Introduction

If you started your vocational Bar training from 2020 onwards, or you are a Transferring Qualified Lawyer who took the Bar Transfer Test in or after August 2021 who is not exempt from the requirement, you will need to pass a BSB centralised assessment in Professional Ethics before you can complete your pupillage. Your pupillage must be registered with the BSB before you can book the Ethics exam. You also need to have completed three months of pupillage before undertaking the assessment. Please note, if you are a transferring qualified lawyer (TQL) and have been granted a reduced pupillage, you do not need to have completed three months of pupillage before undertaking the assessment

The first sitting of this exam will be in April 2022 with additional sits in July and October 2022. From 2023, sits will take place in January, April and July. For each sitting, everyone will take their exam on the same date.

This Candidate Guide contains important information about booking and sitting your Professional Ethics exam including instructions for requesting and agreeing adjustments and other arrangements with us.

Unless you require a hard copy (paper) exam as an adjustment, the BSB Professional Ethics exam will be a computer-based test to be taken on our exam partner’s, BTL’s, “Surpass” system. This means you will enter your answers into a computer rather than writing them down.

We strongly recommend that you take your exam at BTL’s Test Centre Network which provides centres at various locations in the UK. Overseas centre requests will be dealt with on an ad hoc basis, and we cannot guarantee a seat overseas. You do also have the option of taking your exam at home by using BTL’s Online Proctoring System (ProctorExam) online proctoring system, but if you have any concerns about sitting the exam at home, for example possible technology issues on the day of your exam, please choose to sit your exam in a test centre.

As you will be aware, this exam is an important professional assessment which, along with the rest of your pupillage, acts as a vital gateway through which anyone wishing to practise as a barrister in England and Wales must pass. As such, it is important that the integrity of this assessment is rigorously enforced. If you take your exam at home, your assessment will be invigilated by a remote proctor via BTL’s ProctorExam online proctoring system. This replicates the invigilation that would normally take place in an exam hall. ProctorExam is a system which has been used successfully by many professional examination bodies. If you take your exam at a test centre, in-person invigilators will be present.

Please read this Guide carefully as it contains important instructions as well as tips for making sure your exam runs smoothly on the day. If, after reading this Guide, you have any questions about your Professional Ethics exam, please contact us at EthicsExam@barstandardsboard.org.uk

The 2022 sits for the centralised assessment in Professional Ethics are scheduled on:

  • Tuesday 26 April 2022 at 2pm;
  • Tuesday 26 July 2022 at 2pm; and
  • Tuesday 25 October 2022 at 2pm.

You have two free of charge attempts to pass this exam after which either you or your pupillage organisation will usually be charged for each subsequent sit required. The fees for third and subsequent resits are £832 per exam.

Requesting adjustments or other arrangements

If you require an adjustment or other arrangement in order to take your Professional Ethics assessment, you must notify us of this at least nine weeks before the date of the exam sitting. This includes, but is not limited to, if you need to request a “Reasonable Adjustment” as defined in the Equality Act 2010. To do this, please read our adjustments and other arrangements policy before completing an adjustment form.

Examples of the types of adjustments which we can consider include:

  • extra time;
  • scheduled breaks;
  • separate rooms (in test centres);
  • pen and paper exams (as opposed to computer-based tests);
  • a reader who can read the questions out loud to you;
  • a scribe who can record your responses on the computer;
  • Braille exams; and
  • assistive technologies such as JAWS and Dragon Naturally Speaking (in test centres only).

We will try to accommodate all requests as long as they are made to us within the notice period specified above. You may need to provide us with evidence as to why you are requesting an adjustment or other arrangement. Examples of the type of evidence which is acceptable can be found on our website.

If you do not need any adjustments or other arrangements, you can book your own exam.

If we have agreed an adjustment for you to have extra time or extra breaks, in addition to the breaks allowed for all candidates, you can book your own exam once we have notified you that the adjustment has been approved.

If you need any other adjustment or arrangement, we will need to book your exam for you once we have approved the adjustment or arrangement. Please do not book your exam online yourself as doing so will result in you arriving at the test centre or logging into ProctorExam to find you are booked for a standard exam with no adjustments or arrangements.

Once completed, please email the adjustment form together with any applicable supporting documentation / evidence to EthicsExam@barstandardsboard.org.uk

If you need to resit your Professional Ethics assessments, you will be required to contact us before you book the resit in order to re-confirm your adjustments or other arrangements. We will retain any information about your adjustments or other arrangements for the initial sit until you have passed the assessment and completed your pupillage, and until you have been awarded with a full practising certificate or two years after the BSB first receives your information, whichever is soonest. If there is no change to your adjustment or other arrangement, you will only need to re-confirm your requirements and do not need to resubmit the same evidence.

