15 September 2019

Bar regulator announces important developments in the 2016 Bar Professional Training Course

1 December 2015

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has three announcements to make about the BPTC today.  First, today the regulator is publishing statistics about students and providers of the BPTC. Second, there will be changes to the formats of the centralised assessments. Third, the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT), which is an entry requirement, will be deferred until at least March 2016, pending completion of a review.

The statistics the BSB has published will help prospective students make a more informed decision about where to study the BPTC, ahead of the application system opening on Monday 7 December 2015 at 12pm.

The regulator is also announcing today, changes to the centralised exams on the BPTC which will come into effect in 2017. These changes - along with the deferral to the opening of BCAT - therefore will affect the cohort of students starting the course in September 2016.

With the Future Bar Training programme currently considering the merits of alternative approaches to qualification as a barrister, today's raft of announcements demonstrate the BSB's commitment to ongoing improvements for prospective BPTC students.

At the same time, it ensures that the entry and assessment systems continue to be as fair and robust as possible.

Director of Education & Training Dr Simon Thornton-Wood said: "We are committed to maintaining and building upon the high standards of training and assessment for qualification as a barrister. Whilst we are engaged in an important reassessment of training overall - through the Future Bar Training programme - we remain equally committed to ongoing improvement in the training system today. The arrangements for 2016 students are part of that same continual improvement programme that we have implemented since the BPTC came into existence in 2011-12."

Looking at each announcement in more detail…

New statistical information on the performance of students on the BPTC 

Covering the three academic years up to the one ending in 2014, the new statistics provide a wealth of information about the profile and diversity of students embarking on the Bar training course, what grades they achieved, and whether or not they were successful in obtaining pupillage after completing the course.

For the first time, an analysis is set out of how students fared at each of the BPTC providers, and the differences between those studying full-time and part-time.

The detailed information improves transparency: a key consideration given the regulator's role in ensuring the quality of the course. However, care has been taken to protect the identity of individual students. The data complements the information already available in the market for prospective BPTC students to help them decide whether to apply for the course and if so, at which provider.

Director of Education & Training Dr Simon Thornton-Wood said: "Now that we have a full three years' worth of centralised assessment data, it is in the best of interests to publish this rich analysis. However, it is important that this report is not considered in isolation. There is useful information available from BPTC providers, and prospective students should be aware that alongside the publication of this information, the BSB will continue to monitor training delivery by each of the eight BPTC providers. Our detailed monitoring visit reports can be found on our website.   

"Our aim is to ensure that education and training for the Bar meets an appropriate standard, but also provides opportunity for a diversity of candidates, and ultimately produces barristers with knowledge and skills in which the public can have confidence."

Read the BSB BPTC Key statistics 2011-2014: An analysis of students over three academic years

Changes to centralised exam assessment on the BPTC

From April 2017, the method for assessing students' performance in the following components of the BPTC will change:

  • Civil Litigation, Evidence and Remedies;
  • Criminal Litigation, Evidence and Sentencing.

We are also considering changes to the assessment method of the Professional Ethics module.

These three modules are assessed centrally by the BSB, unlike the other components which are assessed by the BPTC providers under close scrutiny by the BSB.

The changes will mean that there will no longer be a two-part exam comprising of a multiple choice component and a short answer component (with a requirement to pass each component). The exams will instead be in "single best answer" examination format, which is a more sophisticated type of multiple choice question. This format provides a number of plausible options for each question, but only one is the "best" solution and students must select the one that is most correct.

Director of Education & Training Dr Simon Thornton-Wood said: "The BSB is responsible for ensuring that the necessary standards for future barristers are met consistently and one way we do this is through the centralised examinations. The changes being made for 2016 students are being made after very careful consideration and reflect our commitment to continually improving our approach wherever we can."

Read the Centralised Assessment Review summary here.

BCAT to be deferred until at least March 2016

Finally, the BSB is announcing that opening of the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) for students starting in 2016 will be deferred until at least March 2016. This is to allow time for completion of an important evaluation of the test in its first years of implementation.

Director of Education & Training Dr Simon Thornton-Wood said: "We do not expect our decision to defer the opening of BCAT to have too great an impact on any student starting the BPTC in 2016. In previous years, the majority of students have not attempted the BCAT until at least the spring, and a substantial window of opportunity to take the Test remains."


Notes to editors

About the Bar Standards Board

Our mission is to regulate the Bar so as to promote high standards of practice and safeguard clients and the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: http://bit.ly/1gwui8t

Contact: For all media enquiries call: 0207 611 1452 or email press@barstandardsboard.org.uk