In a busy week for the legal watchdog, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has announced it is postponing the implementation of its new centralised assessment, dubbed the ‘super-exam’, until September 2021.
The new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) was originally slated for a 2020 launch, but the SRA has postponed plans after law firms and education providers indicated a ‘strong preference’ for a delay.
According to the SRA, the deferral will give these institutions more time to develop training and to transition to the new system.
The SRA also announced that the proposed assessment, which is split into two parts, will cost somewhere between £3,000 and £4,500. The SQE 1, which predominantly tests the application of legal knowledge, will cost between £1,100 and £1,650, while the SQE 2, which focuses on more practical skills, will cost between £1,900 and £2,850.
It was also revealed that the SQE provider – education company Kaplan – will be running pilots in 2019 to test the effectiveness of the new assessment. Kaplan has also decided to reduce the number of multiple-choice questions in the SQE 1: shrinking from 680 questions across six exams to just 360 over three.
Former University of Law president and current consultant Nigel Savage told Legal Business: ‘I’m delighted they’re just getting on with it to be honest. It’s a good idea to give the firms more time, in my engagement with them they are only just beginning to understand the impact of the SQE and how it will re-draw legal education.’
On the reported fees, Savage argued they were fair. He said: ‘Kaplan has put in a huge amount of resources and it was a monumental task. Getting the infrastructure necessary to complete these tests across the whole country is not easy.’
The reduction in the number of multiple-choice questions will also please others in the profession. In January 2017, the City of London Law Society (CLLS) voiced concerns over the multiple-choice element, arguing the format would not test legal knowledge comprehensively.
The delay compounds a hectic week for the SRA, announcing on 6 November a major of relaxation rules that will allow solicitors from unregulated businesses to offer unreserved legal services .