18 Aug 2020

The BSB very much regrets the difficulties that some students have encountered while seeking to complete their centralised assessments as part of their Bar Professional Training Course.  We understand the strength of feeling from those affected, who have worked so hard to prepare for their examinations, and we remain committed to enabling as many students as possible to take their exams as soon as we can.

When the universities - where these assessments are usually held - had to close back in April, we were asked to make the exams available online.  We agreed that we should try to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic did not put the careers of students on hold, so we stepped in to commission a computer-based solution.   We wanted to give everyone the chance to complete these exams as soon as possible regardless of what lockdown conditions would be in August.   But we knew that all online examinations involve an element of risk and also, as our earlier statement made clear, that there are many things which can go wrong which are neither the supplier’s fault nor that of the student, and even where systems checks have been done in advance.

I know that for those who have faced difficulties it is no help at all to be told that all the statistics we have received from our partner, Pearson VUE, suggest that, even on Monday when there were delays with their OnVUE system, many students were able to complete their exams.  I am pleased that they were able to do so but I very much regret the difficulties some students have had.  We are now doing our utmost to ensure that they too will be able to complete their exams as soon as possible.

We intend to offer everyone who took a computer-based exam and experienced a technical failure that prevented them from accessing or completing their exam the chance to sit their exam again as a pen and paper exercise in a secure venue and as soon as possible. Special consideration will also be given to anyone who was booked to take a computer-based exam and whose reasonable adjustments were not delivered as booked.  We are working hard with the aim of offering that opportunity in September subject to the BPTC providers being able to arrange venues either on their campuses, if open, or at alternative locations.  We are also encouraging pupillage providers to allow people to progress as planned to pupillage this autumn. More information about this is available on our website

We know that the current conditions are extremely challenging.  While I am pleased for all those who have been able to complete their exams, I offer my very sincere sympathy to those who have had difficulties.  I assure you that we will do our best to help you complete your exams as soon as possible.

I can also assure you that we shall be commissioning a lessons learned review of the handling of the August examinations.  This review will report to BSB’s Governance, Risk and Audit Committee, which is composed of independent non-executive directors, and will be undertaken independently of the BSB.

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