she understood the SRA’s need to analyse the July results. 

An SRA spokesperson said: ‘Our priority remains, as always, to ensure complete accuracy in candidate results.’

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)