What have we learnt about the SQE from the SRA-Kaplan tour? 10 interesting points.

The SRA (Julie Brannan) and Kaplan (Eileen Fry) have recently completed a tour of the UK, telling people a little bit more about the SQE assessments.

On the assumption that many interested people haven’t got a spare 1.5 hours to listen to the recording of the session held at The Cube, I thought I would summarise what I learnt.

(If you do want to watch the recording yourself, click here and if you just want to see the slides click here)

  1. The degree (or degree equivalent) requirement isn’t a pre-requisite for taking SQE1, it just needs to be ticked off prior to admission. This is to cater for apprentices who may not have completed their degree before taking SQE1 (or parts of it, if the modular approach survives the review of the assessment specification).
  2. There will be a revised assessment specification – which is what everyone is really waiting for! It will go through several iterations and stakeholders will have the opportunity to comment.
  3. They are going to check whether the practical legal skills tests in SQE1 can be reliably assessed. Julie emphasised that this had been added in response to demands by firms for individuals to be tested on research and writing before they started work.  I interpret this as the SRA disassociating itself from this part of SQE1 before it is dropped in the revised assessment specification.  The reason being, it will be challenging to deliver this test reliably and affordably and therefore hard for the SRA to justify given there is no regulatory requirement for these skills to be tested at both SQE1 and 2.
  4. SQE1 may not be 6 assessments and there may not be quite so many questions. In my view they are moving towards the QLTS model.  See the Kaplan QLTS website for more details on what SQE1 is likely to look like and see this 2013 journal article for the evidence that this model can work reliably (even if it may not be valid!).
  5. They are looking closely at the SQE2 practice contexts. Julie mentioned that each of the proposed contexts have already been tested at SQE1 i.e. implying it’s not necessary to test practical skills in several contexts in SQE2.  My money is (again) on them moving towards the QLTS model of no, or very little, choice of contexts.  From an assessment perspective, if you are trying to show that everyone has met the same standard, you cut down on the options.
  6. SQE1 isn’t a pre-requisite for QWE. SQE2 can be taken at any time (after SQE1) although apprentices must take it in their last 6 months (or it wouldn’t be an End Point Assessment).
  7. Transitional arrangements are currently with the LSB for approval (tucked in amongst its Looking to the Future proposals). They state that anyone who has “started or entered into a contractual agreement or made a non-refundable financial commitment” to start a QLD (including Exempting Law Degree or Integrated Course), CPE, LPC or a period of recognised training, before the SQE has been introduced, can continue under that route up to the cut-off date 11 years after the SQE’s introduction.    If firms (or indeed students) decide that the existing system is for whatever reason ‘better’, then we may see some contorted recruitment and deposit-taking antics in the run up to the introduction of the SQE!
  8. Kaplan has appointed an Advisory Board comprising of international assessment experts with experience of the National Conference of Board Examiners (NCBE) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) in the US. This has to be good news for all concerned, as it means there will be robust scrutiny of the tests.
  9. It sounds like SQE1 will be all Single Best Answer (SBA) Multiple Choice Questions as opposed to a mix of SBA and Extended Matching Questions (EMQs) as was proposed. This is good for a number of reasons, not least cost and the fact that the reliability of EMQs on this scale (or indeed a mix of the two question types) has not been tested.  Again, this follows the example of QLTS.
  10. There’s an SQE Training Provider Conference in Coventry on 18 December – places can be booked here (when it opens!). Expect further details to be announced at this point!

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