News

Proctoring problems: Bar students urinate in bottles and buckets over fears online exams will be terminated

By on
51

One barrister hopeful is said to have worn an adult diaper

A bucket of urine, a bottle of urine and adult diapers

A number of Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) students resorted to urinating in bottles and buckets over fears their online proctored exams would be terminated if they went to the toilet, it emerged yesterday.

Taking to Twitter, aspiring barrister Tian Juin See claims he was forced to urinate in a bottle in front of his laptop at home after he was told he could fail the two-hour and 45 minute professional ethics exam if he did not maintain eye contact with the screen.

The London law student has since changed his bio on Twitter to “the guy who peed in a bottle during a bar exam”.

Another bar student, again sitting the assessment from home, said she resorted to “having to wee in a bucket in my own kitchen” amid similar fears.

Shockingly, a third BPTC student claimed a friend wore adult diapers “so she could relieve herself” during the exam.

In response to the pandemic, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) announced in May that bar students would sit their centralised assessments — civil litigation, criminal litigation and professional ethics — using an online proctoring system or in a physical test centre.

Legal Cheek understands that under the proctoring rules, students may have their assessment terminated if they move away from their laptop or leave the room. The BSB has been approached for comment.

Legal Cheek reported yesterday that the online assessments, which began this week, had run into technical difficulties, with Twitter flooded with reports of students being locked out of the proctoring system. The BSB admitted that “some students did face technical issues” but the “great majority” did manage to complete the assessment.

UPDATE: 13 August at 2:19pm

A BSB spokesperson told Legal Cheek:

“All students sitting their exams in test centres can visit the lavatory. Students who opted to take the exams at home using Pearson VUE’s online remote proctoring system, in which they are invigilated remotely, have been provided with guidance which makes clear that, to protect the integrity of the exams — in the absence of a secure location and invigilators who are physically present — those taking the exam via online proctoring are not allowed to leave the room during the exam. Our guide therefore urges students to ‘prepare yourself for not being able to leave the room for the duration of your exam, for example by going to the toilet as close to the start of the exam as possible’. Students who have told us that they did not think they could meet this rule have been advised to sit their exams in a test centre or an alternative venue supplied by their BPTC provider.”

Secure your place: The Legal Cheek Virtual Pupillage Fairs 2020

51 Comments

Snowflake police

Hahahaha! What are they going to do when they’re in court?!!?

(40)(45)

Anne Boleyn

Ask the Judge for a break? It’s not rocket-science.

(44)(6)

Just Anonymous

I don’t want to be mean, but practitioners go three hours without toilet breaks all the time.

I have never once asked a judge for a toilet break. Neither have any of my opposing counsel (in my cases). I suppose theoretically we could, but (speaking purely for myself) I would feel embarrassed and unprofessional if I did. Grown adults can work without breaks for three hours, and they do so all the time.

If you have a medical condition which means you require more frequent toilet breaks, then that is completely different. You have my sympathy, and you are entitled to reasonable adjustments. If you did not receive such adjustments from the BSB, then you have an entirely valid complaint.

However, I struggle to sympathise with grown-up, able-bodied students who are merely being asked to do what practitioners such as I manage to do, day in and day out, without difficulty.

I stress that I am only responding to the specific criticism that students had to go nearly three hours without a toilet break. There are other criticisms (such as the previously reported technology failures) that may well be entirely justified.

(91)(43)

Barrister

Nah, it’s very common for old duffer QCs to tell the judge that they reckon the stenographers need a break and then hoof it to loos. I’ve also been opposite pregnant counsel who has politely asked whether the court needs a break. The court got the hint. Of all things, needing a wee after an hour hardly affects your ability to do the job. Judges are literally trained to be sympathetic to requests like this.

(42)(26)

Just Anonymous

That doesn’t answer the argument I made.

I did not say judges were unsympathetic to such requests (I literally have no experience with which to know).

Nor do I have any objection to anyone making such a request if they objectively need it (as my third paragraph made clear). You’ve cited two categories of people – pregnant women and individuals with weak bladders due to age – who plainly do.

My point is that I’m not persuaded that all people generally require such breaks.

