SQE1 results: pass rates revealed as diversity gap remains

updated on 24 January 2022

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In November 2021, 1090 candidates, including 27 solicitor apprentices, took the first-ever Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) – SQE1. The candidates received their results on Friday last week and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has revealed an overall pass rate of 53%.

The SQE1 assessment is made up of two parts – Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK) 1 and FLK2 – which candidates are required to pass in order to pass the SQE1 overall.

Of the 1,090 candidates that took the SQE1 in November, 683 were women, 376 were men and 25 preferred not to say – the SRA reported no difference between the pass rates (54%) of men and women. That said, there was a reported difference between the pass rates of White candidates (464) compared to candidates from Asian/Asian British (343), Black/Black British (70), Mixed/multiple ethnic (50) and other ethnic (75) backgrounds. According to the SRA’s report, the percentage from each group that passed is as follows:

  • White candidates – 66%;
  • Asian/Asian British – 43%;
  • Black/Black British – 39%;
  • Mixed/multiple ethnic groups – 58%; and
  • other ethnic groups – 41%.

Speaking about the discrepancy outlined here, chair of the SRA board Anna Bradley said: “We anticipated that we would again see the troubling difference in performance for candidates from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups that has been a longstanding and widespread feature in examinations in the legal and other sectors. We know the reasons will be complex and, as well as ongoing review and analysis, we have appointed Exeter University to carry out in-depth research to better understand the factors driving the attainment gap for these groups in professional assessments, so that we can do everything we can to address the issues.”

Want to know what law firms and the legal profession as a whole is doing to improve diversity and inclusion? Head to LawCareers.Net’s Diversity hub, sponsored by Gowling WLG (UK) LLP.

Law Society President I. Stephanie Boyce reinforced the need for the regulator “to monitor closely whether the situation is worsening or improving with the move to SQE and if so why.”

Meanwhile, the pass rates among candidates who declared a disability (55%) and those who didn’t (53%) or those who preferred not to say (57%) were fairly similar. There was also not much difference between the pass rates of candidates based on their socio-economic background. For example, 57% of candidates who declared they’d attended a state-run or state-funded school passed, while 54% of candidates who said they’d attended an independent or fee-paying school passed.

The 53% of candidates who received positive SQE1 results last Friday, must now pass SQE2, with the first sittings due to take place in April.

For more information on the SQE, updates and advice, head to LawCareers.Net’s SQE hub, sponsored by The University of Law.