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Anger and confusion as hundreds of students unexpectedly fail the BPTC ethics module

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Exclusive: Litigation is in the air as the Bar Standards Board refuses to review the marks

exams-lead

Hundreds of wannabe barristers have spent the weekend anxiously scratching their heads after unexpectedly failing the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) ethics module.

The cause of the disastrous results are a series of “short answer questions” that were part of this year’s centrally set ethics exam. Students and at least one senior BPTC academic are claiming that the questions were worded extremely confusingly.

According to documents seen by Legal Cheek, 223 out of 409 of BPP University Law School’s bar students failed the short answer question section of the ethics exam — which results in an automatic fail on the overall ethics paper. Students must pass all modules in order to complete the BPTC.

Students at other BPTC providers are understood to be similarly affected.

The unlucky throng will now face a resit later this summer. Regardless of their performance in that exam, they will be excluded from getting the top grade of ‘Outstanding’ on the course, which is only available to those who pass first time. With a host of star students understood to be among those who flunked the exam, this is said by insiders to be a particular source of anguish.

The average mark on the paper, when the controversial three short answer questions were not counted, was apparently 77%. Yet the Bar Standards Board (BSB) is standing by the exam, issuing this statement this morning:

The First Sit 2015 BPTC Ethics exam was set, marked and moderated in accordance with the same stringent processes which we apply to all centrally assessed BPTC modules. We are confident that this examination, like all of those comprising the centrally assessed modules, was a fair and appropriate assessment.

Legal Cheek understands that a formal request was made to the BSB by BPP to review the marks and intervene prior to their publication on Friday — but that this was refused.

Since the results were announced, an email has been circulating that was sent by BPP BPTC director James Welsh to students that describes the ethics paper short questions as “not a fair assessment instrument”. It states:

There was one particular SAQ where many students thought that the question wanted a discussion of X when in fact the question was seeking a discussion of Y and many students picked up no marks for what were, in our view, relevant responses to an ambiguous question.

The email, which was sent in response to desperate student pleas for help to launch legal action against the BSB, goes on to advise on the taking of legal advice before initiating a judicial review, or any other challenge of the body’s decision not to intervene.

The email continues:

We think what you would be best placed doing would be to represent that no reasonable exam board would fail to adjust the marking in light of the mark profile of this assessment … We have identified a good barrister who specialises in JR in education cases and would take the case on direct access for you if you wanted. This would be a good way of ensuring that your case is very well put, but clearly there would be cost implications.

This isn’t, of course, the first time there have been problems with the BPTC ethics exam. Ominously for those affected by this year’s paper, the 2013 ethics exam featured questions from a past paper that some students had already seen — yet the BSB decided that it was “not invalid”.

126 Comments

BPTC

Set, marked and moderated by the same institution – because any other examination board would get away with that….

(40)(5)

Anonymous

Not that unexpected- high failure rates common on the BPTC.

(20)(15)

Anonymous

High failure rate in one module – when numerous students would have passed the BPTC but for ethics…

(17)(3)

Anonymous

Not only passed, but passed with an Outstanding or a high Very Competent. The marks in the multiple choice section clearly demonstrate that many students who ultimately failed did understand ethics, just not one particular short answer question that was set.

(11)(4)

Anonymous

Yeah. I mean I understand that sometimes questions are ambiguous but my approach was just to write down every possible answer (marks not being subtracted if you go off on a tangent as long as it isn’t contradictory). Students should be told that by tutors.

(Having said that, the fact that the BSB every year discount questions from Ethics, Civ, and Crim shows their filtering process not amazing)

(7)(3)

SodsLaw

The most surprising thing about this, frankly, is the fact that the continued uselessness of the BPTC and everything associated with it is still considered newsworthy. The course, including the centrally set exams, is an appalling farce.

And BPP’s response is pretty shameful too. If there’s a possibility of litigation with a reasonable prospect of success then they should fund it out of their enormous, ill-gotten profits.

