BSB balls-up: 26 bar students see marks changed following ethics exam ‘clerical errors’ chaos

Regulator has now told providers to release results

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has told Legal Cheek it has informed all Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) providers they can now finally release the results of its ethics exam.

On Friday, Legal Cheek revealed the regulator had told law schools to hold off releasing these results after it spotted “a small number of clerical errors” in the marks.

Wishing to conduct a “further check on every paper,” the BSB — responsible for the content and marking of the two-hour compulsory exam — said it wanted to make “absolutely sure” all wannabe barristers received the correct result. The regulator has now said it’s given providers the green light to release the marks, having completed checks on all 1,589 exam papers.

And what has come of this further check? The BSB has revealed that no students had marks deducted, however 26 did see their scores upped — six moving from a ‘fail’ to a ‘pass’.

It would appear providers that were due to release their BPTC results this week, including BPP and The University of Law, can now go ahead as scheduled. We understand other providers that were due to release the ethics results last week, such as the University of the West of England (UWE) and City Law School, will be releasing these grades imminently.

The BSB has said:

We are sorry for any extra anxiety that this has caused students. We will, of course, now be reviewing our processes to make sure that we learn any lessons for the future to ensure that this situation does not occur again.

It’s worth noting the BPTC ethics exam has been a thorn in the side of the regulator for a number of years. In 2015, Legal Cheek reported on how hundreds of aspiring barristers unexpectedly failed the paper due to a series of “ambiguous” short answer questions. In 2013, BPTC students were left stunned after discovering that a mock exam from 2011 that had surfaced on Facebook contained a number of questions that featured in the exam they had 24 hours prior.

With that said, there’s been little sympathy for the BSB in relation to this latest balls up. One of our commenters said of the regulator: “Absolute disgrace. No accountability, no lessons learned.” Another noted: “The Bar Standards Board is not fit for purpose. An utter embarrassment to the profession and the public.” Here’s some of the Twitter reaction last week’s BPTC ethics paper story received:

Our call for the Bar Council to get involved has also sparked interest, garnering likes and retweets from the likes of Gerard McDermott QC and head of the Justice Committee Bob Neill MP.

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