For students starting Bar training courses from 2020 onwards, as part of our reforms to Bar training, the assessment of Professional Ethics is split between the vocational component of training, and the pupillage/work-based learning stage. 

Authorised Education and Training Organisations delivering the vocational component of training, are required to provide tuition in, and assessment of, Professional Ethics to a Foundation level. Students starting a vocational Bar training course from 2020 onwards will sit this new provider-set assessment as part of their course.

The pupillage stage examination in Professional Ethics will assess specified learning outcomes at the standard expected of barristers on their first day of practice as defined in the Professional Statement. The first such assessment will be taken in April 2022 by pupils who commenced Bar Training from 2020 onwards or who completed the Bar Transfer Test (BTT) from August 2021 onwards.

The assessment of Professional Ethics during pupillage will be an examination that is set and marked centrally by us. It will be an open book examination comprised of six short-answer questions. We will not be prescribing any programme of prior study by way of preparation for the examination but will develop a mock examination that candidates can use for developmental purposes. You can download a syllabus for this assessment from this webpage.

DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS

For more information on the new approach to assessing Professional Ethics, please read the paper which we first published in April 2020.

Download the paper

For more information on the Ethics Assessment Guidance which sets out the learning outcomes, please read the below paper.

Download the paper

FAQs for pupils

Do I have to take the new exam?

Pupils who commenced Bar Training from 2020 onwards or who completed the Bar Transfer Test (BTT) from August 2021 onwards* must take this exam (BPTC graduates are not required to do so; they have already passed a centralised exam in Ethics).

*Some pupils who are transferring qualified lawyers (TQLs) may have been given a waiver by the BSB so may be exempt from taking the exam. 


What is the purpose of the exam?

The purpose of the exam is to:

  • distinguish between pupils who are ready to receive their Full Practising Certificate  (FPC) and those who are not yet ready.
  • safeguard the public by ensuring that those who are authorised to practise (by having received their FPC) have fulfilled the ethical requirements set out in the Professional Statement.
  • ensure a strong, ethical profession.

When are the exams?

There are three sittings each year, generally in early January, late April and late July. For 2022 the dates are late April, late July and late October. The next exam after that will be early January 2023. The exact dates will be published in due course.


The BSB previously announced that the first opportunity would be in January 2022. Why has this changed? What are the implications for me?

Although we do not prescribe a preparatory course or play any part in the development of any preparatory materials that may be offered by others, we are aware that The Inns of Court College of Advocacy (ICCA) is very keen to offer pupils assistance in preparing for the exam.  The ICCA’s preparatory material will be available in February 2022 and the first Ethics assessment will therefore take place in April 2022 to enable pupils who wish to take advantage of the material to do so. In order to allow pupils three opportunities in a calendar year to take the exam, we are holding a third round of assessments in October 2022.

If you start your pupillage in autumn 2021, you will only have two opportunities to sit and pass the assessment during your 12-month pupillage (the results from the October sit will not be issued until January 2023). Therefore, there is a risk that you are not able to have your pupillage signed off at 12 months. It will be for your chambers or employer to decide if they wish to fund an extension to your pupillage to enable you to sit the October exam. That should be set out in your written pupillage agreement.


Must I take the exam during my first six?

There is no requirement for you to have taken or passed the exam during the non-practising period of your pupillage. However, you need to have completed three months of pupillage before undertaking the assessment. This is to ensure that you will have had the opportunity to discuss real life ethical scenarios with your pupil supervisor and other members of Chambers.


Do I have to pay for the exam?

There is no fee for your first or second attempt. After that, the fee for any resits will be £832. It will be for you to agree with your chambers or employer who pays for any subsequent resits. This should be set out in your written pupillage agreement.


What is the format of the new exam?

It is an open book exam comprising six short answer questions (each in two parts). All parts are equally weighted. Responses are required in the form of narrative prose (short answers). Questions consist of scenarios, each of which require you to engage with one or more issues, to apply ethical principles in order identify, discuss, and address the matters raised and to reach an appropriate resolution of those issues. In order to be successful, therefore, you must apply your knowledge of ethical principles, and using the provisions of the BSB Handbook, guidance and other syllabus materials, provide comprehensive analysis and sound reasoning in your answers.

Information regarding our decision to adopt this format of assessment is available on our website.


How do I sign up for the new exam?

More information will be available in the candidate guide which will be published in late January/early February 2022.


Will I have to sit the exam in person or online?

The exam will be delivered online; you may choose to sit a remotely proctored exam or in a test centre. More information will be available in the candidate guide which will be published in late January 2022.


How will the exam differ from the BSB’s online exams taken in August 2020?