(49)(10)

Anonymous

I’ll be anonymous here and say I was in BPP. They are a new batch of providers. VERY NEW, mind you. They just came popping out like 2 years ago as a BPTC provider. Let me tell you that what their ethics was like. It was giving you all of the Code of Conduct and materials, and almost at the mid-end of the course, they discussed and did ethics with the students in a few extra classes in the span of like 3 weeks or so. I don’t even think the lecturers can relate to these rules; they keep saying “rules are rules”, “the BSB wants it”, and they’ll just give answers at the end of each question and the students don’t even know why some answers (which are BSB’s) deviate so far from the question even though we’ve identified the core issue of the question. I don’t know if this is what other universities face, but that was us. A few classes in a span of like three weeks. On a freaking paper that I then realize was THE bane of the BPTC existence. WHAT?!?! I am shocked to see BPP’s failure rate on ethics in this article. Then again, when I think back, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Call me a whiny lazy brat all you want, but I know the effort I put and I went through the BPP experience. I went through all the IELTS, BCAT and Inns and their dinners and all that; I know my ability and my weaknesses. I think they are new to the BPTC game, I think they need experience (don’t get me wrong, their staff are good and professional lawyers as far as I can tell) and seriously ethics needs to either be changed, or go.

(11)(2)

Anonymous

I fairly sure the BPP would have locus, in any event what I find is disturbing is that the best the BPP will do is point the students to a barrister – one might have thought the school might have chipped in with costs? 223 students come unstuck … Not much per client given the nigh on £4,000,000 in fees

(16)(5)

Anonymous

BPP are considering their position regarding the possibility of assisting with the funding of litigation

(7)(4)

Pip

May I suggest third party funding in the form of a class action?

Last years ethics pass rate was also appalling and they refuse to do anything about it. If I was taking this to JR I would also add another ground of the bsb for bringing the profession into disrepute.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

By making it a tough paper? It’s a fact that a lot of people taking these papers aren’t that academically abled. If you pass the BPTC you’re supposed to be capable of practising at the Bar. The standard should be high (maybe even higher).

(6)(14)

Anonymous

I don’t think that Professional Ethics is the best paper to go about trying to differentiate capable barristers on.

(22)(1)

Not Amused

It comes as no surprise to me that neither the BSB, nor the BPTC providers can demonstrate enough understanding of ethics to set a fair exam.

Those who miss out on Outstanding should try to not worry (I know it’s hard, I too am a serial over achiever), Chambers don’t really care about BPTC grade because the course is widely acknowledged as a joke. Everyone gets a VC and that is fine. Even getting a C will only raise an eyebrow or a chuckle provided your real academics are still strong.

(34)(7)

Anonymous

The BPTC providers don’t / didn’t set the exam – even I know that, despite my 20+ years at the Bar, although my children do offer a few prompts now and again. Try to get in touch with the profession you purport to represent – you seem to have plenty of time on your hands – but stay away from Committees (you would be an absolute ‘mare’). How is that 3rd six “with a view” going btw?

(7)(2)

Success kings

On my opinion We should NOT be sitting all those Exams, from our first year as a law student up to our last year.
Special at last year, the Master, BPTC, Soliciter.

(1)(43)

Anonymous

If you’re going to speak in our name as students/recent students, then please God learn how to spell solicitor, use proper grammar and just in general string a sentence together…

(56)(4)

Anonymous

What are you going on about? This is perfect language for Legal Cheek. No intellect or correct grammar is necessary to read this garbage so get off your high horse you twat.

(6)(15)

Triumph Queens

Inside my brain, I Agree.

(2)(5)

Anonymous

Are you from the BSB? With that attitude towards such a lack of clarity in prose you would probably fit in quite well there.

(8)(2)

John smith

Hi Alan!!

(2)(2)

Anonymous

I sympathise. I undertook the BPTC last year, and I still remember the following question in a Crim Lit mock paper:

“How would you seek to put in evidence the fact that while being questioned under caution before charge, Felix said that he was a devout Christian who believed in the sanctity of marriage. In fact Felix is a long-standing atheist.”

I interpreted the above as how you would put the interview comments into evidence. However, the BSB’s mark-scheme made clear they wanted you to answer how you would put the atheist matter into evidence.

And this is just one example among many.

So I can well believe that the BSB are capable of writing incoherent and flat-out misleading questions. I appreciate the BPTC is meant to be difficult and the BSB wants a certain percentage of students to fail. But there’s a difference between failing because you’re not good enough and failing because the question was badly worded.

So I have great sympathy. But, thinking practically, it will be insanely difficult to persuade a judge to overrule the BSB on this matter. So students should think very carefully about the potential cost implications.

(20)(4)

Anonymous

But then again, if you don’t do the BPTC, what other road is there to be a barrister??

(0)(2)

Anonymous

I’m afraid I have little sympathy for these BPP students. The ethics exam was difficult and so it should be. The BPTC should be a hard course to pass and incredibly hard to get top marks. I attended at Northumbria University sat the exam this year and got 84% and many of my colleagues did similarly well if not better. It’s about the quality of teaching and hard work. BPP is only making such a fuss because it’s pride it hurt

(15)(43)

Anonymous

If it’s about the quality of teaching and hard work, and lack of hard work isn’t the issue here, then why do you have little sympathy?

