Bar aptitude test ‘not effective filter’ of weak wannabe barristers

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Fail rate of under 1%, report finds

The future of the much-maligned bar aptitude test hangs in the balance after a new report found that fewer than 1% of wannabe barristers fail to pass it.

The Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) came into existence in 2013 with the aim of weeding out weaker students who were unlikely to succeed on the bar course. The 55-minute assessment is designed to test critical thinking and reasoning, and must be passed in order to gain entry onto the vocational course.

But fresh questions have now been raised over the effectiveness of the £150 exam, with a new report finding that just 89 out of the 12,663 candidates who attempted the exam between 2013 and 2019 had failed to make the grade — or 0.7%. With retakes excluded, the fail sits at roughly 3%.

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has now launched a consultation into the future of the entry exam, with three options placed on the table: retain the BCAT in its current form; amend the BCAT so that it is a more effective filter; or scrap it altogether.

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The BSB said: “Our recent analysis… shows that the BCAT has had little effect in filtering out students who do not have the required aptitude for the vocational component of bar training. As this was its primary function, we are now considering whether the BCAT remains a necessary and proportionate regulatory requirement.”

This isn’t the first time the effectiveness of the BCAT has come under scrutiny. In 2015, Legal Cheek reported that the exam had been temporarily suspended amid claims it was “nearly impossible to fail”. The BSB eventually took action, upping the pass mark from 37 to 45 (on a scale which ranges from 20 to 80).

This year’s bar recruitment round saw a whopping 3,301 bar hopefuls compete for 246 pupillages through the centralised Gateway.

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Woah Dude

FFS – it was shown in 2015 that the ‘test’ was a shambles and in six years they couldn’t fix it????

You make any judge or barrister unnecessarily wait six years for anything and you would NEVER forget the tempter tantrum.


I was in the first year this test was introduced. It was immediately apparent that no one was going to fail this test – and even if they did they can retake it. Even the 1% fail rate surprises me. Anyone who speaks elementary English would comfortably pass this test.

It was just a little additional money maker. Nothing more.

Just Anonymous

The BCAT is a complete waste of time and money.

Scrap it.


I saw your comment get censored the other day. I don’t know what’s happened to this website – it’s such a shame to see its decline.


They got a case of the wokes I am afraid, just look at the articles they don’t allow comments on and how quick they are to censor unapproved views and opinions. Its why Roll on Friday is superior in every reasonable manner, they cover more than just salaries, diversity and retention. Plus their writing staff tend to have actually accomplished something in the field of law.


Raising the entry requirements to something sensible is impossible because the diversity/social justice crowd moan about it.


Ah yes, that well known correlation between “social justice” and aptitude. Ironic, considering your likely background (given how naive this comment is) and the lack of intelligence shown in your post.

Anon Again

Except the threshold standards were not set at realistic levels because the leftists were concerned about inconsistency of the quality of 2:2s for crying out loud and its indirect effect on diversity matters. By pushing wider inclusivity there was a dilution of entry standards, and that, is the correlation with aptitude. So by pushing their agenda, lots of applicants with no real prospects were allowed to waste their time and money. But hey, you can just insult me and call me stupid, that is what the warriors do these days.

Archibald Pomp O'City

I think that’s what everyone who meets you is doing, not just the SJWs.

Oh Boy

The ‘leftists’ and ‘diversity’ have nothing to do with this.

The BVC/BPTC was opened up to other private providers nearly 20 years ago because they cited EU competition law to claim it was unfair for only one institution in London to offer it.

You are not a victim here.

When you're with me

The standard for entry was the point being discussed, do try to keep up. That was diluted to a meaningless level to appease the leftists.


Remember you are on LC, this place if full of the ‘equity’ crowd who recoil at any criticism of the diversity litany. They forget that not that long ago it was indeed the case that the argument was being made that more stringent academic requirements would disadvantaged the poor, helpless underrepresented groups. Who, of-course through absolutely no fault of their own, did not get top grades. That is the problem with arguing with first year law students online, their brains are not fully developed and they have no knowledge of what happened three years ago.


The only test for suitability for the Bar is if you went to Oxbridge. No other university matters so far as leading chambers are concerned. And rightly so.


Didn’t the head of chambers at One Essex Court go to LSE?


Outliers don’t reflect reality. Grabiner wouldn’t get a pupillage at the Commercial Bar these days.

Cantab is a troll

There is not point in feeding trolls like 1:48. Of course there is a wider spread of great talent beyond Oxbridge and that spread will increase all the more now that Oxbridge considers diversity percentages more important than the quality of applicants.

Cantab is not a troll

You are clearly the troll. Grow up.

Everyone knows that the brightest people in the country go to Oxford and Cambridge. That is where the best talent lies. It is for that reason that the top chambers only recruit from those universities.


My mate got a first in Law from Cambridge, couldn’t get pupillage, failed to get a TC, and is now training to become a teacher.

People on this board seem to think every undergraduate at Oxbridge is going to obtain a top pupillage and end up in the cabinet by 40. It’s so tedious

shoe the tabs

think you meant Oxford, not Oxbridge


If I’ve learnt one thing from LC comments, it’s this: Some people never get over the fact that they didn’t attend Oxbridge, and some people never get over the fact that they did. It’s sad.


Don’t forget never quite getting over public school.

Went on a date with a barrister who bored me all evening excitedly telling me how he and a few chums were not allowed to open a medieval door at their boarding school, but they opened it anyway! Then they would take aerosol cans in the boarding house and spray them on their wrists until the coldness left a scar. He then showed me the scar and said it was close to fading anyday now.

I didn’t sleep with him. I’m not really sure exactly how anyone could.

Archibald Pomp O'City

“I didn’t sleep with him. I’m not really sure exactly how anyone could.”

A quote from Mrs Merton comes to mind: So tell me, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?

Archibald Pomp O'City

Critical thinking tests can be made as difficult as one pleases. Ratchet up the length and complexity of the passages to test ability, and make the number of questions completely unmanageable in order to make it a test of maximum performance. And beyond this, make the test itself longer (four hours minimum, with no bathroom breaks) to make it a test of stamina too. It’s the same principle (one of my own, I should add) that doctors wishing to train as surgeons ought to first have to thread cotton strings through as many needles as they can for at least six hours (the length of many a cancer operation), with only the top 5% of each cohort being accepted onto the specialty training. It makes sense when you look at it this way.


Only allow the BTC to be taken by people with a pupillage offer and the issue is solved in a single year.

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