"What do we want? Exams! When do we want them? Now!"
Law students have complained of being left "exhausted and frazzled" after being forced to wait several hours to sit an exam that was finally cancelled due to IT issues.
97 candidates were due to take one of the written parts of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) on Monday at the Pearson VUE Centre in Chiswick, west London. However, over a third of them were forced to hang around for several hours before being told they wouldn't be able to sit the exam that day.
A number of students started the SQE2 at the set time of 9am, but others were told that they couldn't sit the exam yet and would have to wait in separate rooms, without access to their phones or notes.
The penned-in students were given an hour lunchbreak, after which 55 of them were then permitted to start the exam at a delayed time. But the remaining 33 candidates were left waiting until mid-afternoon until they were finally informed that their exam would be rescheduled.
One candidate told RollOnFriday that the "hardest part of the day" was having to "wait and be ready to take the exam" at any moment. "We lost preparation time, were exhausted, stressed out about how the situation affected our individual circumstances, and left in a state unfit to sit such a high stakes exam,” they said.
Kaplan emailed students that evening to tell them they could either opt to take the exam on Thursday at a relocated centre in Aldgate East, or reschedule the entire SQE2 sitting (including the oral assessments they had already taken) in January.
"Either choice is absolutely gruelling, leaving us all apprehensive about what the consequences of our choices may be," said the source, adding that the situation had left students feeling "exhausted" and "stressed". The candidate also opined that the relocated centre in east London wasn't ideal for candidates who had planned to sit the exams in west London.
Another candidate posted on LinkedIn that they were "lost for words...for this failure that the Solicitors Regulation Authority are continually allowing to occur through their provider Kaplan. There are numerous issues with these exams at every sitting. These are professional exams and yet nothing is learnt and student pay the dear price of disruptions, anxiety and worse delaying exams further".
The SQE replaced the GDL and the LPC as the route to becoming a solicitor. Kaplan, which ran a law school until it was closed down because of low student numbers, won the SRA's contract to deliver the super-exam.
It is not the first time that students have blasted Kaplan over exams. Last summer, candidates accused the exam provider of engineering a "total shitshow" at the Pearson Vue exam centre at Hammersmith. A source told RollOnFriday that some candidates who had the exam cancelled this week had also been in the group affected by the Hammersmith cock-up last year.
A spokesperson for Kaplan told RollOnFriday: "There were IT issues at two floors of the Pearson VUE Chiswick test centre on Monday 30 October. This prevented 33 candidates sitting the first day of their SQE2 written assessment and a number of other candidates were significantly delayed in starting."
"To avoid the risk of further disruption, we relocated the exams scheduled on the affected floors on Tuesday and Wednesday to an alternative test centre and out of pocket travel expenses will be refunded to candidates," said the spokesperson.
"We have arranged for candidates that did not test in Chiswick on Monday to take a rescheduled assessment on Thursday, 2 November," the spokesperson added. "A full refund is also available for those who are unable to attend. We will also be making a goodwill payment of £250 to each candidate who was unable to complete their assessment on 30 October. We apologise to all candidates affected."
A disgruntled candidate told RollOnFriday that some students are complaining to Kaplan that the compensation of £250 is insufficient, as they believe it is less than the sum offered for the Hammersmith exam farce last year.
The Kaplan spokesperson said in response: "We will be in touch with candidates next week with more detailed information about expenses and compensation".
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