(14)(3)

Anonymous

Because I don’t understand why there’s talk of brining judicial review proceedings. If people are passing the exam at other institutions it means one of two things a) that the way BPP were teaching ethics was substandard or b) the individuals didn’t work hard enough

(5)(8)

Anonymous

Yes, and I am saying that, for at least the majority of those that failed, there was no lack of hard work. Therefore, according to what you are saying (not necessarily what I think), that would leave inadequate teaching quality as the only remaining causative reason. Why is an institutional failure to properly teach ethics to over 600 students nationally not a reason to sympathise with those that failed?

(5)(4)

BPTC Grad

I was at BPP and it certainly wasn’t the teaching that was the problem…

(10)(4)

Anonymous

72 Northumbria students failed ethics. Congratulations on quite clearly only posting to highlight how great you are whilst making no legitimate comment whatsoever.

(28)(0)

A Nonny Mouse

84% – well done! Still, there must have been a part of you that was just a little bit gutted that you were one mark away from Outstanding?

(17)(0)

Anonymous

I got outstanding last year… I don’t know what the issue is…

(8)(14)

Anonymous

Cool story

(39)(1)

Aint I Great

You may have got outstanding but did you get pupillage ?

(16)(1)

Anonymous

Or even a job

(13)(1)

Cookie Monster

Well done mate! Give yourself a cookie….and shove it up your a**

(8)(0)

Anonymous

I was one of many students at my institution (not BPP) who also failed the ethics module. Despite scoring 95% in the multiple choice section of the exam paper, I failed by 3 marks to pick up the required 60% pass in the short answer question section. My overall percentage for the module was 72.5%, a Very Competent grade. And yet because I failed on one half of the paper I am deemed not competent overall.

Yes, BPTC papers have to be hard. But surely there must be a problem with the exam paper if over 50% of the students at one institution failed one half!

(19)(1)

Anonymous

That is essentially the same as me. Are you able to say what institution you were at? It would be very helpful to gather as much data as possible on the issue.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Cardiff. I know of a couple of students who won’t receive and outstanding now because of the SAQ half of the paper.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Every central exam set for the BPTC is badly designed and waywardly marked (the latter is not the providers’ fault, it’s an effect of poor marking schemes). The BSB just doesn’t have the experience or know-how properly to examine fairly and consistently.

(5)(0)

CumLaudly

Is someone going to tell us what the relevant questions were?

(2)(1)

Anonymous

I believe it is question 2 of the short answer section. Unfortunately, the transparent institution that is the BSB does not release either the question papers or mark schemes.

(10)(2)

Anonymous

I doubt this is a problem related solely to BPP. I am a student at another provider and there are a number of students who would have been awarded an outstanding had they not failed the second half of the ethics paper- after obtaining an outstanding mark in the first half of the paper. It is ridiculous that this is possible.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Again, are you able to state what institution please? The BSB currently have the information advantage and so it would be useful to rectify this by gathering as much data as possible.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Nottingham. We have been given no information on the overall pass rate as feedback sessions have not yet taken place.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Ikr. They don’t give you feedback of the resit I think. I won’t even know why I’ve failed.

(0)(0)

CumLaudly

The course providers are in an interesting position. If the fund a JR, they will be faced with an argument that the poor results reflected poor teaching, not unfair questions. Unless they could produce data which show that students from other providers suffered a very similar fate, it would be difficult to refute that argument. And that would not be good publicity…

“We think what you would be best placed doing would be to represent that no reasonable exam board would fail to adjust the marking in light of the mark profile of this assessment”. Presumably, there is no exam on sentence construction?

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Yeah that sentence is pretty shocking.

(4)(1)

Anon

Producing data from other providers would not be the only possibility. They could also provide data on how failing candidates fared in the remainder of the paper. There is nothing inherently difficult in short answer questions, so a pattern of high marks elsewhere and fail marks in the short answer section could also be persuasive.

(3)(0)

Anon

I’m under the impression (from previous BSB BPTC reports) that they engage an independent statistician to check for stand out questions etc which don’t match up with otherwise good performance… then he/she looks to see whether this problem was across the board or concentrated at a few providers. If it’s the latter, I imagine they’re very unlikely to strike out such a question.

This year’s report should be out early August… looking at lAston years

(3)(0)

Anon

Oops stupid fat thumbs. Looking at *last* year’s – 45% failed then. If the BPP did particularly badly then it might be a similar outcome this year.
FWIW I’m at CLS and no one I know, out of about 7 I’ve asked, got below 85% (saq/mcq combined).

