Pass rates – and racial disparities – steady in second sitting of SQE1


Ethical compass: Students performed poorly compared to other subjects

The results for the second sitting of SQE1 – part of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) – show the exact same pass rate as the first, and the continuing racial disparity.

Some 53% of the 1,829 candidates who took the two parts of the SQE1 in July passed, a figure that rises slightly to 55% for first-time candidates.

SQE1 tests functioning legal knowledge (FLK), consisting of just over 10 hours of assessment taken over two days. SQE2 assesses practical legal skills and knowledge. The first results from that, published in August, showed a pass rate of 77%.

The historical pass rate for the legal practice course was 58%.

The pass rate for White candidates fell slightly from 66% to 63%, the figures were 58% for candidates from mixed/multiple ethnic groups (the same as the first sitting), 54% for Asian/Asian British candidates (up significantly, from 43%), 39% for Black/Black British candidates (down significantly to 23%) and 41% for candidates who declared ‘other’, up by two percentage points.

As last time, performance on FLK1 was notably better than on FLK2 – 64% pass rate as against 55%. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has previously speculated that this could reflect the fact that candidates have less time to prepare for FLK2 as it is taken shortly after FLK1.

“Another factor could be the fact that candidates tended to do less well on the more transactional subjects such as conveyancing and litigation, of which there are more in FLK2 than FLK1,” its analysis of the first results said.

Strikingly, the subject where candidates performed worst, by some way, was ethics, compared to practice area subjects.

On this occasion, the data showed an attainment gap in favour of men – 61% passed, compared to 52% of women – when there was no difference in the first sitting. It was the same with disability, with this time only 41% of disabled candidates passing.

The quality of a candidate’s degree again made a notable difference: 70% of those with a first passed, as did 59% who had a 2:1, 35% who had a 2:2 and 24% of those with a third.

Two-thirds (67%) of those who attended a fee-paying school with a bursary (covering 90% of the costs) were successful, compared to 60% of those without a bursary, 58% who went to a selective state school and 55% who were at a non-selective state school.

In a blog on Legal Futures last week, SRA chief executive Paul Philip outlined the work the regulator is doing to analyse the reasons for the race attainment gap and its other plans for the SQE, saying that in the first year “much has gone well, but there are areas for improvement”.

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