Alan

Do you think that you should need to justify yourself or provide a reason to need the toilet? I think it would be inappropriate for somebody to need to provide a reason. You therefore end up in the same place, i.e. when you can ask the judge to use the toilet without reason nor cause.

Practically speaking, those who don’t strictly need it will not ask. They’ll be happy to carry on. Those that need to use it should feel welcome to ask. I don’t really see any issue.

Diana

And maybe this is why so many female barristers just drop out of the profession after having children. One third of women suffer some degree of incontinence after a vaginal birth. I have a bladder of steel myself (even after two children) but I don’t think being able to hold it for hours on end (or opting to be dehydrated) should be a prerequisite for professionalism. A lot of people do need such breaks but they just don’t feel comfortable asking for them (probably because they don’t want to deal with judgmental arseholes) and this can have a significant impact on their careers. Incontinence affects a lot of generally young and healthy people.

(26)(25)

Just Anonymous

Incontinence, whether occurring through a vaginal birth or otherwise, is plainly covered by my third paragraph, where I said:

“If you have a medical condition which means you require more frequent toilet breaks, then that is completely different. You have my sympathy, and you are entitled to reasonable adjustments. If you did not receive such adjustments from the BSB, then you have an entirely valid complaint.”

I am a ‘judgmental arsehole’ about many things. However, when it comes to individuals with medical conditions, I think I have shown nothing but kindness and sympathy.

Actual BPTC Student

One of the main complaints is that our reasonable adjustments were not considered. This meant that those with Learning Support Agreements (LSAs) who would have needed breaks to go to the loo couldn’t and had to urinate in bottles, buckets and nappies. Even if persons did not have LSAs, they may have had conditions which cause them to need more frequent breaks than others (fibroids pushing against bladders, heavy periods, etc.). Your opinion, quite frankly, is of no value when considering the validity of our concerns. Clearly you haven’t read the entirety of the complaints but have come online to anonymously insult the students which is very disappointing.

(8)(22)

Just Anonymous

Actual BPTC Student, I refer you also to my third paragraph, where I said the following:

“If you have a medical condition which means you require more frequent toilet breaks, then that is completely different. You have my sympathy, and you are entitled to reasonable adjustments. If you did not receive such adjustments from the BSB, then you have an entirely valid complaint.”

I’d be interested to know what you think the contradiction is between that paragraph and your post.

Because I can’t see one.

Another BPTC Student

Just Anonymous, I’d like to ask about the scope of your definition of ‘medical condition’ in your third paragraph.

Does it cover ‘having a menstrual cycle’? If so, this is exactly what we have been telling the BSB since May / June. That the rule should be fair to women. Thank you very much for your support.

I can give you two illustrations:

1) If the Bar exam should fall on a day when I have a heavy period. At the end of three hours, I will be sitting on a soaking sanitary pad, with all its glorious goodness overflowing.

2) About incontinence. I don’t consider myself incontinent. And no I have not been through a vaginal birth. However I have noticed that on certain days of my cycle, I do have a weaker bladder. It has never been a problem as I usually have ready access to the toilet.

I’m sorry for the above graphic description. But it has now come to this.

I managed to get through the three hour civil litigation examination today. I am in luck, because the Bar exam has fallen on the ‘right day’ of my cycle. But that does not mean that the rule is not unfair nor discriminatory.

The humiliation endured by some of the students in my cohort is one that is felt by us all. Please be kind.

(5)(6)

Laz

The BSB is taking the piss 🥁

(33)(1)

Y

Modiern problems require modern solutions

(2)(0)

WTF?

WTF?

(1)(0)

BPTC student

I’d shit myself for a pupillage

(35)(0)

Harry

Would you consume?

(1)(1)

BPTC Student

Just a little bit, perhaps

(9)(1)

Patches O'Houlihan

Is it necessary for me to drink my own urine? No, but I do it anyway because it’s sterile and I like the taste!

(19)(5)

Martin Routh

When did we start calling invigilation “proctoring”? I went through my entire university career without hearing the term once. I must be getting old.

(11)(2)

Garfunkel

About the same time we starter referring to nappies as ‘diapers’, I reckon.

(13)(1)

Jest Anonymous

Get with the times. This is 2020. Nappies and diapers are interchangeable.