Maybe I’m just friends with geeks.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Does anyone know what question is being complained about and what is confusing about it? I sat the ethics exam this year and I can’t remember any question being particularly confusingly worded (I thought the civ lit exam was a worse offender on that front). However I definitely felt the ethics was more of a crapshoot – I came out of civ lit and crim knowing broadly how I had done whereas I had no idea whether or not I’d put what they wanted for ethics (I got an O on it so apparently I had). So I do sympathise with the complaints in theory.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

I suspect it was the one with the two barristers who were considering taking up other obligations (all male comedy club/working on family farm with financial interest). I found that Q difficult to think of many ethical difficulties but not ambiguous.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

I think it may have in fact been the one with the juror you recognise as having just left chambers ‘under a cloud’

(3)(0)

Anonymous

What about the ethical considerations that arise from sheep farming? Must have missed that section in the Code of Conduct…

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Hm I don’t understand how the sheep farm or jury one was ambiguous. Though I don’t recall the paper perfectly of course.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

That’s the one I thought too. I ended up getting 91%, but I remember fretting about the juror question, having no idea whether what I’d put was correct, or even relevant.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

I’d agree. It wasn’t ambitious in the slightest.

(1)(0)

Satin Cut

Quite amusing. There is much to be said about reading and comprehension. About half of the other students appear to have got it correct.

(1)(7)

SodsLaw

So say it.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

It’s not particularity amusing tbh. Half the candidates may have interpreted an ambiguous question in the same way as the question setter intended but that doesn’t mean that the other half were objectively wrong in their interpretation.

Isn’t it only fair that a mark scheme accounts for all reasonable objective interpretations of a question?

(12)(2)

Legal Weak

I understand a new ethics paper is being written as we speak. The killer question will be:
‘A solicitor approaches you with a very remunerative case that his client is currently litigating. The solicitor demands £3,000 in cash and your wife’s recipe for ratatouille. Do you:
A) Give the solicitor what he wants.
B) Only give the money, but not the treasured recipe.
C) Report the solicitor to the BSB.

(28)(0)

Not Amused

Q. 2

A collection of rapacious capitalists charge treble what is charged in Scotland for a comparable vocational qualification and twice what Oxford charges for a year of a law degree. They allow roughly 4 times the number of children to undertake the course every year. You are their regulator.
Which ONE of the following do you do?
A) Accept graciously the large amount of money they give you every year.
B) Never engage in any public criticism of them.
C) Ensure that no reform is carried out.

(24)(0)

Anonymous

How may children undertake the BPTC?

(2)(3)

Not Amused

How many children are employed by the metropolitan police? Answer me in 20 years time …

The word is not pejorative. It is designed to remind the reader that these are vulnerable (idealistic and naive) young people who are deserving of our protection and care. The BPTC is effectively a scam. If it were performed on 17 year olds there would be a national outcry. My shorthand use of ‘kids’ and ‘children’ is designed to remind people of that.

(10)(1)

A Nonny Mouse

I would answer B but offer up the recipe for Lemon Ice Cream instead (which is generally preferred) and maybe use of the electronic bottle opening which was seen at Chambers’ Christmas party 🙂

(2)(0)

Anonymous

I sat the exam in question and got 95% on the MCQs and 73% on the SAQs.
Stayed up all night multiple days and revised hard for that exam and somehow I got 22% more marks in the MCQs … I knew the syllabus like the back of my hand and the SAQ questions I suppose were obtuse.

I came to say that I passed just fine with a good mark and therefore the exam was fair, however, looking at my grades with such a huge difference between MCQ and SAQ performance either the questions or the way they were marked is likely to be a little screwy.

(4)(3)

Anon

22% more than 73 is 89, not 95.

Hope you’re not going in to commercial law?

(18)(4)

Anonymous

What are you talking about? … 22% more than 73% is 95% … 89% would be 16% more than 73%. It’s very simple math.

(1)(4)

Anon

No, you’re confusing ‘adding numbers together’ with percentage increase.

Try again.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

He was talking entirely in percentages, not marks, dummy. His math was sound.

