Women dominate BPTC enrolments, but more men score top marks

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Even when they have the same undergraduate degree results

New research has revealed a higher percentage of aspiring male barristers secure top marks on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) than women. This is despite women dominating enrolments on the vocational course.

Statistics published by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) show that between 2014 and 2016, roughly a third of male UK/EU domiciled students with a first-class undergraduate degree went on to secure an “Outstanding” grade on the BPTC, compared to just one quarter of women with the same academic credentials.

It’s also the case that a higher proportion of male students who achieved 2:1s and 2:2s at undergraduate level scored top BPTC grades. The percentage of male 2:2-ers securing an “Outstanding”, for example, is more than double the percentage of female 2:2-ers doing the same.

The eye-catching findings come despite women taking up the majority of BPTC places: 462 women enrolled on the course in 2016, compared to just 347 men. In the previous year, the numbers were 440 women and 358 men.

The 2018 BPTC Most List

However, among UK/EU students just over half of pupillage places, 50.2%, were awarded to women. This was an increase from last year, when the figure was 48.2%.

Again when just looking at UK/EU-domiciled BPTC graduates, around 48% of those who enrolled on the course from 2012 to 2015 have so far started pupillage. This figure drops to around 41% when 2017 graduates, who have had less time to find a training place, are included.

Earlier this year Legal Cheek brought you news of an anonymous wannabe barrister who had started blogging about failing the BPTC. She made a somewhat extreme comparison between flunking the course and losing a loved one; she writes:

“[W]hen someone dies you pay your respects and express your condolences. Here, with the BPTC, no one even knows how to react! You were supposed to be their ‘lawyer’ after all, and now what?!”

According to the BSB stats, over 4,319 students enrolled on the BPTC between 2014 and 2017. Legal Cheek’s BPTC Most List shows students can pay up to approximately £20,000 to secure a place on the course.

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Absolutely no one other than Legal Cheek gives two hoots about BPTC results.


You’re right that sets don’t care about BPTC grades. However, BSB statistics show that BPTC grades have higher predictive value when it comes to getting pupillage than degree grades.

Given that sets expressly assign weight to degree grades, and given that they expressly fail to assign weight to BPTC grades, that is a truly astonishing quirk of the data.

Clearly, the oft-quoted cliché that the BPTC is a joke is completely unfair. Perhaps sets should start taking note of BPTC grades.

Junior tenant

I think most common law sets do take BPTC results into account, to some extent. An “outstanding”, at least, demonstrates that a candidate has reasonable advocacy skills and self confidence. It wouldn’t be enough to lift a poor CV into being a good one, but it may affect borderline cases and certainly act as a tie-breaker between two otherwise similar candidates.

When you have a hundred applicants who all have RG 2.1s, some legal work experience, were finalists of some mooting competition, and list their interests as “reading and travelling”, the BPTC results may make all the difference.


Interesting. How do common law sets compare to say Commercial Chancery sets?

Junior tenant

I would imagine a comm/chan set would be less interested in BPTC results than a common law set, but that’s pure speculation.


I think a majority who get commercial / chancery pupillage offers would get those offers pre-BPTC (i.e. either during the GDL or in the final year of their law degree / masters). Those applications, by definition, wouldn’t have any BPTC grade on them and the offers wouldn’t be conditional on anything other than passing the BPTC.


Even if you apply in your BPTC year, most commercial chancery sets’ deadlines are both any results are actually released, so clearly they don’t put too much store in them.


No, this a fundamental misunderstanding of statistics. The reason degree classification isn’t always the best indicator of pupillage success is because the university attended makes a huge difference. There are a huge number of 2.1 poly graduates knocking about without pupillage.

But the BPTC grade is irrelevant because the elite sets often give out offers to students before they have commenced BPTC, and even post-BPTC, they attach no weight whatsoever. It just so happens that many who are bright and talented also do well on the BPTC. The BPTC grade isn’t a reflection of their intelligence or ability – no one who has studied the BPTC would possibly suggest that.

The only people I see defending the BPTC are failed barristers who are now teaching on the BPTC.


No, I haven’t misunderstood the statistics. And contrary to what you imply, BSB figures show that degree classification IS a strong predictor of success when it comes to pupillage applications.

If the BSB weighted degree classifications according to university attended, then the resulting metric would undoubtedly have stronger predictive value than mere degree classification alone. But stating that fact does not in any way challenge my original argument.

