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COVID-19: Bar exams to go online

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But not before August

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) today confirmed that centralised assessments on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) will be moved online in response to the COVID-19 lockdown.

The centralised exams — civil litigation, criminal litigation and professional ethics — will be delivered using Pearson VUE’s “online proctoring solution”, which the BSB says will enable bar hopefuls to sit the exams from the comfort of their own homes. The Bar Transfer Test (BTT) will also run online.

The exams were scheduled to take place in April but were postponed by the regulator in light of the pandemic. It has now confirmed professional ethics will take place on 13 and 14 August, civil litigation on 17 and 18 August, and criminal litigation on 20 and 21 August. Students will receive their results in November, with resits scheduled for December.

The BSB also revealed students completing the BPTC this summer and who are due to start pupillage in September, will be permitted to commence their training before they have received their results. This is provided that chambers are happy for them to do so.

The BSB previously came under fire from students over its apparent reluctance to find a suitable alternative that would allow students to sit exams remotely. In petition to the regulator, hundreds of bar students warned of the “significant knock-on consequences” of delaying the exams.

The 2019 Legal Cheek BPTC Most List

On today’s update, BSB director-general, Mark Neale, said:

“Since the current health emergency began, we have been very conscious at the BSB of the need to support the career prospects of this year’s cohort of bar students and prospective pupils, while maintaining high standards. Students and transferring qualified lawyers have had to face considerable uncertainty, which we very much regret, and I am delighted that we can now deliver centralised assessments remotely in August with Pearson VUE’s state-of-the-art online proctoring system.”

He continued: “Allowing students and transferring qualified lawyers to start the non-practising period of their pupillages in the autumn will also enable them to progress while maintaining the robustness of the assessment process. The BPTC and the BTT are gateways to a very respected profession, where high standards of competence are rightly expected, so it is right that standards of entry are maintained even in these most challenging circumstances.”

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