(4)(0)

Anon

Her* maths, but otherwise, thanks for the ratification

(1)(1)

The Legal Biscuit

I sat this last year in Nottingham. Same issues. Ambiguous questions pervade these exams. I ended up failing the entire course based on 3% on a resit paper, wasn’t allowed to pay to retake or anything. Paid £13,000 for a course that was essentially useless. If these papers had been based on an overall aggregate score, I would have passed with a VC or an O, having got all Os in advocacy assessments. Makes you wonder really what’s valued more by the BSB – actual advocates, or trained parrots who can repeat every single bit of information ever given to them to order…

(19)(2)

Anonymous

I read that if you fail a resit with a ‘marginal fail’ then you get a second attempt at a resit according to the guidance- a marginal fail being a mark of 57-59% or a high pass on one half and failing the second. I’ll see if I can find where I read it…

(2)(0)

Anonymous

It is in the FAQs on the BSB website.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Now Biscuit,
You’ve failed this particular Ethics exam, haven’t you. We were there with you – all Os in the Advocacy assessments; I don’t think so. Would have passed with a VC or O; just NO. Stop your lies and stop deceiving yourself.

(6)(2)

Crystal methics

The horror stories always come from Northumbria. When I did the BPTC I remember hearing about a famine that wiped out 60% of the population. They argued, unsuccessfully, that they BSB shohld have reminded them to eat.

(11)(1)

Anonymous

Lots of thoughts on here about how to improve the BPTC and Pupillage. Have these been fed back to the BSB and their Future Bar Training consultation? https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases-and-news/regulator-consults-on-what-could-be-the-most-sweeping-reforms-to-bar-training-in-a-generation-keen-to-seek-views-from-all/

(2)(0)

BPTC Grad

Two things. Firstly: examining ethics IMO is a ridiculous idea – it’s an absolute minefield and it’s far too subjective to examine. Secondly: It’s supposed to be bloody hard. I sat it and passed without too much fuss or preparation. I would imagine one big reason for the high failure rate is the proximity to Civil and Crime. However, plenty of people sat the exam and passed it. Can’t see JR proceedings having too much/any effect on what the BSB do.

(3)(5)

JW

Just WOW. I failed exactly this paper for the 2013-2014 term, and because I’m an international student, I didn’t say jack about it and went home like a wet puppy. I see many others have the same problem, I see? Well being depressed sure didn’t help, and I shudder to think what others who have the full capacity to study hard think when they get hit in the gut with the unexpected. Gosh. I forgot this happens every single year.

(4)(6)

Disgusted

Endless sympathy for you. I studied BPTC last year- would have come first in my year and got top pupillage if I hadn’t failed every exam due to staff incompetence.

(8)(15)

JW

I don’t know if it’s really staff incompetence that caused you to fail since it’s a course considered high-end by all standards and it seems like a long stretch to accuse them of that. Then again, I don’t know your case. I think the ethics exam was a bit funnily worded. I didn’t pass it but I saw some of the questions were just… I don’t know how to say this. Misleading? Outdated? Impractical? Un-relatable? But it’s a pain all of the BPTC takers have to go through. I’m not blaming anyone or anything at all, but I personally think it should be reformed to be more relevant. Then again all of the graduates who passed it will not hesitate to accuse me of talking out of my ass XD. I studied and did questions and identified issues with questions and all that for the resit. 14 hours a day. And I failed again. I knew my questions, and I knew my answers the moment I saw the resit paper. Even to this day I don’t know why I failed. They won’t even tell me why, I think. To this day I look back I couldn’t even regret a thing for blowing my parent’s thousands of pounds. It’s just…regrettable. All this…… for what, exactly?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Really sad and pathetic to see a few smugly complacent commenters who passed the exam extolling its virtues as ‘tough but fair’ (or words to that effect). I wonder if they’d have taken a similar view had the shoe been on the other foot.

(13)(2)

Horace

On the lazy foot you mean?

(5)(6)

Anonymous

No.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Unless your supposedly brilliant and hard-worked for results include having an average putting you inside the top 30 nationally at your provider (which has 600 plus students), the top 20 in criminal, the top 3 in at least a few other modules and an Outstanding overall (including in Civil) if you disregard ethics, then I suggest that if you don’t have anything constructive to say, you should keep quiet.

(0)(0)

Simon Myerson QC

It would help to see the exam. Before commenting about it.

(11)(5)

Balderdash Esq.

Where’s your avatar Simon?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

The BSB will eventually destroy the profession whilst, ironically, the BPTC providers are genuinely interested in protecting/preserving it. Simon, why don’t you just ask the BSB for a copy of the paper and the marking guidance?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

As a part time student who sat the exam this time and faces real life ethical problems every so often in my day job (also in the legal profession), I would say this: ethics is ambiguous. If you can’t spot an ambiguity in an exam question and address both sides of it, it does have to raise some concern about your ability to spot a real life ethical dilemma in practice. This is particularly true in a profession where you are supposed to be adept at lateral thinking. I sympathise with those students who struggle with the ethics assessment because I think some people do have more of a natural aptitude for it, but I know we were certainly warned about it….

