The vocational component of Bar training is currently fulfilled by completion of the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).

At the moment, the BPTC may be taken once the academic component has been successfully completed. Following successful completion of the BPTC, and the qualifying sessions provided by their Inn, students may be called to the Bar and apply for work-based learning (pupillage).

Contact: Exams@barstandardsboard.org.uk

Overview

1) BPTC centralised examinations are set on behalf of the BSB by the Central Examination Board (CEB). The CEB consists of a group of senior examiners, including experienced legal practitioners and academics. Psychometric and examination experts support the work of the CEB.

2) Centralised examinations were introduced to ensure consistency across course providers, and closer regulatory oversight of standards in knowledge subjects. The following subjects are centrally examined:

  • Professional Ethics;
  • Civil Litigation and Evidence; and
  • Criminal Litigation, Evidence and Sentencing.

Exam

Duration

No of questions

Marking

Professional Ethics

2.5 hours

6 Short Answer questions (SAQs)

Centrally – by the BSB

Civil Litigation

3 hours

75 Multiple Choice questions (MCQs)

Electronically – by the BSB

Criminal Litigation

3 hours

75 Multiple Choice questions (MCQs)

Electronically – by the BSB

Standard Setting

3) The standard for success is determined at each sitting based on the difficulty of the questions (using a criterion-referenced standard setting technique) and so may differ between sittings.

Examination dates

4) All BPTC candidates sit centralised examinations on the same day at the same time.

Exam sitting

Exam

Date and Time

2018/19 - Spring

Professional Ethics

Monday, 8 April 2019 - 2pm

Civil Litigation

Tuesday, 16 April 2019 - 2pm

Criminal Litigation

Thursday, 18 April 2019 - 2pm

2018/19 - Summer

Professional Ethics

Friday, 16 August 2019 - 2pm

Civil Litigation

Monday, 19 August 2019 - 2pm

Criminal Litigation

Wednesday, 21 August 2019 - 2pm

2019/20 - Spring

Professional Ethics

In light of COVID-19, please see our statement.

Civil Litigation

In light of COVID-19, please see our statement.

Criminal Litigation

In light of COVID-19, please see our statement.

2019/20 - Summer

Professional Ethics

11 and 12 August 2020;see our statement;

and

13-14 August 2020; see our statement.

Civil Litigation

17-18 August 2020; see our statement.

Criminal Litigation

20-21 August 2020; see our statement.

About the exams

5) Although the BSB regulates the content and delivery of the BPTC, there are a wide range of issues that are addressed by the course providers. The majority of queries relating to Centralised Examinations are answered in the Bar Qualification Manual; however, there are times when you might need to contact someone should you not find the answer you need or if you require further advice.

6) Your course provider should be contacted about any queries relating to the following examination queries:

  • Mitigating circumstances
  • Overseas examinations
  • Fit to sit queries
  • Exam deferrals
  • Where the provider has failed to address an examination query
  • Mock examinations and revision materials
  • Results release dates
  • Clerical error checks
  • Institution's policies and procedures relating to examinations

Please consult your course provider's website or your student advice centre for the relevant contacts at your provider.

7) The BSB is responsible for, and should be contacted about, the following examination queries:

  • Enhanced clerical error checks
  • Requests for review

Quality assurance of exam papers

8) Centralised examination questions are written by experienced legal practitioners and academics contracted by the BSB. The examining team meets to scrutinise and approve each question. These comprise an agreed exam paper, which is then tested under exam conditions, and is further reviewed to assess the validity and currency of any referenced law.  Exam papers also undergo scrutiny by the BSB's syllabus team to ensure all questions comply with the current curriculum. Any recommendations made during these processes are then passed on to the Chief Examiner responsible for the relevant subject who will advise of the changes to be implemented in the paper. BSB staff implement any required changes before the paper is proof-read by a professional proof reader.

9) To determine the pass mark of the centralised examination papers, the BSB conducts standard setting. All pass marks are reported as 60% to providers.

10) After completion of the quality assurance processes, the paper is ready to be printed and delivered to the providers.

Sitting exams overseas

11) Some, but not all, providers allow candidates to sit exams overseas at their discretion. It is the responsibility of the provider to arrange overseas exams. Candidates should contact their provider for further information.

Reasonable adjustments

12) Candidates with disabilities who require additional arrangements to sit centralised examinations must contact their provider. The provider will liaise with the BSB on their behalf.

Mock examination paper

13) The BSB provides a centrally set mock exam paper for each of the centralised examinations. Mock exams are administered by providers and they will advise when the mock exam paper will be available.

Fit to sit

14) Every provider operates a different "fit to sit" policy. Some providers require candidates to complete a "fit to sit" form at the time of an exam. Other providers will complete this process at time of enrolment where candidates will declare that if they are present at the time of the exam, they are fit to sit the exam. 

On the day

15) At the Ethics examination, candidates will be given:

  • an exam paper
  • an SAQ answer booklet in which to record answers

16) At the Civil / Criminal examination, candidates will be given:

  • an exam paper
  • an optical mark read (OMR) sheet on which to record answers

17) All documents must be returned to the invigilator at the end of the exam. Only writing materials and an eraser are allowed in the exam room.

