BSB: A response to BPTC students’ exam concerns

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We will seek to ensure online assessment arrangements are fair for all, writes BSB director of regulatory operations Oliver Hanmer

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is working to support barristers, pupils and bar students at a time when we know they are facing considerable financial pressure and anxiety.

When lockdown began in March we realised that we would not be able to hold the BSB run Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) exams in criminal and civil litigation and in professional ethics in April.

It quickly became apparent that we needed a computer-based solution for these exams to enable them to be delivered at all, whatever health and travel restrictions might be in place at the time they were taken. Indeed we were already facing demands for such a solution. We knew that this would mean a new set of challenges to take account of people’s personal circumstances, but the alternative was to postpone the exams indefinitely, which was in no one’s best interests.

August was the earliest computer-based exams could be developed and delivered. We knew that would enable students to complete their exams before starting an autumn pupillage but they might not have all their results by then. We did a survey of pupillage providers and most said they hoped to continue to offer the pupillages they were planning and that they would accept students who had not yet had their results. So we issued a waiver that will enable this to happen.

The 2019 Legal Cheek BPTC Most List

We completely understand why students want more information about how these exams will work and how we will seek to ensure they are fair for everyone. Some have suggested that we should move to open book exams. But it would not have been possible to change all the exams prepared on a closed book model in time for August and open book exams still have to be invigilated. Open book exams only allow access to a prescribed set of materials, for example.

We agree that we must take steps to ensure that no one is disadvantaged by having computer-based assessments, whether these are taken through the remote proctoring system or whether it is determined that a student’s needs may be best met by taking them at a test centre. But first we need to find out what individual students’ needs are. That’s why we have asked BPTC providers to contact all their students to discuss their individual needs with them and we are working very closely with them and Pearson VUE who are providing the computer-based exams.

We will seek to ensure that the arrangements we make for the exams are fair and we know that fairness means maximising their accessibility as well as preserving their integrity. Pearson VUE’s online proctoring system relies on a combination of AI and human monitoring and no one will have their exam terminated without their case having been considered by a human invigilator.

We will publish further guidance for students about the exams as soon as possible. Meanwhile we are listening to the concerns of students and we admire and share their commitment to seek fairness for all.

Oliver Hanmer is director of regulatory operations at the Bar Standards Board.


BPTC students urge regulator to reconsider COVID-19 exam plans [Legal Cheek]

Bar regulator’s COVID-19 exam proposals could prejudice female students [Legal Cheek]

COVID-19: Bar exams to go online [Legal Cheek]



Good response. Sod snowflake bar students.


Disgruntled Applicant

Thank goodness my rule is not to do the next stage of education until I have pupillage or TC. Honestly, it makes being such a bad interviewer worth it to avoid exams like these.



Have not really read the article but have a question (making a list of firms to apply to for TC). Is BSB a top firm?



“But first we need to find out what individual students’ needs are.“


Guys, you have had quite a lot of time to do this.

Maybe it would have been wise to find out those needs *before* making your decision?

In the absence of this, these plucky Bar students had to take matters into their own hands and do their own survey!

Which the BSB doesn’t even address!


Previous BPTC Student

You surely realise the BSB needs to make policies for the majority of students and not on the basis of each individual student? The majority are catered for with these options: defer, sit at Pearson Vue, sit online. There will be a small minority who have medical conditions or whatever else that prohibits them from utilising these options, the general policy is not going to be based on those students and they need to work with their providers and the BSB to find a solution. Whining when you don’t get your own way and your demands aren’t met isn’t going to help anyone. This is a sensible response from the BSB.

The survey itself is not reliable or valid, and didn’t even receive 1/3 of respondents from this year’s Bar cohort. It isn’t reliable data and shouldn’t be considered as such. Unfortunately Legal Cheek don’t know how to report on research.



You’re right. I despair that this is the quality of incoming cohorts of barristers. Recruitment going very wrong somewhere.



This is not about the incoming cohorts, they are still sound. It is about the moaning snowflakes who have no hope of making it but believe new age bollocks that they can achieve anything they want. Here is a tip for them. The hippies lied to you, you aren’t going to make it, no matter what your mother said about following your dreams.



God is it only the procedure papers and ethics? What a joke that people are moaning about those papers! They are only one notch up from colouring by numbers.



BPP told its BPTC students last night at 5.30pm (due at 10am today) about their need to contact their concerns over the BSB arrangements. This is supposedly the BPP discharging its duty to “contact all their students to discuss their individual needs with them.” Is this supposed to be “working closely” with students? Its a total lack of accountability, with each organisation washing their hands of the matter and passing it off to others. Students are again disempowered, and forced to face the consequences. Its an embarrassment for the bar to mention mental health awareness as a priority of theirs. Shambles



My Provider contacted me a couple of weeks ago to discuss my accommodations. Sounds like BPP have been slow to contact you.


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