(9)(3)

Anonymous

All this talk of the need for the BPTC to the “hard” – it is not “hard” is a good way. It is hard in a pointless can-you-remember-the-exact-working-of-an-obscure-provision-in-the-Code-of-Conduct kind of way. Th e questions are also very badly worded – again making the exam difficult, but not because it tests useful knowledge or skills.

I took the ethics last year and got VC. But I took a guess on several questions. And there were many questions which I thought were absurd in what they were asking or poorly written. This is simply unacceptable for a course that costs £18k and for exams written by failed barristers who earn above £60k when as failed barristers they would be earning much less if it wasn’t for the BPTC-gravy train

(13)(1)

Anonymous

A very poor and very poorly worded contribution, if I may say so. A not so wild guess suggests you took the BPTC at a London provider – but there’s little use in carrying your bitterness over here. Who do you say are the failed barristers who wrote the exam? The BSB used to be quite open in revealing the ‘CEB’ team responsible for the paper; have a squiz. I’d be surprised if you found a provider tutor named; of course, I’m happy to be corrected.

(4)(7)

Anonymous

I wrote that quickly on my phone.

But if you want to see issues with failed barristers screwing up the exam paper look at the BSB exam committee report. Each year they produce a report at the end which goes through every question which raised concern. I can’t be bothered googling that for you, but read that report and you will surprised at how many questions were found to be ambiguous in their wording or more than one correct answer.

No bitterness on my part. I passed first time with VC. But I do have sympathy for those that didn’t because the BPTC exams tend to be piss poor in quality.

(6)(0)

JW

Ouch, ouch ouch ouch. Just ouch.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I sat Ethics last year at UWE – failed and passed on resit. Personally I believe I Ifailed as I took my eye off the ball focusing more on Crim and Civ Lit – which I passed first sit. I recall the first sit paper having a few tricky questions – but they would not have been ambiguous had I put in the revision. Resit I passed with OS grade (capped at 60). None of us like failure, it’s hard to swallow. However, in my opinion, no point in moaning about it – it is highly unlikely the BSB will change its position, and even more remote is a JR application. So refocus and get revising – As you only get one further attempt – and you don’t want to waste it…!!!

(8)(1)

Anonymous

Their means are sane but motives are insane, just trying to exclude students from BPTC, BSB is nothing but a vending machines for the students

(0)(2)

Anonymous

So what’s to stop this happening again in the re-takes?
It would seem extrodinary that there is a blank refusal of a review.

(5)(2)

Anonymous

It may be time to face the fact that BPP’s teaching standards of this module were not up to scratch.

(5)(4)

Anonymous

It may be time to face up to the fact that your comment is ridiculous. I was at BPP. The teaching in ethics was good and the materials were sound. It was clear what we had to learn and didn’t learn. I went away and did the work and I passed. And i’m nothing special. People need to take responsibility for their own learning and stop expecting to be spoon fed.

(7)(2)

Sandman

I was in the last cohort to take the bvc and was surprised how easy it was.

I understand that the bptc is ‘harder’ in the sense that there is a higher failure rate, but somehow it seems arbitrarily harder. Are the ones who fail really not cut out for the Bar and the ones who pass are?

It seems it’s being done purely to cut the number of entrants to pupillage.
It seems unfair to international students whose local bars don’t have the same pressures on entry.

And for ethics, does anybody seriously think the ethics exam tests ethics? On my course cheating and collaboration were rife, yet people managed to spot the ethics points in assessments.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

This portion of the law exam seems to be loaded with much ethical problems. There needs to be legal challenges. Questions may not have been reliable nor valid.

(0)(2)

Anon

What was the standard of Ethics teaching line at BPP?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Limited

(1)(1)

Lex

Surely this cant be true….considering that I got outstanding in the said paper, it means that the question wasn’t wrongly worded at all…..for to get outstanding, I must have picked up points or marks from all the short answer questions (SAQ) on the paper!

(1)(6)

Anonymous

You also might just be a flukey b*stard.

(4)(1)

Anon

Dealing with badly written, unclear and obtuse instructions and working out what the points are that require dealing with – seems like a crucial skill for a barrister for me. If you get OS otherwise then, yes, you’re probably a very good student of law but not a good practitioner. Go and become a academic.

(1)(3)

Concerned Tutor

I can assure you that we get our fair share of badly written, unclear and obtuse material to read through too. There is no escape.