In essence, I said metric A (BPTC grade) has stronger predictive value than metric B (degree classification). You’ve then come along and said metric C (degree classification weighted according to university attended) would have greater predictive value than metric B. Of course that’s true. But your point does not even speak to the point I made, let alone show that I have ‘fundamentally misunderstood’ the statistics.

As to your point that “elite sets…attach no weight whatsoever [to BPTC grade]”, I make that exact point in my original comment. But contrary to what you say, that does not make BPTC grade “irrelevant”; quite the opposite. As I set out above, it is this fact which makes the predictive value of BPTC grade so fascinating.

Turning to your comment that “It just so happens that many who are bright and talented also do well on the BPTC. The BPTC grade isn’t a reflection of their intelligence or ability…”, I am completely perplexed as to the point you think you are making. You either seem to be saying that bright and talented people tend to do well on the BPTC (in which case BPTC grade quite clearly IS a reflection of intelligence and ability). Or else you seem to be saying that it is a complete coincidence that many bright and talented people do well on the BPTC (which is plainly absurd).

With respect, your comment shows very poor understanding.


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This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.


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Barristers are pathetic, BPTC students are even more so.



You are a disgruntled solicitor or failed barrister?

W Kovacs

Time to go the Oxford way!

“Oxford University exam times were increased in a bid to improve the low scores of women, it has emerged.
Students taking maths and computer science examinations in the summer of 2017 were given an extra 15 minutes to complete their papers, after dons ruled that “female candidates might be more likely to be adversely affected by time pressure”” (Telegraph)

“The University of Oxford faces fresh allegations of sexism, after its history department announced it would allow students to sit exams from home in order to help close the gender gap.
As of next term, students will be able to replace one of their five final-year exams with a “take-home” paper, as part of reforms to Oxford’s History Faculty.
The move is designed to boost results for female students at the top-ranking institution, who are statistically less likely to graduate with a first-class degree in the subject than their male peers.” (Independent)

Good old days in which exam preparation > gender of the candidate


“The University of Oxford faces fresh allegations of sexism, after its history department announced it would allow students to sit exams from home in order to help close the gender gap.”

Russia, China, et al are chuckling into their sleeves at what a joke this former world power has become


Is this the same Oxford that got “mortgagor” and mortgagee” muddled up in its dictionary?

Great to see such wonderful social progress.


They’ll say it’s a consequence of toxic masculinity

Not Amused

“Even when they have the same undergraduate degree results”

But they don’t have the same undergrad results, because degree results vary by institution.

It is not obviously honest to keep pretending that we have a universal standard in degree classification – we just don’t.


5/10 old harrovians own sports cars BUT of their wives only 3/10 drive them.

It is a national scandal


We’ve observed a similar phenomenon at Oxford for a number of years. Women usually make up 60% of the BA intake but get far fewer Firsts in Finals and Distinctions in Law Moderations.

Interestingly, on average, men perform worse that women but the ability range for men is wider – i.e. men are, again on average, both the worst and best performers.

There are various theories about why this might be, none of which appear terribly convincing. It is important to remember that exam papers are completely anonymised.

Of-course in the current environment discussing this is seen to be fostering a ‘hostile environment’.


Same experience at UCL for me. Males were the majoriy of 3rd class, 2:2 and first class recipients, whereas females mainly received 2:1 results.


The theory I heard was men are more likely to make original (and possibly idiotic) arguments in exams, increasing their chance of a first but also of a 2ii. Risk taking propensity is about the most well documented gender difference, and perhaps the Bar can reward a risk friendly personality

A trust fund with a trust fund

Personal experience: I got a 2i overall, but over half my papers were either 1sts or 2iis. Most women I knew there were much more consistent

Oxford Grad

The risk-aversity and consistency is definitely true for me – I got a 67 average and none of my marks deviated from that by more than 3%. Basically that’s what happens when you know the syllabus, but answer all the questions in a fairly standard/ unimaginative way. Then again, I know a lot of female students who did a lot better than that. Oh well…


I think you’re being hard on yourself. A 67% average is a high 2.1. You must have made strong, original arguments.

Unfortunately, the 2.1 class disguises a huge variation in ability and performance – there is a world of difference between a 67% average and someone with 4/5 x low 2.1s and 4 x 2.2s.The Oxford Law Faculty care deeply about maintaining standards in terms of who gets a First – that it’s only given to truly impressive students.
I think that’s because the Faculty is aware that a First in Law from Oxford can help enormously in terms of getting postgrad funding or pupillage at a top Chancery or Commercial set.

However, given the demise of the 2.2, which is now very rarely awared, universities should consider splitting the 2.1 class to distinguish students performing strongly within the 2.1 band – averaging say 67-69%.

