BSB mulls removing caps on exam resits

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By Emily Hinkley on


Trials move with BPP

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) says it is “exploring the possibility” of allowing additional resits for students who commenced bar training from September 2020 onwards.

Under current rules, vocational bar training courses allow students a maximum of five years to complete the course and be called to the bar. Within this time limit, the maximum number of resits varies between education providers and is not currently regulated by the Bar Standards Board.

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Now the BSB has announced that it is considering removing limits on the number of resits, saying, “as far as the BSB is concerned, there is no limit to the number of times those elements can be retaken within 5 years”.

The regulator says it will initially trial the change in a December pilot specifically for students at BPP Law School.

This would be on a “non-award basis”, which means that although students may be called to the bar if they successfully complete all the elements of vocational bar training prescribed by the regulator, they will not receive any academic award such as a Postgraduate Diploma or LLM either from their original training provider or from BPP (if BPP is not their original provider).

If the pilot is deemed successful the opportunity will be opened up to students from other educational providers.



Incredible idiocy. If you cannot pass the Bar Course first time (or at least within one resit), you are not going to be a (decent) barrister. This move will further increase the glut of “barristers-at-law” with a BVS and no pupillage, and bring the Bar into disrepute.

Genuinely difficult to imagine what conversations must have taken place within BSB to approve this course of action.


The conversation is easy to imagine. The BSB is a failure / look at the JRs of disciplinary action that have succeeded, look at the failure that has allowed Hedron to practise for so long. So instead of regulating, they look at the stats of multiple failures and think – this isn’t great for diversity, let’s ‘do something’


Who hurt you?


The private equity firms running these courses with no admissions criteria are the only ones who will benefit from this.

Counsel of Counsel

One provider.

No re-sits unless extenuating circumstances.

That would provide all the prospective pupils that the Bar needs.

The current system is a cash cow and this will make it worse.


I can understand allowing one resit. Someone might just have messed up, or markers got it (I have heard stories of some terrible marking of opinions).

But there can be absolutely no justification for unlimited resits. We all know who benefits from that.

This madness must cease

Yes, your comment is bang on. It is fair to allow one resit as I have heard from friends this year that there was some very dodgy marking of opinions and some of the advocacy assessments. For example, outright getting the law wrong on the part of the marker. However, once you get beyond that there is no excuse absent mitigating circumstances. The people who fail multiple modules and get a competent won’t be getting pupillage anyway so there is nothing to be gained from doing this, except allowing the greedy providers to continue to leech cash from the no-hopers.


No more NQ rises

The people say no

Banish him


Dumb everything down and then still they find ways to lower the standards even further.


Pilots have a database of all their exam and check ride failures, so employers can check how competent they are. Whilst generally not life or death, I’ve seen many times how an incompetent barrister can ruin a client. I’ve seen people rendered homeless, lose their jobs, go bankrupt and more.

A similar system for all professionals strikes me as a good idea.

But compare this to a barrister who became disabled overnight. After a complaint from a judge, the BSB made him disclose his illness to every potential client before he could accept instructions. Yet, they would be happy to have repeated failures be hidden from those same clients.


I joined the conversation to totally disagree to most of the preceding opinions. Multiple resits is not anyone’s desire but I believe it can enhance knowledge and experience and therefore a learning curve. As the more one resists, the more one is engaged with the module or modules s/he resits and therefore become more experience. familiar and knowledgeable with the learning. For me the demerit is the time that is wasted with re-sits.

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