SQE Update – January 2021

This bulletin tells you how you can watch sessions from our recent SQE conference, SQE1 assessments dates and the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on upcoming QLTS assessments. Plus, how you can get involved in our latest webinars and surveys.

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SQE Conference 2020

We were delighted to have hundreds of you join us for our December SQE virtual conference. It offered a variety of sessions covering key SQE-related topics, including a round up of where we are with less than a year to go to the first exam sittings, how providers and firms are preparing for SQE, logistics for sitting the assessment and more on qualifying work experience. You can find videos, slides and useful resources on our website. Take a look

Questions from the SQE conference

We received more than a hundred questions throughout our SQE conference. We were able to answer many in the sessions themselves. Following this, we have compiled together and answered other factual questions we did not have time to answer in the session. See the answers

Delivering the SQE assessments and potential Covid-19 restrictions

Read our Director or Education and Training, Julie Brannan’s latest blog on our plans for delivering the SQE examinations. Find out what we are doing in case potential Covid-19 restrictions prevent face-to-face examination or limit group numbers. Read more 

SQE1 assessment dates confirmed

The first sitting of SQE1 has now been confirmed for 8 and 11 November 2021. Bookings will open approximately 14 weeks before the assessment in early July 2021. Find out more

Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) assessments

We're working with Kaplan, our QLTS assessment provider, to consider the impact on the QLTS exams of the UK-wide Covid-19 lockdown and changing restrictions in other countries.

The January exam will go ahead in locations where it is lawful to do so and with appropriate health and safety measures in place. Any candidate who wishes to cancel as a result of these developments will be entitled to a full refund. Find more information on Kaplan’s website.

Solicitor examiners recruitment

With the design of the new assessment finalised, Kaplan is expanding its team ahead of delivery of the first assessment in November 2021 and applications for positions are now open. The roles available include question writers, markers and assessors. We are particularly keen to recruit a diverse range of examiners, including solicitors with disabilities, those from differing ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds and a range of legal practice types. Find out more 

Get involved

SQE poll - cut-off date for the law assessed

We want to know when you think the cut-off date should be for the law assessed in the SQE exams. Have your say in our poll before 15 January 2021. Tell us now

SQE timings survey

In October 2019 stakeholders gave us very helpful feedback in relation to possible SQE assessment timings. As we mentioned then, the timings of the initial sittings of SQE1 and SQE2 are likely be slightly different from those in subsequent years to balance various factors.

Once again, we’re keen to get your feedback on when the exams should take place in future years. So tell us what you think the regular pattern for the SQE assessments should be – take our survey by 31 January.

The SQE2 assessment (YouTube, 18 January)

When: 14.30 on 18 January

What: SQE2 tests both practical legal knowledge and skills, tested through 16 written and oral exercises and simulate the tasks carried out by a solicitor. Join us for this webinar to learn more about the SQE2 including the recently published sample questions.

Who: Julie Brannan from the SRA, and Eileen Fry from Kaplan

Book now

Qualifying work experience - answers to common queries (YouTube, 21 January)

When: 12.00 on 21 January

What: Everyone looking to qualify through the SQE route will need to complete at least two years' work experience after 1 September 2021. This webinar will cover answers to common queries about qualifying work experience, including queries we didn't have time to cover at our recent SQE conference. Join us to find out about:

  • What counts as QWE?
  • What confirming QWE means?
  • The latest guidance available for employers and candidates
  • Answers to common questions

Who: Richard Williams, Policy Manager and Benedict Fisher, Head of External Communications

Book now

Delivering the SQE assessments and potential Covid-19 restrictions

by Julie Brannan, Director of Education and Training

It has been a grim start to 2021, with another national lockdown for an indefinite period. There is the comfort of vaccines being rolled out. But it is looking likely that restrictions may need to stay in force for some time to come.

I remain hopeful that by the time of the first sitting of SQE1 on 8 and 11 November 2021 (let alone the first SQE2 sitting in April 2022), sufficient normality will have returned to permit the assessment to run as planned. This is the fairest, most reliable and most secure way to deliver the examinations.

Even if some restrictions remain in force in late 2021 and 2022, we have demonstrated through the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) that we can successfully deliver examinations very similar to SQE, effectively and safely. Social distancing and other protective measures were put in place to make sure that the QLTS examinations which ran in the second half of 2020 were safe for candidates. Arrangements were introduced both for computer-based tests and oral and written skills assessments. Both sets of assessments ran smoothly and we had some very positive feedback from candidates.

But what will we do if restrictions prevent any form of face-to-face examination, or prohibit groups of candidates being assessed together in assessment centres? Could SQE go ahead in these circumstances?
We have been considering this question as part of our business continuity planning and will continue to look at the possibility of running virtual assessments. Running assessments remotely is not without its challenges. It raises questions about the security of the assessment, the stability of internet connections, digital poverty and provision for candidates with disabilities.

These are difficult issues to address. We know some Legal Practice Course and Professional Skills Course providers have used remote proctoring and remote assessments. The context of the SQE is different: it is a global examination, and candidates are not registered students following a course of study. Nevertheless, we are looking closely at methods of delivering remote assessments and how these could be adapted to the needs of the SQE, so that we can run it safely, fairly and securely, Covid-19 restrictions notwithstanding.

Once we have thought through the issues and challenges, we will update you through this bulletin. So please watch this space.

Other ways to get involved

Join our LinkedIn reference group. It will help you keep up to date with the latest SQE developments and opportunities to get involved in our surveys and events.

If you are thinking about taking the SQE, or know someone who is, please follow Career in Law for the latest information aimed at aspiring solicitors.

If you have any questions, or want more information on how you can get involved, contact us.


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