SQE Update – May 2020

This bulletin covers quality assuring the SQE assessments, new qualifying work experience Q&As and how to watch our upcoming and recent webinars.

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Qualifying work experience Q&As

We've updated our qualifying work experience Q&As to help employers and people offering advice to aspiring solicitors. These include answers on:

  • counting current work experience
  • working in-house
  • working part time.

Take a look at the new Q&As

Kaplan approved to assess Solicitor Apprenticeships

Kaplan, our SQE assessment provider, has been approved by the Education and Skills Funding Agency to be the End Point Assessment Organisation for Solicitor Apprenticeships.

The approval followed a rigorous application process to review Kaplan’s experience, expertise and capacity to perform this role.

Apprentices will be required to pass SQE1 which tests the application of functioning legal knowledge and will be taken during apprenticeship training as an on-programme assessment. They will then be eligible to sit SQE2 which, for apprentices, is the synoptic end-point assessment. Read more

13,000 conversations - getting your input

Understanding your views is crucial as we work to make sure the SQE is a world class assessment.
Discussions on the future of qualifying as a solicitor have been running since 2011 when the Legal Education and Training Review was commissioned. This reported back in 2013 and following this we introduced the statement of solicitor competence in 2015, after consulting with 2,000 people.

We made the decision to proceed with SQE in April 2017 after two further consultations. Since then we have taken part in almost 300 events that have involved more than 13,000 stakeholder engagements to discuss topics such as:

  • content and format of the assessment specification
  • assessment design
  • timing of examinations
  • how the SQE might work for groups with protected characteristics
  • qualifying work experience resources.

This has included:

  • 212 meetings and speaking at other organisation’s events
  • 49 SRA workshops and events across England and Wales with law firms of all sizes, education and training providers, students and representative groups – with more than 3,550 attendees
  • 18 SRA webinars attracting more than 8,000 views
  • 11 SRA surveys with more than 800 responses
  • 6 meetings of our SQE reference group - this involves more than 30 experts, ranging from solicitors to academics to representative groups, helping us develop and refine the assessment
  • 3 full-day annual conferences, attracting more than 275 academics and training providers.

We have also seen significant online interest, including:

  • 350,000 visits to our SQE-related web pages
  • 20,000 engagements on social media, 1.2m impressions, and more than 1,000 followers of our Career in Law Facebook targeted at aspiring solicitors
  • 1,000+ subscribers to this SQE Update bulletin, which we launched in January.

Hearing everyone’s views has proved invaluable in developing our thinking. We have already made changes in response to feedback, including:

  • postponing the introduction of the SQE from 2020 to 2021 to give providers additional time to prepare
  • responding to calls for further detail by revising the assessment specification
  • publishing sample questions
  • introducing channels to answer stakeholders’ clarification questions as they come up
  • publishing guidance on qualifying work experience, in response to requests for more information, with more to come.

Looking ahead, your views are important as we make our final decision on our approach to assessing skills. This is about whether skills should be included as part of SQE1 and whether all SQE2 candidates should take exactly the same skills assessments, or if they should be able to choose the practice areas in which their skills are assessed.

So make sure you play your part and let us know what you think. Our next webinar is on equality, diversity and inclusion and the ones we ran in April are available to view on YouTube.

Get involved

SQE: Risks and benefits to equality, diversity and inclusion (Webinar, YouTube)

  • When: 13.00 on 18 May 2020
  • What: Explaining both the benefits and risks to equality, diversity and inclusion that the new SQE assessments may bring, and planned mitigations to manage the risks. You can also find out how to tell us your thoughts on our draft Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Risk Assessment before it is finalised.
  • Who: Julie Brannan, Director of Education and Training
  • Learn more and book now

Solicitor apprenticeships survey – tell us your views

Now that there are more than 500 solicitor apprentices, we are interested to hear views about the apprenticeship programme.

Whether or not you employ solicitor apprentices, we want to know the views of law firms and in-house teams. This should only take you 5 minutes to complete and closes on Sunday 24 May.

Take our short survey

SQE: A fair assessment for all (webinar)

Want to know what we’re doing to make sure the SQE assessments are fair to all that sit them? We recently ran a webinar to help people learn more. Watch it now

We are talking to a range of people and groups to discuss their views on our approach to reasonable adjustments. If you want to share your views, then get in touch with us.

SQE2: Skills assessment (webinar)

Should the SQE2 assess legal skills against uniform scenarios, or allow candidates a choice of contexts? Hear from our Director of Education and Training, Julie Brannan on the options for assessing skills we’re exploring. Watch the webinar now

Making sure the SQE is a world class assessment

By Julie Brannan, Director of Education and Training

We need to make sure that both the public and employers can trust that anyone entering the solicitor profession is competent and fit to practise.

Moving to a centralised, independent assessment is critical to this - giving everyone confidence that anyone who becomes a solicitor has met a consistent, high standard.

In 2018, we appointed Kaplan as our assessment provider for the SQE after a year-long tender process. They have significant experience in delivering professional exams, including more than a decade as the sole provider of the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme assessments.

Alongside using up-to-date methods of assessment and standards setting, Kaplan also have in place robust systems for quality assuring the SQE. These include:

  • a multi-stage process of question development, involving solicitors throughout
  • a psychometric and assessment development team, led by Dr Lee Coombes, using statistical methods to make sure that assessment decisions are consistent, fair and empirically justifiable.

At the SRA, we are using external expertise in the development and delivery of the SQE:

  • Geoff Coombe is our independent reviewer, responsible for reporting to us on the assessment and standards setting procedures.
  • Kiran Sanghara is a skilled psychometrician who provides us with independent advice on the statistical and psychometric analysis of SQE data.

In addition, Kaplan have set up an advisory board involving world leaders in professional assessment for licensure:

  • Dr Susan Case, formerly National Conference of Bar Examiners
  • Dr David Swanson, American Board of Medical Specialties
  • Richard Wakeford, University of Cambridge.

The Bridge Group has also been providing independent review of the impact the SQE could have on diversity in the profession. They first reported in 2017 and we have asked them to update their findings to reflect the further work we have done on SQE since then. As part of that they will be speaking to key stakeholders including the Law Society and Junior Lawyer Division.

We are all committed to making sure the SQE assessment design and processes are robust and the final examination is fair, rigorous and fit for purpose.

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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Find out more about the SQE.