11 Sep 2020

The Director General of the Bar Standards Board has repeated his apology to students who were affected by the technical difficulties which they faced in sitting their BPTC exams in August. Further to his previous announcement on 18 August, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has also today announced that course providers will be offering new opportunities to sit the centralised BPTC and Bar Transfer Test (BTT) assessments in Professional Ethics and Civil and Criminal Litigation in the traditional pen and paper format starting from 5 October. The arrangements for sitting the examinations will be subject to strict adherence to whatever coronavirus restrictions are applicable at the time. BPTC and BTT providers will be contacting their students today with further details. 

This new opportunity follows the difficulties encountered by many students in attempting to complete these assessments as computer based exams in August.  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 dates of the assessments will be:

  • Professional Ethics – Monday 5 October 2020 2pm – 4.30pm
  • Civil Litigation – Wednesday 7 October 2020 2pm – 5pm
  • Criminal Litigation – Monday 12 October 2020 2pm – 5pm

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. It will be made available in various locations in the UK and internationally and full regard will be had to all students with disabilities who require reasonable adjustments. The definitive result for anyone taking centralised assessments in August and October will be whichever is the better performance from the August or October 2020 sit. Students can chose to sit one or more exams in October. If sitting in October, they cannot sit the same subject(s) again in December.

Students wishing to take advantage of these opportunities should contact their BPTC course provider for further details. Students must register with their provider for the October sit by 5pm on Monday 21 September.

There will also be a further opportunity to sit BPTC/BTT centralised assessments in December 2020. The December sit will not, however, be open to students who availed themselves of the October sit because the results of the October examinations will not be available in time to register for that sit. Anyone who was on their first or second attempt in October (not counting the attempted sit in August) and who fails the October sit will have an opportunity to resit their exams in March/April 2021.

BSB Director General, Mark Neale, 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. This review will report to the BSB’s Governance, Risk and Audit Committee, which is composed of independent non-executive directors, and will be undertaken independently of the BSB.

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. I am most grateful to the BPTC providers for their support and cooperation.

For those students who have already secured pupillage this year we have also issued a waiver which will enable them to begin their non-practising period of pupillage before receiving their exam results, provided that their pupillage provider is content for them to do so.”



Notes to editors

About the Bar Standards Board

Our mission is to regulate barristers and specialised legal services businesses in England and Wales in the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: http://bit.ly/1gwui8t

About the BPTC exams

The BPTC exams consist of:

  • Knowledge areas (Civil litigation and evidence; Criminal litigation, evidence and sentencing; and Professional Ethics);
  • Skills areas (Advocacy; Opinion Writing; Drafting; Conference Skills; Resolution of Disputes Out of Court (including Negotiation, Mediation and Arbitration); and
  • Options (a range of elective subjects run by each provider in specialist practice areas).

The curriculum also incorporates writing skills, casework skills, fact management, legal research, basic management, and interpersonal skills.

The BSB sets and marks the exams in Civil and Criminal Litigation and Professional Ethics as centralised assessments and the BPTC providers set and mark the other exams. 

The BPTC providers usually host and invigilate all the exams but the April sitting had to be cancelled because their facilities had to close as part of the COVID-19 lockdown. To help students to progress with their careers, the BSB therefore sought to provide their centralised assessments as computed based exams through a supplier, Pearson VUE. The majority of students were able to complete these exams but technical and other problems prevented many students from completing the exam successfully.

These exams follow the final year of the BPTC course which has now been replaced by new vocational training courses starting this month following the BSB’s reforms to Bar training.

Providers will release the Civil and Criminal Litigation results of the August 2020 sit on Monday 12 October and of the October 2020 sit on Friday 27 November 2020. They will release the Professional Ethics results of the August 2020 sit on Friday 6 November and of the October 2020 sit in the week commencing 18 January 2021 (Students should contact their Providers to confirm the precise date).


Contact: For all media enquiries call: 020 7611 4691 or email [email protected].


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