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

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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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83 Comments

Anon

My best guess is that there has been a dodgy bit of marking which has been discovered upon the exam papers being sampled.

(14)(1)

Anonymous

£19k per student well spent!

Glad the BPTC and the BSB/private equity behind it are about to be put out of their misery.

(0)(0)

Sir Geffroy De Joinville

Based on the comments on this site no person should pass the bar ethics exam

(11)(9)

Anonymous

Well, the BSB has only had just over three months to mark the papers and return the marks to the providers. How could anyone expect them to avoid clerical errors when operating on such tight time-scales?

(46)(4)

Anonymous

The sarcasm is strong with this one…

(11)(2)

Trumpenkrieg

Not strong enough for the 2 who downvoted it.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Yeah they have tight time scale of three months to mark the papers with answer scripts in hand but candidates have absolute sufficient time on our own to read, analyse, “speculate and roll the dice” at times, decide and then write out the correct answer upon those fresh thing, not to mention the questions were bizarrely long and the wording of the questions did not making any sense. #GodsavetheBSB

(10)(3)

Anonymous

When I say “speculate and roll the dice” I mean “speculating the poor scripted wording of questions and then roll the dice”

(4)(2)

Anonymous

Absolute disgrace.
No accountability, no lessons learned.

(26)(1)

BSB (+ ya mum)

Oh I’m a goofy goober, yeah! You’re a goofy goober, yeah! WE’RE ALL goofy goobers, yeah! GOOFY GOOBERS, YEAH!

(10)(4)

Anonymous

So the people doing the examining of standards keep poor standards themselves?

(17)(1)

Anon

The Bar Standards Board is not fit for purpose. An utter embarrassment to the profession and the public.

(30)(1)

Anonymous

Appalled by what has happened today. Disgraceful.

(8)(1)

Anonymous

I’m sure there are reasons for standardized exams, but I can’t believe that reputable universities subject their students to this annual embarrassment by the BSB. Can you really believe any of their scores?

(8)(1)

Anonymous

No one has any choice but to subject their students to this annual embarrassment, as the BSB are the only entity running the centrally set assessments. It’s an utter disgrace. They are unaccountable and out of control. Some of these students have pupillages where the BPTC must be passed first time with no retakes. These are peoples lives these jokers are messing with. Utterly incompetent.

(34)(0)

Officious Bystander

“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.”

Well that’s bullsh*t for a start! I know people wrote in because I’ve even seen a copy of a response the BSB sent to one such letter.

(16)(0)

Anonymous

I know plenty of people who called the BSB after that nightmare exam. This news is frankly ridiculous.

(7)(0)

Sir Geffroy De Joinville

Si’l vous plaît Anonymous. Can you leave the Francs out of this?

(3)(6)

Anonymous

Seriously unfunny schtick. Give it up.

(1)(1)

Future bar not so far

There really needs to be a shake up of things as they currently stand with regard to bptc. It seems to me that the bptc is not fit for purpose. Just like lpc, the time has come for change. Replace the bptc with a more competent courses,

(3)(1)

Anonymous

This interference has come from the BSB from their belief that it is not fit for purpose.

This IS the Bar ‘taking over’. The examination is run by the Bar Standards Board. This is practitioners thinking it is ‘oh so easy’ to run a bar course and being allowed to get away behaviour year after year that would be unacceptable from a provider. Peoples lives are being ruined with this nonsense.

This is the begining of the ‘shake up…like what you see ?

(12)(0)

Alan

You are simply wrong. The BSB is not the Bar, and it is independent from the Bar Council. Most practising barristers are exasperated with the BSB’s incompetence, over-reaching and arrogance. But they are unaccountable. Unlike members of the Bar Council, they are not elected and many BSB members are disgracefully ignorant about the profession they regulate

(9)(0)

Anonymous

Sure, but the Ethics Chief Examiner is a Circuit Judge assisted by at least one practitioner.

The paper was marked this time by a team set up by the BSB. Some were BPTC tutors but lots were practitioners who had no previous experience of marking or teaching.

That’s what the Bar taking over will look like.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

The BSB is not run by barristers, it is run by morons. The money I pay to keep them afloat is a hideous thing to contemplate. They are a disgrace and this should be publicised widely.

Anonymous

It is important to understand that this assessment is set by the Bar Standards Board, and the responsibility for making sure that our assessment was managed effectively, and that errors like this are not missed (or made in the first place!) also sits with the BSB. This is THEIR failing and given how long they had the papers, and how late the “errors” have come to light it, is almost certainly the reputable universities delivering the course who in fact found these errors and brought them to the attention of the regulator! If the regulator itself was actually competent to find these errors, they would have done so much earlier than now. It is absolutely disgusting that students and our progression is being impacted by this, and should sound a very strong warning note to the BSB in terms of their ambitions to centralise more elements of the bar course in future, and indeed to the SRA when considering how they are going to bring in the SQE. Education is not easy – decades of study and research have contributed to universities developing robust methods of assessment and systems for ensuring quality. Clearly neither of these regulators have the experience or the knowledge to understand these processes and in their arrogance they refuse to listen to or be advised by people who quite frankly know better than they do.😡😡

(25)(0)

Anonymous

There are people claiming to have seen a communication which states that a 6 marks question in ethics exam was out of course, hence the pass mark has been lowered to 30 from 36. Has this any truth behind it?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

All the questions were worth 10 marks but otherwise possible I suppose. Five 10 mark questions would have a pass mark of 30.

