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4. Adjustments for Special Needs in SQE: Ensuring a Level Playing Field

Adjustments for Special Needs in SQE: Ensuring a Level Playing Field

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is a rigorous assessment that individuals must pass in order to qualify as solicitors in the UK. As with any examination, it is important to ensure that all candidates are given a fair and equal opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. This is particularly important when it comes to candidates with special needs or disabilities, who may require certain adjustments in order to compete on an equal footing with their peers.

Understanding Special Needs in the Context of SQE

Before delving into the adjustments that can be made, it is essential to have a clear understanding of what constitutes “special needs” in this context. Special needs can refer to a wide range of conditions, including but not limited to physical disabilities, mental health conditions, learning disabilities, and sensory impairments. Each individual’s needs will vary, and it is crucial to treat each case individually to ensure the appropriate accommodations are made.

Importance of Adjustments for Special Needs

Making adjustments for candidates with special needs is not only a matter of fairness and inclusivity but also a legal requirement under the Equality Act 2010. The Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against individuals based on their disability and requires reasonable adjustments to be made to ensure equality of opportunity. For the SQE, this means recognizing the specific challenges faced by candidates with special needs and providing reasonable accommodations to mitigate these challenges.

Possible Adjustments for Candidates with Special Needs

There are several adjustments that can be made to accommodate candidates with special needs during the SQE. These adjustments are designed to remove barriers and create a level playing field for all candidates. Some common adjustments include:

  1. Extra time: Candidates with certain disabilities or conditions may require additional time to complete the examination. This can be granted on a case-by-case basis, depending on medical evidence and professional recommendations.
  2. Use of assistive technology: Candidates who rely on assistive technology, such as screen readers or speech-to-text software, should be allowed to use these tools during the examination. This helps them access the questions and formulate their responses effectively.
  3. Specialized examination materials: Some candidates may require modified examination materials, such as large print or Braille documents, to ensure they can read and comprehend the questions. Providing these materials is essential to their equal participation in the examination process.
  4. Quiet and distraction-free environment: Candidates with sensory impairments or certain mental health conditions may need a quiet and distraction-free environment to perform at their best. Providing such an environment can help minimize stress and optimize their performance during the examination.

Implementing Adjustments: Responsibilities and Procedure

The responsibility for implementing adjustments lies with the examination authorities. They must ensure that there are clear guidelines and procedures in place for candidates to request adjustments based on their special needs. It is crucial for candidates to provide medical evidence or professional recommendations supporting their request for accommodations. This evidence helps examination authorities evaluate the appropriateness of the requested adjustments and make informed decisions.

It is important to note that the need for adjustments should not undermine the integrity or standards of the SQE. The purpose of accommodations is to create a fair and accessible examination process, not to lower the qualification requirements. Therefore, examination authorities should carefully review each request and make reasonable adjustments that maintain the integrity of the assessment while reducing barriers for candidates with special needs.


In conclusion, making adjustments for candidates with special needs is an essential part of ensuring a level playing field in the SQE. It is both a moral obligation and a legal requirement to provide equal opportunities for all individuals, regardless of their disabilities or special needs. By implementing reasonable adjustments, the SQE can create an inclusive environment where all candidates have a fair chance to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Let us continue to promote equal access and diversity within the legal profession by ensuring that no candidate is left behind.

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