Petition calling for botched bar exams to be scrapped attracts over 1,200 signatures

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By CJ McKinney on

Just grade us on the rest of the BPTC, students urge

Law students are calling for the bar exams to be scrapped after candidates faced problems sitting the tests online.

A petition argues that the Bar Standards Board (BSB) should waive the requirement for barrister hopefuls to pass the exams altogether and just dole out grades based on the assessments already completed.

The plea comes after days of complaints about software crashes and other issues with the three centralised exams that make up 25% of the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).

A group of cheesed-off students calling themselves Students Against the BSB Exam Regulations (SABER) have put the petition together, claiming that a “blanket waiver” is the only solution.

They argue that the BSB should “waive the requirement for completion of the centralised BSB exams for civil litigation, criminal litigation and ethics (‘the exams’) in light of the systemic failings in delivering the exams via PearsonVUE”.

Their pitch lists the problems with the exams since they were rescheduled from April to this month. The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has apologised for problems getting students needing reasonable adjustments booked into physical test centres and for technical problems that saw some locked out of their online version.

The regulator’s solution is to offer those unable to sit the test remotely, or who didn’t get their reasonable adjustments, a pen and paper resit next month.

The petition reckons this isn’t enough. Resits would be offered to only “a limited number of students… when in fact almost all students have struggled with these exams in some form”.

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These three exams on civil, criminal and ethics are worth 25% of the BPTC overall. The petition says that students should be given their final grades based on the 75% of the course they’ve already been assessed on.

Those signing it say that “a waiver is crucial as it is the only fair way to account for the variety of issues faced by students sitting in such adverse conditions”. The petition seems to have been started on Tuesday and had 1,250 signatures at time of writing.

Not everyone agrees. In a guest article on the Secret Barrister blog, an anonymous lawyer says that civil, crime and ethics are the hardest part of the BPTC. “To waive them”, they argue, “would be to waive the actual bit of the course that is difficult to pass”.

Last year, 75% of candidates passed ethics, 63% passed civil and 61% passed crime.

A BSB spokesperson told Legal Cheek: “The BPTC examinations in professional ethics and criminal and civil litigation are vital for assessing whether students are competent to practise at the bar and to serve the public and we do not believe that it would be appropriate to waive them. But we deeply regret that many students have not been able to complete their computer based exams satisfactorily.”

They continued:

“As our director general has made clear, we are therefore urgently seeking to offer a further opportunity subject to discussions with BPTC providers to sit these exams as pen and paper exercises in September both to UK students and to international students in their home countries. This September sitting would be in addition to the opportunity that students would have to [sit or] resit their exams in December.”

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