(5)(0)

Not Amused

And that’s just from the Supreme Court …

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Are you suggesting the exam paper is deliberately badly written?

In truth it is poorly worded as it is written by semi literate failed barristers trying to be clever

(0)(0)

Anonymous

For those looking to bring JR and for general interest this BSB report on last year’s BPTC exams is an interesting read:

https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/media/1609817/2013-14_first_sit_chair_s_report.pdf

BSB is well aware that the exams are badly written.

E.g.

Page 18: “The Final Board felt there was some merit in the written submissions to the effect that there might be ambiguity in the wording of the question and that answer (C) was not clearly wrong.”

Page 19: “However the Final Board accepted that B would also be a possible correct answer as it was only the word “reasonable” that distinguished the wording of C and B.”

Page 22: “The question did not appear to be poorly worded but it did not seem to be performing as an effective assessment instrument.”

Page 34: “This was not a difficult question; it may not have
been taught by Providers”

Etc etc

The report is hilarious. I took the BPTC last year and have to say it was awful. Not in an intellectually challenging way. It was just awful in its drafting.

The truth is that the BPTC cannot be difficult and fair. If it is fair it will be too easy – they will simply test the basics of procedure/ethics. To make it difficult, the examiners word the question ambiguously or create trick questions which only tests how well you have memorised the exact wording of the provision.

BPTC providers seem to be think that if the pass rate is low that will give the BPTC more value. But that is clearly not the case. It has a low pass rate and yet no practitioner has any respect for the BPTC. Passing BPTC still means nothing.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

It’s not entirely true that passing the BPTC means nothing. I am currently doing a mini-pupillage with a practitioner that is extremely impressed with those who have passed the BPTC this year given the pass rate is so low!

(0)(2)

Anonymous

I passed the BPTC with an Outstanding overall and a VC in the Ethics exam.

I genuinely don’t know how I passed it – the questions were ambiguous and not a fair assessment of the Ethics syllabus. I agree that the BPTC should be difficult to pass but this exam was not difficult; it was ridiculous. A pass rate of less than 25% proves that. However, I don’t think the problem lies with providers because they are given a very limited syllabus to work with.

I believe that the only way to pass the exam was to give every possible answer that the BSB may be looking for. Therefore, the questions (set by the BSB) were unfair because students were expected to write a number of different answers in the time given for one.

Unfortunately, I think that bringing a JR claim against the BSB is unlikely to have any effect as they will place a emphasis on those who did pass the exam.

I have the utmost sympathy for those who failed the exam and wish you the best of luck on the resit!

(9)(0)

Anon

Where did you get 25% from?!

(2)(1)

chancerypupil

I should declare an interest as someone who has passed. I can understand that it is upsetting to fail the module; and that it may seem particularly egregious that the failure rate is so high. If I put myself in that position, I would be unable to start pupillage this September; all because of a fail in one part of Professional Ethics. However; looking back to the exam, I don’t remember it being particularly challenging. The Short Answer Questions all covered core content, and did not require knowledge of peripheral or abstruse points. There was a specific way of approaching the paper, which was taught at my provider; where something like 85% of us passed PE. Whilst this may be a problem in itself; that it required teaching “in a particular way” rather than just testing knowledge of the code, it is clear to anyone on the BPTC that there is a particular technique to answering the centralised assessment papers. I think this is ridiculous and that all three areas cannot be effectively assessed by way of an exam. But seeing as it is, and has been for the past 4 years, assessed this way, it seems to me that the PE exam was not really that out of the ordinary compared to most years, or indeed any of the papers this year.

I don’t think that the pass rate has anything to do with the fairness of the exam. The sample size is so small, and it is not in itself a reason for re-marking exams. It certainly doesn’t seem to be a particularly meritorious ground for Judicial Review. What are BPP London saying? That exam boards are always unreasonable if they don’t review marks where everyone fails? Does that mean there is a “reasonable” pass rate? I would have more sympathy if there had been a procedural defect deleted in the way in which the exam mark-schemes were amended after feedback from providers. This does not seem to be the case, however, and post-marking scaling is also employed by the BSB; past reports show that as much as 6 marks can be added to a paper to remedy ambiguity.

I don’t agree that there is much correlation between the MCQ and SAQ score; and high performance in the MCQ section has little to do with your ability to apply the code to scenarios.

