Kraplan takes a tumble

Clownshow at Kaplan.

In the “most serious organisational mistake” since the Solicitors Qualifying Exam was introduced, 175 people who sat the SQE 1 in January were wrongly told they had failed, the SRA has revealed.

Kaplan, which runs the exams, did not round up the scores for SQE 1, the first of the two sets of exams comprising the SQE, at the point in the marking process when it was supposed to, meaning 175 of the 6,626 candidates who sat the assessment were incorrectly failed.

In addition, Zoe Robinson, Managing Director of Kaplan, conceded that a “significant” proportion of the total cohort of 6,626 had their marks affected by the bungle, although she refused to say exactly how many.

Robinson said the error only came to light when candidates began appealing their exam results and Kaplan’s review of the disputed papers uncovered the screw-up. Giving rise to the possibility that if students hadn’t complained, the mistake would have gone unnoticed.

Paul Philip, Chief Executive of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which oversees the SQE, said, “We are really disappointed by this error and apologise to the candidates who have been affected”.

He said the regulator would be carrying out “a full review with Kaplan of how the error occurred, and redoubling efforts on assurance, so we can reduce the risk of an error happening again”.

The fallout for the 175 candidates is potentially huge. As well as the crushing discovery that they had flunked (when they had not), some of those with training contracts may have had them withdrawn. Others may have given up on law, missed out on jobs they could have secured with a pass, or moved away. Others may have seen their legal career set back by a year.

Robinson said, “We are committed to putting this right for candidates, and sincerely regret and apologise for the impact this has had for those affected”.

She said a "goodwill payment" of £250 was being offered to the 175 candidates "in recognition of the upset caused by this matter”.

Robinson said those now entitled to take SQE 2 would get a “priority booking”, while 22 candidates who registered for the April SQE 2 exam but who were told they could not as they had failed SQE 1 would be given the opportunity to sit it at a later date, for free. 

Kaplan appeared aware that £250 may not appease many of the aspiring lawyers whose legal careers have been delayed, thwarted or abandoned as a result of its blunder.

Asked whether a full refund plus a free SQE 2 sitting for all 175 impacted candidates would be more appropriate compensation, Robinson said some candidates with training contracts didn't pay the fees anyway, and that the £250 was "almost a sort of blanket recognition that the result was wrong". 

For candidates "disadvantaged further either financially or through their progression", she said Kaplan "will do everything we can to put the candidates back in the position that they would have been had this mistake not been made".

“We would encourage candidates in this group, who have incurred losses as a direct result of this error, to contact our Candidate Services Team to outline your circumstances and each will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. We have set up a dedicated email address for this purpose - [email protected]”, she said.

The SRA will be tearing its hair out. There has been a question mark over Kaplan since it was awarded the SQE contract in a thin field and the SQE has been beset with issues

But while Kaplan’s defenders have been able to claim that student complaints were overblown or unjustified, wrongly failing people who actually passed and apparently getting the results for most of the rest of the cohort incorrect - just about the worst things that can happen in an exam process – is undeniably inept and hugely embarrassing.

Asked whether Kaplan deserved to have its mandate to run the SQE renewed given the debacle, Philip told ROF, “I think this is something that we'll reflect on” and that it was “probably the most serious operational mistake that we’ve made in the last two and half years” since the SQE was launched.

But, he said, “mistakes happen. You can’t run an operation of delivering assessments for six and a half thousand people and expect it to run completely smoothly”. Solicitors appearing before the SDT are welcome to adapt that for their defence and see how well it goes for them.

“I'm not in any way undermining how serious this is, it clearly was really serious and we will be in discussion with Kaplan about the way forward”, added Philip.



SQE Candidate 15 April 24 12:26

For those who have been in this field for some time, has the SRA always been this bad? Is there any chance of anything changing?

You should have seen what we got up to three years ago 15 April 24 12:28

"Probably the most serious operational mistake that we’ve made in the last two and half years.”

The SRA working with the same PR agency that has been advising the Royal Family, I see.

If only the timing had lined up, they could have said Kate's public absence was because she was busy marking SQE exams.

Eye Roll 15 April 24 12:30

Kaplan are the shytest show in town having experienced their utter flipping incomptence during the 'Halcyon' days of the QLTS - i wonder why the SRA insist on using them. 

Anonymous 15 April 24 13:00

The nerve of saying "You can’t run an operation of delivering assessments for six and a half thousand people and expect it to run completely smoothly"! It's not hard. 🤣

Lydia 15 April 24 13:05

It is completely unacceptable. Kaplan needs to set up much more checking and checking and checking of what has been checked. University of Law or BPP should be given the contract or even better revert to the LPC and abolish SQE

Ding Dong it's King Kong 15 April 24 14:24

Kaplan was terrible to begin with but then SRA has never been serious about these unimportant things like professional education.

Anonymous 15 April 24 14:27

Im gratified to learn that if my firm arranges for 6,500 transfers in and out of its client account in a year and 175 of them go to the wrong people, the SRA will shrug its shoulders and let us off with a ‘mistakes happen’. 

Anonymous 15 April 24 19:59

I am not surprised. I wrote this exam in January, and right from the outset it was evident there would be issues.

Anyone who wrote the exam would note right from the outset that even the questions were unclear with bad syntax and punctuation featuring making it a test of interpretation of what is possibly AI generated questions rather than legal substance.

Even the brightest legal minds would have difficulty interpreting how to even read results, where a set number of questions is somehow translated into a score of 500. The SRA video on this and the result information available is nebulous at best. 

Having an opaque way of presenting results cannot help one simply question whether this is intentional to  deter candidates from being able to challenge any result, combined with a fee to simply appeal. So now, without the ability to freely challenge results, how many errors are there in place which have not been picked up.

The SRA should be setting standards for the test of knowledge before unleashing people on the public as professional advisors. Not creating unnecessary barriers to entry and allowing vendors to profit off of qualification process. 

another current SQE candidate 16 April 24 10:09

"mistakes happen"... no, but they shouldn't! The fact that this 'omnishambles' was only discovered after students appealed is beyond belief in itself. The SRA saying mistakes happen and passing the blame on to Kaplan is also shocking. 

The SRA should be checking, checking and re-checking Kaplan's process, especially when it is new, and should take full responsibility for not doing this well enough - or at least until 3 months after the exams and only after appeals. 6000 odd students is a relatively small cohort, and with such huge stakes (let alone almost £5,000 in fees), completely avoidable mistakes like this SHOULD NOT happen!!

Of course the SRA should scrap Kaplan, along with the entire SQE (and themselves), seeing as they are all proving time and time again that they are entirely unfit for purpose.

The SRA is creating an entire generation of lawyers that have 0 faith in its ability to regulate and is damaging the reputation of the entire profession. All responsible should be barred from the profession by the SDT, not least for breaking their own fundamental principle of acting "in a way that upholds public trust and confidence in the solicitors' profession and in legal services provided by authorised persons."

Anon 16 April 24 18:14

£250 for your troubles.  We just need you to sign this thing saying it’s in full and final settlement. You’d know the importance of that if we trained you appropriately, but we’re telling you now that it’s a good thing, promise.