BSB delays release of BPTC ethics exam results after spotting ‘clerical errors’

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By Katie King on

Exclusive: All providers impacted as regulator conducts ‘further check on every paper’

Legal Cheek can exclusively reveal that the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has asked “all providers” to hold off releasing the results of its ethics exam, after it spotted a number of “clerical errors” in the results.

The ethics exam is a compulsory Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) module. It is a centralised, two-hour exam set and assessed by the regulator, not specific course providers.

The BSB has this morning informed us that it’s delayed the release of the ethics exam results to conduct a “further check on every paper.” This decision was made after the regulator discovered “a small number of clerical errors” and, as a result, wants to make “absolutely sure” only the correct marks are released.

Legal Cheek has been informed this check is being conducted as a matter of urgency. The BSB spokesperson continued:

We really understand the anxiety this issue causes students and regret any delay or uncertainty. It is important we now get on with these extra checks on all candidates’ results and will provide an update early next week.

It is worth noting some law schools have already released their results, for example Cardiff University; these providers have been given advice about next steps. However, today is BPTC results day at providers such as the University of the West of England (UWE) and City Law School, whose students are for the moment just going to have to hang tight. An email sent to City students — and subsequently seen by Legal Cheek — explains:

[W]e received notification of a possible issue in the reporting of the ethics results to providers by the BSB yesterday. The BSB are urgently investigating the matter but have asked all providers to hold off releasing results (where they haven’t already released them) until the investigation has been completed.

There have been a number of serious problems with the BPTC ethics exam over the past few years. In 2015, hundreds of BPTC students across all the providers unexpectedly failed the BSB’s ethics paper, with BPP BPTC director James Welsh describing the short questions at the time as “not a fair assessment instrument”. In 2013, 24 hours after BPTC students completed the exam, a mock paper from 2011 was posted on Facebook containing several questions that featured in the assessment they had just sat. There were further major issues with BSB centrally set exams in 2012.

And now this. Some of this year’s students have lambasted what one University of Law-er has described as a “very tough” exam. A bar student from Cardiff University told us:

The questions were long and the wording of the sentences did not make any sense. We had two mins to read a two-page question and start writing immediately! This is crazy.

Students from across the providers were so riled, he told us, they sent a letter to the BSB complaining about the poorly worded exam questions. The BSB says it has no record of having received the letter.

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