New pass mark for aspiring barrister’s test is waved through by LSB

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By Polly Botsford on

Controversial entry exam onto BPTC should be harder to pass


The bar regulator’s application to raise the pass mark of the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) from 37 to 45 has been given the go-ahead by the Legal Services Board (LSB).

This follows criticism that the BCAT, introduced in 2013 to assess potential pupils’ critical thinking and reasoning, was almost impossible to fail as reported on Legal Cheek. It is also another cost for students, £150 a pop for those in the United Kingdom.

The proposal to increase the pass mark by a whopping 22% has come about following analysis of early data collected as part of the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) five-year review of the BCAT. The BCAT was actually suspended between November 2015 and March 2016 while the BSB decided what to do next.

In its submissions to the LSB, the BSB stood by the BCAT and stated that the problem was about getting the right pass mark not the test itself:

[E]vidence suggests that the BCAT in its current form is a valid testing instrument. It is a better predictor of performance on the BPTC than other available measures of aptitude for the profession and its preparatory training (e.g. degree classification).

The BSB had even considered raising the pass mark to 46 — but it is amazing how much difference one point can make. The regulator found that 46 might have had “an adverse impact on students from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, who performed worse (on average) on the BCAT”, and that it “excluded too high a proportion of students who would have gone on to pass the BPTC (40% of those who would have been excluded at a pass mark of 46 went on to pass the course in 2014).”