Much-maligned Bar Course Aptitude Test put on hold while regulator conducts review

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By Alex Aldridge on

The 2016 BCAT won’t open til March at the earliest


An aptitude test for wannabe barristers that is so easy it is “nearly impossible to fail” has been suspended by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) while it conducts a review into it.

But the much maligned Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) is not being discontinued, insists the BSB, just “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”, says the regulator.

Students generally hate the BCAT, which was brought in with the noble aim of reducing the number of pupillage no-hopers on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), but ended up becoming little more than a token gesture after its implementation became mired in focus groups and compromises.

Better than nothing, you might say. But this token gesture costs students £150 a pop. As you can sit the exam as many times as you like, the BCAT potentially offers wealthy students with little chance of forging a career at the bar a never-ending way to rid themselves of excess wealth.

Not that even many of these lot fail it. According to one Legal Cheek commenter with experience of the test:

I passed in under 30 minutes, and I don’t know anyone who ever failed it first time round. I know one of my peers even guessed the entirety of the practice paper and passed. One even claims that after passing a practice paper, he went back and deliberately chose the wrong answers and STILL passed!

Announcing the deferral of the BCAT, BSB education and training boss 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.”


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