Bar exams latest: BSB pushes ahead with ‘pen and paper’ October resits

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One third of exams beset by technical difficulties, regulator confirms

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today announced that students who encountered technical difficulties during their online exams will have the opportunity to resit from October.

The regulator had aimed to offer the opportunity to resit exams in traditional ‘pen and paper’ format in September, subject to providers being able to arrange venues either on their campuses, if open, or at alternative locations.

It has now confirmed that providers will offer resits in civil and criminal litigation and professional ethics in the traditional manner from 5 until 12 October. The exam sittings will be subject to “strict adherence to whatever coronavirus restrictions are applicable at the time”, according to the BSB’s statement.

Students undertaking the centralised Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) assessments this summer documented their troubles accessing the remote proctoring system on social media, with some reporting they had been ‘locked out’.

In today’s statement, the regulator said “although we believe that the majority of students were able to complete their exams at that time it is now clear that around one third of exams were affected by difficulties at some point during the examination period, significantly more than the original estimate from our supplier when the exams began”.

The October 2020 sit will be open to all those who were unable to access the exams online or whose access was interrupted. It will also be open to any student who felt that they were unable to perform as well as they might have done because of the conditions in which they sat the exams and to any student who had deferred until December 2020, as had been permitted.

The definitive result for anyone taking centralised assessments in August and October will be whichever is the better performance, the regulator said, adding that there will also be a further opportunity to sit the exams in December 2020.

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BSB director general, Mark Neale, repeated his apology to students beset by technical difficulties during the August exams. He said:

“The BPTC providers usually host these exams but the BSB stepped in to provide the assessments when the COVID-19 lockdown prevented them from doing so in April. The majority of students were able to complete their exams as computer based assessments but we deeply regret that technical and other problems prevented many students from doing so and left others feeling that they had been unable to give their best performance. I should like to apologise once again to those students and, as I have already announced, we are commissioning an independent review of the handling of the August examinations.”

The “lessons learned review”, announced last month, will report to the regulator’s governance, risk and audit committee, which is composed of independent non-executive directors, and will be undertaken independently of the BSB. Around the same time, Students Against The BSB Exam Regulations, a Twitter account set-up to voice the concerns of bar students, called for the exams to be waived entirely. A petition was also launched.

The BSB today ruled out the possibility of a waiver. Neale continued:

“We know that there have been calls for us to waive these exams but we see them as essential to demonstrate whether students have sufficient core knowledge to move to the next stage in the journey towards becoming a barrister. Our duty to the public is to ensure that anyone who practises at the bar is fully competent to do so. We therefore believe that the fairest way to enable students to demonstrate that competence is for BPTC providers to offer them further opportunities to sit the exams in the traditional manner and at the earliest opportunity.”

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Complete shambles


Pupillage Committee Head

Great news for the profession and future students. A fair outcome for all.


London Counsel

This is really good news for anyone who cares about professional standards. Well done BSB for not succumbing to the entitled whingers and freeloaders.

I don’t know why they’re attacking the providers. I saw a tweet before asking what they had done to help in exchange for the exorbitant funds paid? Answer: provide the course.

Now to reform the course properly – restrict numbers and make scholarship or pupillage only. Shed the dead wood.

SABER has an ongoing role, though. They should re-incorporate as S.H.I.T.E:

Harping on about
Though we are all
Entitled and thoroughly privileged.


The person London Counsel was too scared to reply to on Twitter

If you have an issue with my tweets, interact with me on Twitter instead of running to Legal Cheek to hide behind an anonymous account, coward.



What do you expect from snowflakes? Triggered by the rustling of falling leaves.



You’d do well to remember barristers must be mindful of arguing with others on social media, your (and many of your peers) have made inflammatory and argumentative Tweets. You don’t accept counterarguments and appear to have little awareness of how you come across to others on social media. Probably why you won’t make it at the Bar, exams aside. Can’t conduct yourself properly.


Can’t Stop Laughing

LOL at every single ‘activist lawyer’, Jolylon and QC Twitter addict not being able to ‘make it at the Bar’.

If we were to kick out every barrister who can’t conduct themselves ‘properly‘ in the eyes of others, we’d all be representing ourselves!



Are you seriously comparing current BPTC students to the likes of established QCs with the reputation to get away with it? Your cohort really thinks a lot of itself, doesn’t it. Yet again proving you are not suitable for the Bar. Fortunately, sounds like loads of you gobby ones will fail.

Despairing Counsel

It’s not ‘in the eyes of others.’ It’s the BSB Code of Conduct. Not expecting to pass ethics, are you?

Still Laughing

Yeah, you aren’t an established barrister.

If these people have the Firsts, Oxbridge debating prizes and come from the same London Public/boarding schools as the Head of Chambers’ kids, they are getting that pupillage and staying in regardless of what the Daily Mail thinks, who they sexually harass, how annoyed they are on Twitter and how many bottles of wine they finish on the weekend.

There is literally no ‘or else’.



Bitter much? You have probably described about 5% of the Bar intake.

Michael Mouse

There’s a bit of deflection going on here when Mark Neale (who?) says ‘The BPTC providers usually host these exams but the BSB stepped in to provide the assessments when the COVID-19 lockdown prevented them from doing so.’

Stepped in? Provide? They’re BSB set and marked assessments, nowt to do with providers aren’t they?

And why doesn’t the BSB’s announcement contain any real detail? Presumably providers have it. Why isn’t that in the public domain?


Pupillage committee head

Whatever Trevor


Bugs Bunny

Walt Disney was a nazi.



Poor little snowflakes were so keen to avoid the exam and tried to resort to every diversity excuse they could think of.



Posh white women moaning about diversity. Pathetic.



Just out of curiosity, do students attending all the various institutions sit the same exams, or do the different course providers set their own papers?


James from Cornwall

Who cares


Comments are closed.

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