We have learned many lessons from our experience with online exams last summer. We took these into account when issuing an invitation to tender to supply online assessments (amongst other examination solutions). The invitation clearly set out our requirements, particularly regarding the integrity of the assessments and accessibility for candidates. In writing the invitation, and in our selection process, we put equality and diversity at the forefront of our plans. We have ensured that our supplier has an accessibility expert on their team. It is important to note that for the pupillage exam we can communicate directly with you about your reasonable adjustment or other needs. Our chosen test delivery system is compatible with screen reading software for candidates with visual impairments. Breaks will be permitted.


How do I prepare for the exam? Do I have to attend a course/access preparatory material?

You should familiarise yourself with the syllabus. We have also provided some guidance which sets out the learning outcomes as expressed in the Professional Statement, as well as a description of the assessment itself and the classification of answers, our standard setting process, and some of the procedures we will undertake during marking.

We have also provided sample short answer questions and a mark scheme (previously used on the BPTC). The style of the questions has not changed; however, we will mark the pupillage exam in a different way (the new mark scheme will be made available on our website in due course).  A mock examination will be available in late January 2022.

We do not prescribe a preparatory course or play any part in the development of any preparatory materials that may be offered by others.


How can I find out who is providing preparatory material for the Ethics assessment?

The ICCA propose to make available preparatory material in February 2022. This material  will be free and open to all pupils who need to sit the exam. Use of the material will not be mandatory, but we recognise that you may wish to make use of the material before sitting your exam. Please contact the ICCA for more information.


What happens if I don’t pass first time?

There are three sittings each year so you will have further opportunities to resit the exam if you do not pass first time. You must pass the exam in order to be signed off from your pupillage. If you have not successfully passed the exam before the end of your pupillage, it will be for your chambers or employer to decide if they wish to fund an extension to your pupillage to enable you to do so. That should be set out in your written pupillage agreement.


I need reasonable adjustments. Who do I tell?

More information will be available in the candidate guide which will be published in late January 2022.


Who sets and marks the exam?

The exam is set and marked by the BSB. You can read more about the role of our Centralised Examination Board (CEB) here.


How do I get the results?

More information will be available in the candidate guide which will be published in late January 2022.


Can I appeal the results?

You are able to request a clerical error check. We will check if your results have been captured and processed correctly.

You are able to submit a request for review of the decisions taken by the CEB in confirming cohort marks for the Ethics assessment. The permissible ground for a request is that, in exercising its discretion to confirm cohort marks, the CEB acted irrationally and/or in breach of natural justice.

Neither process is a re-marking of your examination and no re-marking is offered under our candidate review processes.

More information will be available on our website in late January 2022.


How will my personal data be handled?

More information will be available in the candidate guide which will be published in late January 2022.


FAQs for pupil supervisors and AETOs

Do all pupils need to take the exam?

Pupils who commenced Bar Training from 2020 onwards or who completed the Bar Transfer Test (BTT) from August 2021 onwards* must take this exam (BPTC graduates are not required to do so; they have already passed a centralised exam in Ethics).

*Some pupils who are transferring qualified lawyers (TQLs) may have been given a waiver by the BSB so may be exempt from taking the exam. 


What do we need to do to help our pupils prepare for the exam?

We do not expect pupil supervisors to act as tutors, though we expect you to be active and engaged in supporting your pupils in sitting their ethics exam. The duties imposed on pupil supervisors are set out in the Bar Qualification Manual which states that your role is to provide pupils with a suitable training programme which enables them to meet the competences in the Professional Statement to the threshold standard, in accordance with the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy. Teaching and assessment of Professional Ethics at foundation level will have taken place during the vocational component. Individuals who are of the calibre to obtain pupillage will already have demonstrated ability at that level and can reasonably be expected to be able to apply that foundation knowledge in the workplace. The context of an environment in which real life scenarios can be discussed with you and other members of Chambers is the appropriate environment for a developing professional to demonstrate application of knowledge.


Our pupils are normally in Court as soon as they have their Provisional Practising Certificate. Do we have to give them time off to study for the exam if they have to take or retake the exam then?

We have not mandated a preparatory course for which time away from the pupillage training programme is required, but self-study materials will be made available by the Inns of Court College of Advocacy from February 2022. It will be for pupils to decide if they wish to use these materials and for AETOs to agree with pupils when and how they prepare for the exam.


Do we have to pay for the pupil to sit the exam?

There is no fee for the first or second attempt. After that, the fee will be £832. It will be for you to agree with your pupil who pays for any subsequent resits. This should be set out in your written pupillage agreement.


What happens if a pupil does not pass the Ethics assessment before completing their pupillage?

If your pupil has not successfully passed the exam before the end of their pupillage, it will be for you to decide if you will fund an extension to their pupillage to enable them to do so. That should be set out in your written pupillage agreement.