Applications to amend an adjustment or other arrangement may require submission of further evidence. We will keep the information you provide about your need for adjustments or other arrangements confidential and will not share it with your pupillage provider or with anyone else apart from BTL who will need the information to deliver the adjustment or other arrangement for your exam.

If you did not previously need an adjustment or other arrangement but your circumstances have changed, you can, of course, make an application for the first time before booking a re-sit.

Booking your Professional Ethics assessment

Please familiarise yourself with the contents of this Guide before booking your assessment.

Your pupillage must be registered with us before you can book an Ethics exam.

BTL will upload the list to a booking system which is called “Scheduler”. Everyone on the list will receive an email from “Scheduler” inviting them to book an exam. The email will contain a username and password that you can use to access Scheduler.

Unless you are told otherwise in relation to an agreed adjustment or other arrangement, you must book your assessment in advance on Scheduler. The booking window will open seven weeks before the exam, and will remain open for two weeks.

You should choose whether you want to take your assessment remotely or in a test centre and book accordingly. We strongly recommend that you take your exam in a test centre to avoid any issues that may arise when taking the exam at home. Please only book one option. Bookings should be made on Scheduler.

Please refer to the separate Guide to using the booking system.

How the BSB and our partner, BTL and their suppliers, will use your personal data

Here we set out how we – the General Council of the Bar acting through the Bar Standards Board – will handle your personal data as the data controller, and how our exam partner, BTL, will also handle your personal data as our data processor.

Information that is collected

When you book an exam, Scheduler will use the data we have already provided to BTL - that is: your CRM number, name, telephone number, date of birth and email address.

If you take your exam at home through the online invigilation platform that BTL provides (operated by ProctorExam), you will be monitored over the internet through your computer via your webcam and microphone during the exam. You will be monitored in real time during your entire exam session. Your face, voice, desk, screen and workspace will be captured and a recording will be made so that we can assess security and the integrity of the exam process. (You should ensure that it is only you that is recorded and that no one else is in the room with you, and that no one speaks to you during the exam session.)

The video and audio recordings will be used to verify your identity and for online observation, incident resolution such as fraud prevention, test security and for the integrity of the test and testing process.

As well as the recording of the session, if you use the online invigilation service, BTL will also collect and record further information about you including your name, email address, captured facial photo (which you will be asked to take at the start of your invigilated session), photo ID, IP address, browser details, screenshots of your PC and your exam setting.

Exam responses are recorded in Surpass, from where BSB staff will access them for the purposes of administering the exam and in order to issue your result. Video and sound recordings made for the purpose of ensuring the integrity of the exam are stored in ProctorExam. Selected members of the BSB team will have access to these, but will only do so if, for example, there is evidence that the exam rules may have been broken.

The BSB will collect information about, and evidence for, adjustments and other arrangements. As part of that process, we will gather names, email addresses, telephone number and MyBar numbers from those applying in order to cross-check those details against personal data already held by us. Information about the adjustment or other arrangement needed will be shared with BTL, ProctorExam and any test centre involved in order for the adjustment to be provided, but any evidence or other detail about why the adjustment is needed will not be shared.

BTL will pass on the names, dates of birth and details of adjustments and other arrangements to the test centres where those candidates are sitting their exams for the purposes of verifying candidates’ identities and administering the exam.

Lawful basis

In accordance with the data protection laws, we need a “lawful basis” for collecting and using information about you. The lawful basis on which we rely in order to process your data for the purposes of taking the exam is:

  • using your information is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest (to fulfil our statutory regulatory obligations) which we refer to as the “public task” basis.

If you apply for an adjustment or other different arrangement, we may collect some special category data about you, for example, information about your health. If so, in addition to the “public task” basis for collecting your data, we will also be collecting it for:

  • reasons of substantial public interest, specifically that it is necessary to fulfil our statutory obligations under the Equality Act 2010.

Storage and security of personal data

If you take your exam at home through the onle invigilation platform, the data collected through this service will be stored in the EU (and so to the same data protection standards as in the UK). Some of your personal data, including data needed by the technical support service (live-chat service), should you need to use it, may be processed outside the EU. Where this happens, appropriate safeguards have been put in place, including standard contractual clauses in the contracts with the sub-contractors involved.

The exam assessments are stored in BTL’s Surpass system. They are saved every 30 seconds, so data should not be lost. Data is encrypted where it is stored and while it is being sent from one location to another.

Your personal data held by the BSB will be stored securely on our electronic systems.

How long information is kept

Recordings, photographs, your name, email address and details of the exam are retained by ProctorExam on BTL’s behalf for six months, after which they are automatically deleted, unless they are retained to assist in resolving any disputes or issues. We – the BSB – will only access the recordings if there is an incident, such as suspected misconduct.

