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. Thousands more appear to have received the wrong marks.

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. 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crushing discovery that they had flunked (when they had not), some of those with training contracts may have had them withdrawn.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 for eight years 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.

Commenters were not in the mood for forgiveness when ROF covered the story in a feature on Monday.

"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", said one.

"'Mistakes happen.' This should be the mantra of injury law firms, not the SRA", said another, while a third foresaw how the compensation would be managed: "£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". 

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Tip Off ROF


End the SRA 19 April 24 08:48

Will the SRA undertake an audit lasting 3 years as a result of this mistake?  Will this imperfection lead to fines akin to those administered against law firms who have got a process wrong, when no clients have been affected?

The SRA is a joke organisation and needs disbanding.  It is useless but tries to hide its incompetence by strong arming those it perceives to be guilty of mild misdemeanors.  I’ve had enough of it and its apologists who are also useless.  

ldntrainee 19 April 24 08:57

ROF why did you remove the comments on this article? Something to do with SRA Kaplan? I sincerely hope it is a technical error...

SQE Tutor 19 April 24 09:24

“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”.

What a disgraceful comment.  These are professional assessments that affect the future careers of all those involved.  That the right results should be produced goes without saying.

Everyone involved with the SQE knows that it has been a disaster.  Get rid of it - NOW!!!!

Anonymous 19 April 24 09:55

They all probably deserved to fail and be barred from the profession.

After all, nobody wants an unlucky solicitor.

Roscoe P. Coltrane 19 April 24 11:47

“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”.


...almost 1,000,000 candidates sit the Indian Civil Service exam every year, and they have fewer problems.


Kaplan never expected to be able to perform its contract.


To get 2.7% of the results incorrect is a catastrophic, systemic failure.

Anonymous Anonymous 19 April 24 22:23

What happened to quality control procedures? 

Quality control and quality assurance are essential aspects of ensuring product or service quality.

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