18) Candidates are responsible for managing their time to complete the exam within the time allowed. Only answers given in the MCQ (OMR) sheet or SAQ answer book will be accepted. It is essential that the instructions on completing the SAQ answer booklet are followed correctly. It is each candidate's responsibility to ensure answers are legible and answer booklet/sheets are correctly identified with their candidate number.

Extenuating circumstances

19) Extenuating circumstances may prevent a candidate from sitting an exam. Candidates should contact their provider for further information.

Quality assurance of marking

20) Centralised examinations are marked by the BSB. To ensure consistency and quality, the following processes are in place:

  • MCQs (Civil and Criminal Litigation)

After the exam, MCQ answer sheets are returned to the BSB and scanned by an Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) machine which captures the answers selected by the candidate. This process removes the risk of errors associated with human input and enables accurate production of statistics and results analysis.

  • SAQs (Professional Ethics)

SAQ answer booklets are sent to the BSB for marking by a pool of suitably qualified individuals (including academics working at providers, barristers and solicitors), following the mark scheme provided by the BSB. For a more detailed explanation of the marking process please read the latest Chair's Report.

Quality assurance of results

21) Once the marking is completed, statistical data is generated and presented at examination boards.

22) There is a Subject Exam Board (SEB) per examination. The purpose of each SEB is to review and moderate the overall cohort results of the paper and to make recommendations to the Final Exam Board (FEB).

23) The SEB uses a number of information sources, including statistical data both past and present, Chief Examiners' and invigilators' reports, and feedback from providers. In addition, a psychometrician attends to provide expert advice and an independent observer attends to provide oversight and report to the BSB.

24) The SEB considers the performance of questions and recommends either accepting the results or intervening. For details of previous interventions, please read the relevant Chair's report.

25) The FEB considers the recommendations made by the SEBs and either agrees or amends them. The BSB applies any agreed interventions and generates results per provider. The process involves a series of manual and electronic checks to ensure that providers receive accurate results.

Results review process

26) Examination answers are not re-marked but candidates may request:

  • a clerical error check;
  • an enhanced clerical error check; and/or
  • a request for review

27) Candidates may request a clerical error check if they believe that their marks have been captured incorrectly.

How to apply

Contact the course provider.

Deadline

Applications must be received within 10 days of results release (date of despatch, not receipt).

Outcomes

The Candidate Review Process policy details possible outcomes of reviews.

Fee

Contact your provider.

28) Candidates may request an enhanced clerical error check if they believe there has been any error in the computation, scaling or transcription of marks at the BSB that may have affected the outcome of an examination.

How to apply

Enhanced clerical checks may only be requested following an initial clerical error check. Candidates should download, complete and return to the BSB an Enhanced clerical error check application form.

Deadline

Applications must be received within 10 days of the result of the clerical error check.

Outcomes

An outcome will be communicated to the candidate within 20 working days of receipt of the request or payment, whichever is later.

Fee

£60 per subject, paid on submission of application by telephoning the Exams team on 020 7611 1444 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

29) The request for review challenges the decisions of the CEB. There is only one ground on which a request for review can be considered: breach of natural justice by the CEB. Applicants should carefully consider whether they have the required evidence to challenge on this ground. Applicants must consult the Chair's report to assist in the preparation of a submission. There is no further appeal process in place.

How to apply

Download, complete and return to the BSB a request for review form.

Deadline

5pm on Wednesday 18 December 2019 for the Summer 2019 examinations.

Outcomes

The Results Review Process policy details possible outcomes of reviews.

Fee

£250 per subject, paid on submission of application by telephoning the BSB Exams Team on 020 7611 1444 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

30) Payment for the review processes undertaken by the BSB must be submitted at the same time as your request. If your payment is declined, the BSB will contact you to rectify the matter and a second payment attempt will be made. Should the second attempt be declined, your review application will be deemed void and therefore rejected.

Chair’s report

31) To ensure the transparency of the centralised examinations, the Chair of the CEB publishes a report for each of the examination cycles, detailing statistical data for each sit and interventions applied to each of the three knowledge areas: Professional Ethics, Civil Litigation and Criminal Litigation.

32) Request for Review applicants are advised to carefully read the data contained in the Chair's Report

33) Previous Chair’s reports are available on request to the Exams Team.

September 2019

  • If you are currently on the BPTC, have yet to complete the course, or are planning to start the BPTC in September 2019, then you will have the opportunity to complete the course as normal, with three attempts at each assessment.

September 2020

  • From September 2020, new approved training pathways will replace the BPTC. The process of authorising education and training organisations to deliver the new pathways will commence in April 2019 and courses will be advertised as "subject to authorisation" during this process. More information about new approved pathways will be published in the Bar Qualification Manual in due course.

Spring 2021

  • If, after Spring 2021, you are a BPTC student and you have extenuating circumstances which means you have to defer sitting one of the centralised assessments, then you may be affected by the transitional arrangements which we have put in place for centralised assessments.
  • We have published a statement which sets out what the transitional arrangements will be for centralised assessments on our website. All current and prospective BPTC students should read this statement to find out how they may be affected.

See  also:

The introduction of a Professional Ethics assessment during pupillage Work Based learning

BPTC Ethics sample paper and mark scheme