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

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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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A joke

this is a joke


Come on...

oh SHUT UP, why is it a joke?



class act (ion)



Why is it always the ethics exam?



Receiving results a couple of days late is easily the worst thing that’s happened to anyone ever. And the students that were bumped up from a fail to a pass. Outrageous. They must be fuming.



It can affect Call, actually, so it’s pretty serious.



This is totally abysmal behaviour from the regulator. Comments saying otherwise are wrong. Some pay close to £20k to sit the BPTC and get this joke service YEAR ON YEAR? Does not bode well for the SQE eh


Lord Harley of Counsel

Barristers don’t have any ethics anyway.



The Bar Standards Board is a repugnant self satisfied persecutory cabal of individuals who despise barristers. My experience as a barrister pursued by the BSB was the single most traumatic experience of my career. That institution is partisan, unprofessional, unregulated and malign. And more, a danger to the bar and a scourge to barristers.



they should offer anyone with an average score of over 70 but near misses on individual subjects (esp controversial centrally set exams) the option to settle for a few competent and move one


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