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Aspiring barrister petitions for ‘draconian’ BPTC exams to be open-book

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Online appeal also argues assessments shouldn’t be so close together

A law student due to begin her Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) exams this week is calling on the regulator to re-think its assessment process.

As things stand, aspiring barristers are unable to bring practitioners’ texts (such as the White Book or Blackstone’s Criminal Practice) into key centralised assessments including civil and criminal litigation. This closed-book format, set by the Bar Standards Board (BSB), means students must memorise large volumes of material to ensure success.

Now, a current BPTC-er says enough is enough.

Branding the current approach “draconian”, the unnamed bar hopeful questions why students can’t take books into exams if practising barristers can regularly “refer to the book[s]” for guidance in court. Her plea to the regulator continues:

“I am aware that this may seem counter-productive, making the exams open-book, claiming that everyone would then be able to pass. However, that is not true; those studying right now will appreciate that even if they were open-book, the exams will continue to be difficult, as not many can guide themselves through the books.”

The anonymous petitioner argues that it’s unfair her aspiring solicitor counterparts studying the Legal Practice Course (LPC) are able to complete similar exams under open-book conditions. On this apparent double-standard she says: “LPC students learn the same law as us… [I]t is unjust to allow one group of lawyers-to-be to have their exams open-book, and not the rest.”

The 2018 BPTC Most List

Textbooks aside, assessment scheduling also appears to be a BPTC bugbear. The wannabe barrister claims the BSB has decided to put the exams close together, and this “in the long run has resulted in some institutions having seven exams in a space of a month”. She describes the exams as “counter-productive”, as “they do not assist students in learning the law, they assist in them memorising it”.

The BSB declined to comment.

According to BSB stats, 1,399 students enrolled on the BPTC in 2015/16. With 777 students successfully completing the vocational course, the pass rate was just over half (56%). Legal Cheek’s BPTC Most List shows students can pay almost £20,000 to secure a place on the course.

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