“Actually, you passed” – 175 SQE candidates let down by marking error

Conlon-Trant: We’re going to do right by the candidates

All 6,626 candidates who took the SQE1 in January have had their results reissued after marking errors meant 175 candidates who thought they had failed actually passed.

Most other candidates will have seen a change in their scores, after assessment provider Kaplan made mistakes in implementing a new marking scheme.

Candidates are allocated into five quintiles based on their scores and as a result 303 have moved up into a higher quintile and 164 into a lower one. No candidates were wrongly told they had passed.

The news comes amid reports that some trainees who failed the SQE1 have lost their jobs as a result.

A goodwill payment of £250 has been offered to those who were wrongly told they had failed “in recognition of the upset caused by this matter”, said Zoe Robinson, managing director of Kaplan SQE.

She said Kaplan would consider claims by candidates who have incurred losses “as a direct result of this error”, adding that she was not aware of any candidate who had lost their job.

There are 22 candidates who had registered to take the SQE2 this month but then thought they would be unable to. Ms Robinson said Kaplan was waiving the exam fee for this group and offering them options for how to sit the exam, including this month if they want.

The way the results were presented was new for January’s SQE1 – rather than results being a percentage mark, that figure was scaled up to a standardised score out of 500. The marking policy required that the percentage mark should have been rounded up or down first but this was not done, meaning that the final score could be out by up to five marks.

The new approach means that no previous SQE assessments are affected by the mistake.

The change was made because there was a new week-long assessment window for the SQE1 this year, meaning that multiple papers were used and it was thought the standardised score would be a better form of comparison.

Kaplan said it discovered what had happened on 2 April through general checks conducted during the appeals period – the original results were sent out on 14 March.

Ms Robinson said: “We are committed to putting this right for candidates, and sincerely regret and apologise for the impact this has had for those affected.”

Speaking at a media briefing this morning, Andrew Conlon-Trant, vice-president of strategic partnerships at Kaplan International, reiterated the company’s apology to both candidates and the SRA and promised that “we’re going to do right by the candidates”.

He said Kaplan would review “how this came about and try to determine the root cause”.

Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) chief executive Paul Philip said the regulator was “hugely disappointed” and “enormously apologetic” by what had happened. It was “probably the most serious operational mistake we’ve made in the past two and a half years”, since the SQE came into being.

“Our immediate priority has been making sure the error has been put right as swiftly as possible, and the impact on candidates is recognised and addressed.

“We will be doing a full review with Kaplan of how the error occurred, and redoubling efforts on assurance, so we can reduce the risk of an error happening again.”

But he rejected the suggestion that it meant Kaplan should lose the contract to run the SQE assessments, saying “mistakes happen”.

While stressing he was not downplaying what had happened, Mr Philip said: “You can’t run an operation of delivering assessments for 6,500 people and expect it to run smoothly.”

    Readers Comments

  • Giles Proctor says:

    The latest from the Solicitors Regulation Authority in terms of their continuing problems with their running of the SQE. Mistakes do occur and have quite rightly been addressed in this case. However, there is a wider issue emerging here around the dialogue with firms, providers and students and how concerns are listened to and addressed.

    More clear communication is needed and a sense of careful planning and discussion rather than just ploughing on with the same systems. Otherwise, the really important stakeholders in all this, the students undergoing SQE, will continue to be under huge pressure and suffer from mistakes like this.

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