(5)(12)

John Bull

Get out

(3)(1)

Forever Associate

‘Murica 🇺🇸

(0)(0)

Herodotus

Or Oxford. Exams there have been overseen by proctors since before there was a United States. But you probably didn’t know that. They’ve been around since the 13th century.

(2)(1)

Mjhutch

I have taken three remotely proctored. I understand why technology is used but I found each of the ” human ” voices overbearing and dictatorial.

(4)(1)

Urgh

Speaking as one who did the BPTC, most won’t make it to pupillage. Of those who do, most won’t earn £100k+.

Sitting in an adult diaper for exams in the hope of being one of the c.200 to be offered pupillage?

Is any career honestly worth that? You’ll look back and wonder “Why?”

(2)(5)

lol what

you do realise most people who sit the bar don’t do it to earn over £100k.

(9)(1)

Horace

Many already have a pupillage, which is conditional upon passing these exams.

If it requires us to piss our pants in order to be able to start a £60k job, beginning in a global recession, so be it. Small price to pay.

(7)(8)

Aaron Flintlock

I wanna go big toilets, your Honour!

(7)(1)

Proper London Counsel of Counsel

There are actual humanitarian crises occurring in the world and these over privileged whingers are tweeting about their human rights being violated.

It’s not great and the BSB have not run this well (true to form), but the circus and requests for waivers and compensation make you look ridiculous. They’ve had longer than any previous cohort to revise and a perfectly reasonable no penalty offer to defer.

I’d love to know what pupillage panels will make of some of the tweets that have been put out there. Most of them don’t show too much promise for written advocacy ability.

Get a grip.

(14)(19)

Anonymous

I’m sure you’d love it if you were doing a real life Bar exam, and while doing the second question, a human invigilator comes and snatch your answer sheets away from you and say “sorry love, take it again in 4 months time”

Because that’s what is happening now.

(24)(6)

Solicitor

I can’t for the life of me figure out why you’re commenting on a legal cheek article while there are genuine humanitarian crises occurring elsewhere in the world?

It seems to be no more than a transparent attempt to feign moral superiority but in fact simply displays a stunning level of snobbery and lack of sympathy for the future members of your own profession (of which there continues to be less and less as you all do nothing whilst the government guts funding and plays you all like a fiddle).

So if you are actually a member of the profession (which I seriously doubt) perhaps you should get a grip? I would hate to have to suffer the likes of a colleague like you.

(6)(2)

Pupillage Committee Head

I’d sack the lot of you wanting waivers and money

(13)(9)

A Privileged Clown

In re Proper London Counsel of Counsel and Pupillage Committee Head,

You speak of those with not too much promise for written advocacy skills, and how students are demanding waivers and compensation. Nobody here has said anything like that… in this entire comment thread, and to my knowledge, none of my colleagues have said anything like that either?

All they’ve wanted was to be treated with dignity and respect. These aren’t first world problems. We shouldn’t glorify suffering unnecessarily – especially when it could have been easily prevented in the first place.

Aren’t we going to be future members of the profession?

Many like me, have just undertaken the ethics examination, meant to prepare us for practice. We are told that we are not allowed to make any statements or do anything merely to humiliate others, yet what other students have had to go through has been nothing but humiliating.

Would you want your son or daughter pissing themselves in front of a camera just to pass an exam that has no real value clearly ? Considering you have not conducted yourself with ethics in consideration whatsoever, if you are actually a member of the profession.

Members of the profession don’t have to wave their roles as barristers online simply to shame future members of the profession who want answers. Pupillage Committee Head – threatening to sack the lot of us wanting waivers and money – you are literally the example of a sample question we receive in exams to report for serious misconduct. Maybe you should be the one sitting for the ethics exam.

You mention “overprivileged” and “having time to revise”, what about underprivileged students who are on scholarships? Those who take the exams on a part-time basis as they work? I know of colleagues who have taken annual leave just for these exams – just to be told that they have to defer to December – and they don’t have any days off left.

For me, I did not have additional time to “revise”. I am raised by a single mother. Many have lost their jobs due to COVID and I’ve had to work as a paralegal to make ends meet.

Taking the exams in April where the course material was still fresh in my mind would’ve been clearly much better.