If that is the case, I suppose any marks picked up on the improper question are disregarded? That still seems unfair on anyone who spent a long time on that question at the expense of other questions on the paper.

(6)(0)

RTK

They teach us Ethics but they do not have any ethical sense ! Now who will bear the burden who already failed and how the students will prepare for resit by this short time ? How they will compensate us ? Therefore, enough is enough and we should stand against this injustice and we should move towards BSB on 17 July and start Hunger Strike against this injustice unless they solve the issue permanently.

(3)(3)

Anonymous

I am a BPTC student and my provider informed us en masse that the pass mark for Ethics this year has dropped from 36/60 (60%) to 24/60 (40%). This shows you what a sh*tshow the exam was. If the pass mark was maintained at 36, none would have passed the bar this year. Ridiculous.

(14)(0)

TGh

what is provider name ? have you got ur result or its pending ?

(3)(0)

Anonymous

City and pending.

(3)(0)

Not heard that

Is that in an email? If so can you copy and paste it?

(4)(0)

Anonymous

“The CEB is empowered to conduct an exercise known as ‘standard setting’. With standard setting the mark required to achieve a pass floats up or down depending on the perceived difficulty of the paper. As a consequence, where this happens the grade boundaries for Very Competent and Outstanding are also scaled. This adjustment may be upwards or downwards. In the Main assessments for 2016-17, the pass requirement for the Civil paper was increased from 45 to 47 out of 75. In the Crime paper the pass requirement stayed at 45 out of 75. In the Ethics paper the pass requirement was reduced from 36 to 24 out of 60. The mark you will receive for each assessment is the % mark taking into account this scaling.”

Anonymous

“The mark you will receive for each assessment is the % mark taking into account this scaling.”

Providers which have already announced ethics results, a vast number of students have failed.

Does this mean all those students could not even achieve 24 marks out of 60!

Anonymous

Seems that way!

Anonymous

I failed the exam and I can honestly say that I worked my *** off to revise for this exam. I worked so hard that I even answered the CPS question without any difficulty and yet I failed. I answered all of the 6 questions and I know people who only answered like 4 questions and still got 60%+ so I have no idea how the marking worked.

Worries bptc student

Out of interest what provider are you at and what was fail rate in your year?

Anonymous

Maybe your mark hasn’t been scaled as it should have been?

Anonymous

I am with Northumbria.

Can anyone please agree with me that there was a question which not in the syllabus? It was Q5 (I think) and it was relevant to ADR.

Anonymous

The exam was also assessing written English? Perhaps you “fatally flawed” irrespective of your overall mark because of that? That’s all I can think of.

K

She/he left out the word ‘was’, in a quickly written and emotive Legal Cheek comment. I’m sure they didn’t fail due to their English

Anonymous

Interesting. My provider has told us absolutely nothing. Silence and towing the party line seems to be their preferred choice. Some honesty from the universities and the BSB wouldn’t go amiss.

(8)(0)

Marcel

Ye which provider

(2)(0)

Proudboobs

How can any provider allow a student to pass a course where the student demonstrated that he was more wrong than right? Incredible that the pass mark isn’t at least 50%

(0)(7)

Anonymous

The pass mark for every English & Welsh university is 40/100…

(8)(0)

Anonymous

The BPTC standard pass mark is 60% for a Competent. It differs from undergraduate courses, which have a 40% pass mark to get a Third.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

So is the pass mark 40% or 60%?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

The Ethics exam seems to be a recurring problem. I do wonder whether the subject is taken too lightly by both the providers and the students. Half a dozen seminars and some online material; that’s your lot. And the Ethics revision probably gets left until the day before.

But many BPTC students a) have no proper, rounded idea of the role of a barrister in the justice system, and b) are really quite thick.

(4)(9)

Anonymous

Not at our Provider. This is a BSB issue not a provider issue.

(4)(3)

Anonymous

BPP results due out Tuesday. Nothing said to students as of yet despite the fact a) they will know we will know about the monumental ‘issue’ and b) there is a strong chance they wont be able to publish results as expected.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

You can’t have it both ways. The express criticism in 2011-16 was that the pass mark remained static but the assessments were of differing standards.

The whole point of a floating pass mark is that it compensates for the standard naturally altering.

As for berating providers. Sure. Easy fodder on here. For some they can do no right.

(1)(2)

Anonymous

If the pass mark was ‘floating’ then it would be determined as part of the moderation/review process. I can’t see why anyone would take issue with that element of it (especially as this was a hard example, thereby indicating the pass mark should be lowered). Also, taken on its own a ‘floating’ pass mark wouldn’t be something that would cause the BSB to have to go through every single paper again.

The issue is that they’ve discovered the cock up (whatever it might be) right at the last minute. Some providers have already released (erroneous results). Some are failing to communicate with their students whatsoever. I dread to think about how this might impact upon Call dates if they’re not prompt.

On the 40% point above; yes it is interesting that you can get more wrong than you can right and pass – but isn’t that the state of undergraduate exams at most universities?

(5)(0)

Comments are closed.