I remember perfectly the first SAQ: explaining to two barristers who had “other jobs”; one a farmer in Devon and one a performer (telling sexual and inappropriate jokes) at a Comedy Club. You had to advise what their ethical obligations were with regards to running their respective practices. This was 6 marks. As someone who got 95% on the SAQ section, I can hazard a guess that my answers were mostly correct:

-The performer has a duty not to bring the profession into disrepute
-It says that the comedy club sometimes has adult content
-This might bring the profession into disrepute, it might not
-On balance he probably shouldn’t be in a comedy club making inappropriate sexual jokes
-Devon is far away so she should make sure she has time to see to her practice in London
-She is a director, which it says in the code, you should inform the BSB.

I don’t believe that the ^^^ answers were that specific or prescriptive. Similarly there was question about a man who wasn’t a barrister outside court advising clients- it was a “holding out” question. All that was really required was:

-You cant tell people you are a barrister when you are not a barrister
-He is in a dark suit; this is not enough in itself to constitute holding out
-He shouldn’t have put “barrister” on the letter he sent, because this is holding out and he doesn’t have a PC/not done pupillage
-To do so might constitute an abuse of professional position

Its really not all that abstruse or difficult. Apologies for the long comment.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

I sincerely hope you don’t plan to hold out as an expert on semi-colon use.

(2)(2)

Usama

I can bet a million pounds that I wrote exactly the points you wrote. I got a 54 % on SAQs and a 75% on MCQs. I am more confused now as I thought these are the wrong points as the other answers were easier. I am 110% sure I wrote these points and more sure that my other answers were correct. This is absolutely insane.

(1)(0)

Ollie Trumpington

But if you’re not starting Pupillage till september you can’t label yourself a chancery pupil at present. One can only describe onself as a Pupil Barrister once one has commenced a second-six. Such an approach is likely to constitue improper holding out – you’re right, ethics is not difficult, in fact its too damn easy!!!

(8)(6)

NotChanceryPupil

Given that its anonymous, I am not sure it counts as holding out- but good point you clever thing. Thats all my points invalidated! Il remember to grammar check my comments in future so as to preserve the dignity of the comments thread. Glad it gave you something to do for a few minutes though.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

I think thats a bit of a leap- I think he/she would have to tell you who they were for it to be holding out 😉 Like putting it on a linkedin page or something.

I BET YOUR NAME ISNT OLLIE TRUMPINGTON YOU BIG FAT PHONEY

(1)(2)

Anonymous

Bet your name isn’t anonymous. Mine is.

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Ollie Trumpington

You had to bring weight into this, how dare you! For your information my problem is glandular………..

(2)(0)

Anonymous

It was a family guy reference lol

(0)(1)

Ethics Victim

I am one of these students. Did very well on the MCQ’s and failed the SAQ’s by 2 marks. Problem is I also didn’t pass Civil Litigation. I know an Oustanding is out of the question but I have read the BSB Handbook and it reads the following:

“To gain the overall grade of ‘Very Competent’ a candidate must have failed no more than one assessment at the first attempt and must achieve either an overall mark 70% or eight or more grades in the very competent or outstanding categories.”

Further:

“The above course, grade and overall descriptors must be made clear to students.

(Note: The term ‘assessment’ as used above refers to a ‘sit’ in a subject. Hence a student failing
the same subject twice will not be able to obtain an overall grade of Very Competent) “.

Does this mean people in my position can still get a Very Competent after the resits provided we get over 70%? Thanks

(0)(2)

Janee Nelson

I empathize with all the students who failed ethics this year. I sat the exams in 2013 and I got a VC. I honestly don’t know how I got this mark, because, the exam was extremely difficult. The questions were ambiguous. I recall a short answer question that no one understood – what the examiner was asking.

I failed civil and criminal litigation both 1st and 2nd attempt and failed the course. What made this failure painful – was the fact that I got a VC on the MCQs for both exams, but, failed the SAQ by 3-5 marks.

The BPTC is a waste of time and money. The centralized exams are set to filter students out of the profession, hence, the high failure rate. The course providers especially Northumbria are in it for the money. I would advise students not to waste their time and money taking the BPTC.

It is time we students stop complaining and take action. The course providers and the BSB would not have jobs, if students stop enrolling in the course. Anyone who want to join me in writing an article (in the newspaper), to warn students about taking the BPTC – please send me an email at janee6319@yahoo.com.

(5)(2)

Anonymous

Good luck to all those re-taking today

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I feel bad for the ones who have ethics left. The money hungry people who are running the bsb willmake bsb lose its quality by setting stupid questions up and ruining students lives who has a middle class background and sold most of their property back in a far away country just to achieve a degree so that they can be better off back in their poverty stricken country. And that too failing for 1 mark…in one subject…twice…on saq.

(3)(0)

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