A volcano just erupted a few hundred kilometres from where I live and the skies are covered in ash clouds. I have pre-existing medical conditions but I chose not to undertake any RAs because I wanted to pass this examination without a handicap (a personal goal). COVID-19 is rampant.

Taking these exams feeling like the world as I know it, is about to end around me isn’t fun. English isn’t even supposed to be my first language.

But sure, call us whiny and privileged.

(18)(16)

PLC

If you think nobody is demanding waivers and finance I assume you don’t have Twitter. Take a look.

(8)(4)

Pupillage Committee Head

“Aren’t we going to be future members of the profession?”

Statistically, many of you aren’t. Thank Christ.

(8)(8)

A Privileged Clown

you’re actually right, at this rate none of us are going to be future members of the profession 🤣

(4)(2)

Pupillage Committee Head

Perhaps if you spent less time whining on the internet and more time revising (although I note you’ve already had a not inconsiderable extra period of time to revise than previous Bar cohorts) you might pass regardless.

Proper London Counsel of Counsel

Your comment is a wonderful example of both.

You think life doesn’t f*ck with everybody else’s plans and ambitions? Why should you be immune? The BSB has let you down but all this rubbish just serves to detract from the people who are actually suffering in this situation.

“I’ve had to work as a paralegal to make ends meet.” You’ve had to work to live? Please.

Covid has ruined the lives of many of my profession. Sorry it’s difficult but, as I said, get a grip.

(9)(10)

A Privileged Clown

I do agree that I should get a grip, but so should the providers? We’ve been left in the dark for 5 months, to only come to this.

I do agree that life is inherently unfair, and thank you for some semblance of sympathy.

Everyone is suffering. And I do think you’re right. But this was a completely preventable situation.

(3)(4)

Truth, yo

If you are waiting for barristers to treat you with dignity and respect away from their pursuit of soliciting Twitter ‘likes’, you will be waiting forever.

Double that if you’re BAME.

(1)(8)

Genius

If you can’t prepare yourself by visiting the loo before or hold your piss for 3 hours you are unfit for life let alone being a barrister…

(10)(11)

Quentin

Barrister of twenty years call here. Man. Every morning before a big three hour stint I wrap my piss rags tightly around my nether regions. Like the feeling now, makes me confident. Whenever I get the urge, I just go, even mid-cross. Learnt the trick from my pupil master. Used to be my job to do his rags every morning.

(21)(3)

Cross-legged

What exactly is the concern about letting people visit the loo? If someone is going to cheat, they could easily plaster notes all around their area off camera.

(2)(4)

Peter piper

No they can’t. They have to image the workstation live 360 degree.

(1)(1)

Pupillage Committee Head

Any student who feels it is wise to upload a photograph of their urine demonstrates a lack of the kind of good judgement and integrity required of a barrister. Doubt chambers will be falling over themselves to have Piss Boy amongst their ranks.

(5)(2)

Archibald Pomp O'City

Oh, I think they will.

(0)(1)

Student Loan

There are faults on both sides here but as usual lawyers and potential lawyers making complaints and overstated claims seems to be making an unfortunate expansion. Its easy to complain but harder to actually make something happen like these exams at short notice. Unfortunately that does not make a good headline so both parties have my sympathy.

Here are some easy solutions for both parties in this dispute:

Bsb solutions:

1. Divide the exam into two parts of just over an hour each.
2. Offer a deferral earlier than December
3. Offer additional slots in following week for students suffering IT issues.

Students:

1. There is an alternative to the online option, book in at the test centre and have as many toilet breaks as you like
2. Defer to December and see if the format changes.

Sorry to be a killjoy to all who are just starting their less than minimum wage (if you work on actual hourly rate for a 100 hr week) complaining, sorry legal career.

(1)(2)

No one

Curious what they would have done if a student had a medical issue, e.g. IBS. Or did the BSB forget disabled people exist?

(11)(2)

Urea Menendez

You should come and work for us

(0)(0)

Anon

They’re given the option of sitting at a test centre and using the toilet, or sitting at home and not using the toilet? They choose to sit at home and use the toilet. They’re told they’re not allowed for obvious reasons. Entitled rage ensues.

(0)(2)

Comments are closed.

Related Stories