1090 candidates from 26 countries sat the SQE1, dropping to 726 candidates in 24 countries for the SQE2. With more flexibility offered by undertaking Qualified Work Experience (QWE) compared to the previous LPC training contract model, this could be explained by those opting to take, for example, paralegal jobs following SQE1 and take SQE2 once they have accumulated work experience.
SQE1 saw an overall pass rate of 53%, with this rising to 77% of those who took SQE2. The second exam (focussed on practical application of legal knowledge) requires a pass in the first exam (focussed on functioning legal knowledge), so the pass rate for SQE2 would naturally be higher.
Only 27 solicitor apprentices took the SQE1 exam and 22 took SQE2, but the SRA noted that pass rates were well above average on both counts – a ringing endorsement for law apprenticeships and how they prepare candidates for practice.
Interestingly, those who had completed some QWE also saw better results than those who had not; 80% of the 492 test-takers who confirmed they had undertaken QWE passed versus 70% of 53 who confirmed they had not.
While these figures highlight the value of hands-on, practical experience when taking SQE2, it’s worth noting that the SRA also reported those with a higher degree class were more successful, so it remains important candidates are academically inclined.
At first glance, figures across different groups seem to suggest a similar distribution of results when compared to the LPC. The story was a similar one when looking at the breakdown between different ethnic groups. The figures shown are among those who identified with the specified group in the SRA diversity survey, which is completed by candidates before taking the tests.
However, when looking at these figures, it’s important to keep in mind the pool of candidates for the SQE has been much smaller during this transitional period - a more thorough analysis will be possible from 2023.
It’s encouraging that the SRA has commissioned further research into discrepancies in pass rates between different ethnic groups, emphasising its aim to achieve fairness and equality with the exams. Many have noted that the move to QWE has also supported this, with the opportunity to work full time and receive an income during the qualification process, opening the doors for those for whom previously cost may have been an inhibiting factor.
The 2022/23 exams will offer a better view, with more candidates post-transition and more adoption of the flexibility QWE offers. However, results are looking comparable so far – it wouldn’t have been pessimistic to expect some fluctuation and potentially lower results as candidates and the SRA and exam administrator, Kaplan, adapted. However, it seems the extensive preparation and planning put in place to ensure smooth running and marking of the SQE seems to have paid off.
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