BSB ditches bar aptitude test

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Regulator says entry exam no longer an effective filter of wannabe barristers who will likely fail the course

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is to scrap the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) after a report found that fewer than 1% of wannabe barristers fail to pass it.

Confirming the decision at a board meeting yesterday, the regulator said the entry exam was no longer “acting as filter for aptitude” and that the evolution of the admission process, namely the widespread use of interviews and practical exercises at the point of selection, were far more effective in doing this.

The exam 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. It costs £150 a go.

But a report published last year found 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 rate sits at roughly 3%.

The 2022 Legal Cheek Bar Course Providers List

The decision to ditch the exam comes despite the Bar Council and the Inns of Court arguing that it was premature, given the reforms to bar training are relatively new. They also cited recent student performance on the centralised assessments as evidence that too many students are enrolling on bar training courses without the requisite aptitude.

But Professor Mike Molan, the chair of the centralised examination board, and Dr John Foulkes, the BSB’s independent psychometrician, stressed the exam is just one measure of performance.

“These results must be seen as only one reference point in the context of a student’s performance or a particular cohort’s overall performance on the course,” a paper before the BSB board said. “In line with the BSB’s principles for bar training, success is not measured by ability to pass the centralised assessment the first time.”

The exam has come in for criticism during its nine-year existence. 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).

Happy the exam is being scrapped? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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April 1st

Nice one



“no longer an effective filter”… It never was!






I want a refund for the test I did last week. How could I get this?


0.7% Yo

They can now filter candidates by the usual methods – public school accent, parental income, BA Executive Club level and a pile of harassment allegations at their former Oxbridge college



Bitter, the way I like my coffee.


Proves My Point

But of course – personal attacks after being presented with facts



The only reliable filters are private school and Oxbridge. Nobody else should bother. The Bar is for the cleverest and best educated in society. The public deserve nothing less.



I’m actually interested, why is it kept so low?



The BSB collects detailed ethnicity data on people sitting the BCAT, and there are significant performance differences between different ethnic groups. If the pass mark were to be raised, this would disproportionately affect certain racial groups – something which the BSB regards as ‘discriminatory’.

The current pass mark is the highest which can be set before the patterns in the data become statistically significant.


Monty (Burns, not Bernard)

Hear hear!


Go Build Me A Rocket

It’s like they forget MIT, Caltech and all the extraordinary STEM graduates exist.

I know who I’d want in a pickle – and it’s not the QCs who tweet the most.

Don’t they know it.



Ha ha. As if. Almost any poll ranks lawyers as at the bottom in terms of professionalism and respectability.

I recall a BBC Radio 4 poll where one had to rank 1000 occupations and choose your top 5 and bottom 5. 100,000 responded. Lawyers came 4th or 5th from bottom on a par with used car dealers and estate agents.

Lawyers in UK are almost on a par of their American colleagues at the bottom of every single for the past 50 years.

As for saying Oxbridge is full of talented people there are thousands of Hooray Henrys and Abominable Annabellas. Look at the Cabinet and PM for past decade. Unemployable rogues no one in business would ever employ.

On a ranking of pay Oxford grads are at about No 5 after LSE, Imperial, Cambridge, Bristol. Take out medical students and I daresay Oxford would be further down the real world of paying for talent not the Bar’s Who does Daddy and Mummy know.

And as for pay National Statistics show the average barrister earns 25% below the average solicitor at about £42,000 and they are way down the league table compared to say CEOs and Finance Directors who are creating profits and successful businesses not running around from place to place saying untruths, squabbling and making up stories

I know some top universities and big professional City firms who find Oxford grads are great talkers but as for doing any work they have been spoonfed they are completely lazy and dishonest.

Maybe that’s why the Oxford mafia runs the Bar.

Is there a single barrister or solicitor who has any moral compass left after 3 yrs grubbing around for any work? Have you? I doubt it if you are honest with others, let alone yourself


Dunelm is only good for bad linen

How was Durham?



Serious Q:
Would you rather be a London/Durham/Bristol grad with a TC at a ‘good firm’


An Oxbridge grad with a TC at a mediocre firm

I ask because in my experience there’s not much of a correlation between Oxbridge/non-Oxbridge and where you end up (solicitor wise). Everyone seems to be in the same mix and have a more or less equal chance of doing well.

All this posturing about universities is a waste of effort and time. I studied at Cambridge and I didn’t enjoy it. It was like being in American Psycho, but all the yuppie investment bankers were replaced with southern private/grammar school kids who adopt edgy fashion to appear working class



I got a first from Durham in History, went on to be a chartered accountant and chartered tax adviser, then ultimately a Big 4 tax partner. I am now considering the Bar.

Do you place me below an Oxbridge graduate?


Vlad the Impregnator

What a muppet



What a scam. I wonder how much money they made out of this?


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