More than half of candidates pass first SQE assessment

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has published the results of the first ever Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) assessment, with 53% passing, but has commissioned research into "troubling differences” in results between ethnic groups.

According to the SRA data, white candidates generally performed better than Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in the first assessment stage, SQE 1. Sixty-five per cent of white candidates passed compared to 44% of Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups.

SQE 1 is the first of two assessments candidates must take before moving on to the SQE.

The chair of the SRA board, Anna Bradley, said: "We anticipated that we would again see the troubling difference in performance for candidates from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups that has been a longstanding and widespread feature in examinations in the legal and other sectors.

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"We know the reasons will be complex and, as well as ongoing review and analysis, we have appointed Exeter University to carry out in-depth research to better understand the factors driving the attainment gap for these groups in professional assessments, so that we can do everything we can to address the issues."

The SQE programme was approved in October 2020 and introduced in September of last year. It offers a single, "rigorous" assessment for all aspiring solicitors.

To qualify, candidates must have a degree in any subject or equivalent level 6 qualification, such as an apprenticeship, pass both stages of the SQE assessment, have two years' full time qualifying work experience and pass the SRA's character and suitability requirements.

The November SQE1 assessments saw 1,090 candidates, including 27 solicitor apprentices, take the assessment across more than 100 test centres in 26 countries.

Speaking broadly about the exam, Bradley said: “The introduction of the SQE should give everyone confidence that those entering the profession have all met the same high standard. So we are pleased that the first assessment has gone well with results that suggest it was a robust, fair and reliable exam.”

Adam Carey

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