This article is to help students who may have failed the recent SQE1 assessment and are unsure how to move forward after such an unexpected set back.
If you failed SQE1 you are probably in shock at the result and what it means for you. You knew it was going to be tough but that is why you spent months studying and invested thousands of pounds to sign up with a SQE provider. Yet despite your best efforts, here you are and it feels awful and things looks bleak. That is to be expected and you need to give yourself time to come to terms with what has happened.
It may feel like your dreams have gone up in smoke but with an average pass rate of only 53%, failing SQE1 is more common than you think. I have been contacted by many upset students and they all pretty much feel like you do.
My advice at this stage is to take some time to step back and let the emotions settle. Now is not the time to make any decisions about your future. You may have not passed SQE1 at your first attempt but your SQE journey is not over and there is much you can do to get ready for the next sitting. Remember you will be better prepared emotionally and technically for the next time because you have already sat SQE1 and know what to expect! That is your first positive point!
Understand Your Results
You will be given separate results for FLK 1 and FLK2. Therefore, broadly speaking, you can see which FLK paper you did well in and which you did not. For example, candidates seem to do better in FLK1 than FLK2. Was that the case for you? Was it procedural law or substantive law that caught you out? This should help you formulate a study plan for the next time. That is your second positive point!
I would also recommend downloading the SQE1 July 2022 Statistical Report dated 5 October 2022 that was published alongside the release of the results to see how you compare to your cohort. If you are unsure how to interpret your results, please speak to your SQE provider.
Also, there could be a silver lining in that you only have to resit the FLK paper you have failed. For example, if you have passed FLK1 but failed FLK2, you would only need to resit FLK2. Therefore, if you have passed one of the papers, that is very good news since it is possible you can pass the remaining paper (which should be easier to attempt on its own) and move forward to SQE2. That is your third positive point!
Now that you have understood your results and the statistical data, it is time to have those difficult conversations.
If your SQE route is sponsored by a law firm or corporate organisation, then you are going to have to sit down with your employer and decide what happens next. Failing the SQE means the window in which they were expecting you to qualify as a solicitor has been pushed back and this could impact their workflow and employee resource planning. Hopefully, they will understand and give you another opportunity to resit the assessment since the SQE is a new style of assessment with a poor pass rate at this stage (53%).
Remember to attend any work meeting with a positive state of mind and an action plan covering such items as:
(i) What you think went wrong based on your scores for FLK1 and FLK2;
(ii) How you plan to adapt your study and prepare for the next sitting;
(iii) What additional support your SQE provider will provide to help you resit; and
(iv) What other steps you're taking to ensure you are better prepared.
On the other hand, if you are a self-funded student who has been balancing work and family commitments, a poor result is just as devastating but it is probably going to hurt in a different way. For example, it may have an impact on your family who are just as invested in the SQE as you.
The SQE was meant to widen access and provide flexibility but you may feel it has cost you dearly. Don’t be disheartened and remember the reasons why you chose this route. While you have suffered a setback, it is not over yet. Points (i)-(iv) above are just as valid in helping you self-reflect and develop a plan to move forward.
Lastly, I would recommend reaching out to the SQE student community on social media. I have found the SQE community to be supportive, open and practical. There are people out there willing to help you including Revision Killer. That is the fourth positive point!
The Attainment Gap
Please be aware that there is the real issue of the attainment gap between White candidates (63% pass rate) and Asian (54% pass rate) and Black (23% pass rate) candidates (see SQE1 July 2022 Statistical Report dated 5 October 2022).
Having spoken with many of my fellow Black and Asian law colleagues we understand the unique challenges faced by Black, Asian and other ethnic minority candidates having experienced them ourselves.
Often Black, Asian and other ethnic candidates struggle to find a law firm to sponsor their education. As a result, they are more likely to self-fund their education (by either savings, debt or part-time work). This puts them at a significant disadvantage going into the SQE as their time and focus is split between work, study and family. This unspoken reality is understood by candidates and should be taken into account when preparing for the SQE. The same issue existed during the LPC which also had an attainment gap but I fear that the high stakes nature of the SQE assessment has merely widened and entrenched this gap.
Under such circumstances I am of the view that resit fees are punitive and certainly should not be levelled at the full rate as long as the issue of has not been properly examined, reported on and actioned by the SRA and Kaplan. The University of Exeter has been appointed to examine the issue but its research programme will take until the end of 2023. Until then the SRA/Kaplan assessment fee operates as a further financial burden on the most disadvantaged in society.
I am afraid failing SQE1 means that you will have to pay a resit fee for the exam that you have failed.
If you fail FLK1 or FLK2 then you will pay £811 to retake the exam you failed.
If you fail both FLK1 and FLK2 then you will pay the full SQE1 fee of £1,622 to retake both exams.
The SQE Assessment Window
The SQE clock starts from day one of the first sitting of your first assessment. You have six years from the date you first sat a SQE assessment to complete the entire SQE.
If you fail FLK1 and/or FLK2 at the first attempt, you will have two further opportunities to take the assessment(s) you failed (FLK1 and/or FLK2) and you will have to pay the resit fee (see above).
But if you fail FLK1 and/or FLK2 three times during this six-year period, you must wait until that six year period expires before re-applying, and previous passes will not be carried forward.
Please note you cannot resit an assessment you have passed to improve your marks.
There is a reason the SQE is described as a high stakes professional exam. It was never meant to be easy and there is a lot riding on passing those assessments. While you haven't made it through at your first attempt you now have a plan and real world experience to overcome the SQE at the next sitting. It can be done! The key is to adapt and change your study for the next SQE assessment.
Sunit Tejura is a Senior Lecturer in Law at Roehampton Law School and leads the Law School’s SQE Foundations Course. Prior to joining Roehampton University he worked at Kaplan for seven years teaching on their Legal Practice Course, Graduate Diploma in Law and writing multiple choice questions for the Qualified Lawyer Transfer Scheme (the precursor to the SQE). Sunit is a qualified Solicitor (England and Wales) and Attorney at Law (New York).