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Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) – Initial reflections

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Dr Caroline Gibby, Head of Law and Principal Tutor at the University of Sunderland, reflects on the first Solicitors Qualifying Exam results and some initial findings.

The jury is still out

Following the results of the SQE1 Examination last month, the dust has now settled and it appears that the Jury is still out as to how the SQE 1 has performed. It is clear that the initial cohort of students that took the assessment are unlikely to be representative of the students who are fresh from university.

The group included Solicitor Apprentices, International students and members of various SQE providers, who took the opportunity to try the assessment themselves. That being said, there are learnings we can take from the exam. So, what are they?

Firstly, it’s interesting to consider the split assessments with differing outcomes; 67% Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK) 1 and 54% in Functioning Legal Knowledge 2. Why might this have happened? It is difficult to look beyond the important fact that the assessments were taken very closely together. Students often prioritise their first assessment and then play catch up on the second. What else could it be? The mix of subject content perhaps? Is FLK2 harder for students to grasp? At this stage, this is not clear. However, by anyone’s standards there is a real and significant difference.

"We provide a positive and supportive atmosphere for our students to learn some of the most important assessment approaches."

Dr Caroline Gibby

Secondly, and perhaps mostly importantly as it goes to the heart of the SQE reforms, just how well did students do where they had declared disabilities requiring reasonable adjustments?

In short, we do not know, as the data was not provided by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). In other protected characteristics such as BAME, detailed information was shared, and in such cases, there was some concerning data in terms of pass rates for Asian/Asian British candidates, in comparison to LPC information.

That being said, to also say that the data set is small and as such, drawing any meaningful long-term conclusions may be unhelpful, but the markers are there for students with disabilities and BAME students and the SRA needs to take note.

University of Sunderland Law School preparing students for SQE

From the first day of their course, students at the University of Sunderland are well-prepared to undertake examinations. They can practise multiple choice question exam papers and in doing so, feel more confident with the approach and become used to the arbitrariness of the method.

We provide a positive and supportive atmosphere for our students to learn some of the most important assessment approaches. It’s important to note also that for the potential barristers out there, at the University of Sunderland we don’t only focus on the SQE. We provide support in relation to all things Bar – from advocacy in house, to mooting and authentic court experience too.

Looking to advance your career in the legal sector? We offer a range of Law courses to prepare students for a unique and interesting career in law.

Published: 15 February 2022