Oxford Grad

Thank you, that’s actually very nice to hear! I do agree about the lack of variation within the 2:1. I was told by a significant number of people that you can’t get to the Bar without a first (particularly if you’re interested in commercial/ chancery), and was in tears when I got my results. That’s a bit sad, since I’d worked quite hard for them and was passionate about my degree. But I (and quite a few others) were under the impression that you’re either really special, or you’re average and had better kiss all your dreams and ambitions goodbye. It turned out that, yes, many of the commercial and chancery sets I applied to didn’t interview me, but the second one that did offered me pupillage. So a first is really great, and I very much respect the people who achieved one, but I wish I’d known that you can still do nearly anything with a good 2.1 if you put enough work into your CV (competitions, an LLM, work experience etc).


Many congratulations – that’s a great achievement. Getting pupillage at the Chancery & Commercial Bar is very, very tough and you should be very proud of yourself!

2018 Pupil

I got 67% at Cambridge and I am starting pupillage this October at a decent common law set (14+ Silks, Band 2 in areas of expertise, £50k+ award). Definitely possible!

Oxford Grad

That’s awesome, congratulations!




‘cos they memorize stuff amirite?


“This is despite women dominating enrolments on the vocational course.” Will there be diversity schemes set up to encourage more male students? Oh wait, only women can be discriminated against…


And I thought BPTC is a vocational training while LLB is academic. Comparing the entry grades with the exit outcome kinda serve the opposite purpose – Why can’t men perform better at the vocational stage while women better at the academic stage? Baffling


Not as baffling as this comment.

"Women Dominate"

Nice. Strap Attack


“This is despite…”, “dominate”, “dominating”… etc. etc. Wow – I can’t possibly imagine what conclusion you are suggesting we should draw.

This is the usual dog-whistle Marxist oppression-narrative identity-politics being pedalled again by LC. Women are not doing as well at something as men. LC’s view is that, therefore, it must be that men are oppressing them! Of course, LC are too lazy to attempt to put forward anything resembling an argument to that effect and instead prefer insinuation. In this way, proper debate is kept out of this publication but left-wing virtue-signalling is achieved.

Shut up and make me a damn sandwich.

This is proof that feminism is nonsense. Despite the push for gender equality men still surpass women in the most intellectually demanding disciplines.

Gender equality is a complete sham.

To all the whinging feminists
Let me guess it is “the patriarchy” that makes the majority women get lesser results than men on average?

Or it’s because women are not spoon fed enough mollycoddled or in your words “encouraged”.

I really want to understand how delusionally psychotic people think.

So please do explain how the so called patriarchy has prevented feminists or women in general from achieving anything of merit- even in the legal profession where women make 50% of lawyers?

Feminists should go back to kitchen where they belong.


But they dont make very good sandwiches either (unless of the small cucumber or smoked salmon variety that need the crusts cut off).


It is possible that those marking the BPTC (of whom some are, I believe, women) are biased in favour of men, or that there are unfair or unjust features of the way the course is structured or marked which favour men. The problem is that one cannot reasonably infer that this is the case from the fact that women have not done as well as men in 2014-2016. One has to make an argument based on evidence, preferably showing how unfair discrimination actually occurs (or failing that, at least showing that the likelihood of there being any other cause is very low). No one has done that yet; and certainly not LC.

Other possible explanations are that (a) 2014-2016 was a bad period for women (though there seems no obvious reason for that being the case) and that (b) in general, women are not as good at some of the things which the BPTC tests. An example of the latter might be advocacy, in which being a disgreeable c*nt probably comes more naturally to men, in general. Disappointingly, the BSB’s statistics do not seem to provide information broken down by subject.


Women are solid. Men are either exceptional or awful.


Not sure that is what the BSB data shows. As far as I can see, women are not significantly more successful in obtaining middling grades either.

Common Law Common Sense

“Statistics published by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) show that between 2014 and 2016, roughly a third of male UK/EU domiciled students with a first-class undergraduate degree went on to secure an “Outstanding” grade on the BPTC, compared to just one quarter of women with the same academic credentials.”
– So by “roughly a third”, you mean ~30%? Versus ~25%? Not a huge discrepancy, especially if there are considerably more females on the course in the first place.

“The percentage of male 2:2-ers securing an “Outstanding”, for example, is more than double the percentage of female 2:2-ers doing the same.”
– How many candidates with 2:2s at undergrad achieved an outstanding? Surely we’re talking single figures? In which case, hardly a meaningful statistic.

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