The Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) is safe to go ahead this autumn under current public health advice, an independent review has found.

The assessment's independent reviewer Geoff Coombe said he is satisfied that in the context of public health advice issed last month and Covid restrictions that the SQE1 exams can take place on 8 and 11 November.

‘At the time of writing the plans in place should allow successful delivery of the exams whether social distancing, and other current public health expectations and restrictions, are needed or not by November 2021,’ Coombe said. ‘Provision and planning enable exams to take place in a socially distanced manner and test centres will have enhanced cleaning and other sanitization measures in place.’

The first stage of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam will take place at Pearson VUE test centres in the UK and internationally and will consist of multiple-choice 360 questions. Meanwhile, SQE2 will be composed of 16 written and oral tasks, including client interviews and advocacy. The pass mark for SQE1 will be determined by a board of experts, drawing on the level competency expected of a solicitor on their first day at work.

The Bar Standards Board ran into difficulty last summer when it was forced to move professional exams online as a result of Covid-19. The regulator was inundated with complaints when technical issues meant some students were unable to sit the online tests from home. Others claim they were temporarily locked out of the exams provided by Pearson Vue, while one student reported urinating in a bottle after being told repeatedly that he could not leave his desk during the three-hour assessment.

An independent reviewer is due to publish a report on what went wrong with the exams early next month.