51% of students pass latest SQE

Lowest success rate to date

Just over half of the candidates passed the most recent Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) revealed in a statistical report released yesterday.

The report shows that of the 3,031 candidates who attempted the January 2023 SQE1 session, the first part of the two-part exam, only 51% passed and can proceed to SQE2. The pass rate was slightly higher for first-time graduates at 54%.

The SQE was officially launched in September 2021 as a new path to becoming a lawyer. SQE1 examines working legal knowledge (FLK), while SQE2 focuses on legal skills.

So far there have been five SQE assessments: three for SQE1 and two for SQE2. This final SQE1 pass rate is lower than the first two, where 53% of candidates achieved the grade in both cases.

The report also shows the minimum scores for the two papers (FLK1 and FLK2) that comprise SQE1. These were 57% and 56% respectively.

For FLK1, the report shows that the highest score achieved was 90% and the lowest was only 19%. For FLK2, these were 90% and 0%. The maximum possible number of points on both papers is 100%.

The 2023 Legal Cheek List of SQE providers

The report again highlights an inequality in SQE1 performance across ethnic groups: approximately 63% of White candidates passed the assessment, compared to 47% Asian and 29% Black candidates. The regulator has commissioned independent research into the matter, which is expected to be published in November this year.

Interestingly, the pass rate among those who completed Qualifying Work Experience (QWE), the two-year legal training course, prior to taking the exam was 49%, lower than those who did not, at 55% and 55%, respectively.

Good bachelor’s grades are a strong predictor of success, with the SQE1 recorded by 73% of candidates with a top-notch bachelor’s degree, 52% with a 2:1 degree, 23% with a 2:2 degree, and 13% with a third-class bachelor’s degree.

Earlier this week, the City of London Law Society’s Training Committee raised concerns about SQE1’s success rate and urged law firms not to abandon unsuccessful trainees. Instead, the committee recommends “taking a supportive, understanding approach” to this “new, little-known assessment regime” and exploring options such as deferral.

Join us tomorrow (Thursday, March 30) for a virtual student event focused on the SQE assessments with BPP University Law School. Register now for the free event.


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