BTL will retain all personal data collected by them for the purposes of booking the exam on Scheduler (the booking portal) for 12 months.

If you use the online Surpass system to take your exam, your name, email address, date of birth, exam responses and marks, and a unique identifying number will be stored on Surpass for two years.

We will retain any information about your adjustments or other arrangements for the initial sit until you have passed the assessment and completed your pupillage, and until you have been awarded with a full practising certificate or two years after the BSB first receives your information, whichever is soonest.

For more general information on how your data is managed by the BSB and on the rights you have over how your data is handled, see our privacy statement at https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/privacy-statement.html

You may also wish to view:

Please note that BTL are acting as a Processor in relation to our candidates’ personal data for both these services.

If you have any questions about how your data will be handled which are not answered above, please contact privacy@barcouncil.org.uk

Practice assessment

A practice assessment will be available on our website within the next few weeks and on Surpass up to two weeks before each exam sitting. We strongly recommend that you use the Surpass system to try a practice assessment as that way you can trial the computer-based exam experience. You should do this whether you have booked to take your exam in a test centre or online. The practice assessment will not be marked. You will only have one opportunity to sit the practice assessment in Surpass.

Not attending or taking a booked assessment

If you are unable to attend a booked assessment and the booking window is open, you can cancel your exam on Scheduler. If the booking window is closed, please email ethicsexam@barstandardboard.org.uk.

If you do not turn up for your assessment – either at a test centre or by not logging into the ProctorExam system at the allocated time – you will have to wait until the next available sitting of the Professional Ethics exam before being able to take your assessment. This will mean a wait of several months. This applies even if you told us about your inability to attend in advance, because, unfortunately, we cannot make alternative arrangements for sittings outside the scheduled dates and times.

If you do not cancel your exam within the timeframes set out above, and if your exam attempt is not subsequently set aside due to extenuating circumstances or another appeal, one of your two free of charge attempts to sit this exam will be used. If you do not cancel your exam within these deadlines, you will be charged a £100 non-attendance fee, unless you make a successful application for an extenuating circumstance (see below).

If your exam is a third or subsequent sit and you do not cancel your exam within the timeframes set out above, and there are no extenuating circumstances you will still be required to pay the fee for a third or subsequent sit in full. You will also be required to pay for any future sits. (See below for applicable fees.)

You will not be permitted to book any future exams if there are outstanding fees on your account.

Changing from a test centre to an online proctored exam

In exceptional circumstances, if you need to change your booking from a test centre exam to an online proctored exam (for example, if you test positive for COVID), please email EthicsExam@barstandardsboard.org.uk at least three working days before your exam.

Please see section below on extenuating circumstances if it is less than three working days before your exam.

Extenuating circumstances

You can apply to us for extenuating circumstances to be taken into account after the exam has taken place if you believe there are reasons why you were unable to sit the exam but you could not give us the requisite notice or if your attempt should be set aside. This could include reasons such as illness, other personal circumstances or technical difficulties experienced during the examination which could not be resolved by the invigilator/proctor or ProctorExam.

To find out more about extenuating circumstances and how to apply for them, please refer to our separate Extenuating Circumstances Policy which is available on our website.

Results

Your result will typically be available eight weeks after taking the exam. Your result will be uploaded to your Bar Training Record on MyBar. Once you have passed the Ethics exam, you will need to authorise your pupil supervisor to view the result on MyBar.

If you have got any questions about the procedures for receiving your results and obtaining feedback, please refer to the Exam Results and Feedback Policy.

Please do not contact us about your result until at least eight weeks after your exam.

  • If your results are not displayed on MyBar after eight weeks from your exam date, contact the BSB via EthicsExam@barstandardsboard.org.uk, provided there is no valid reason for the BSB to withhold the result (eg outstanding fees). 

Request for review

Details about how to request a review of how how your results have been captured and processed will be published here shortly

Appeals

If you wish to appeal against a decision about your adjustments or other arrangements, a decision of the academic misconduct panel, or the decision following your extenuating circumstances application, you can find the process for this on our website.

Professional Ethics Adjustments and other arrangements appeals policy.

Professional Ethics Adjustments and other arrangements appeals form.

Professional Ethics Extenuating circumstances appeals policy.

Re-sits and what happens if you do not pass your assessment by the end of your pupillage period

You must pass your Professional Ethics assessment before your pupil supervisor can sign off your pupillage and before we can issue you with a Full Practising Certificate. If needed, you are permitted to take unlimited resit attempts. However, if you have not passed the Professional Ethics assessment by the end of your pupillage period, what happens next is entirely up to your pupillage provider and should be specified in your written pupillage agreement with them.  

You must book any resit attempts for future sittings by following the same process as described above. If you fail an attempt and choose to resit at the next available sitting, the booking window will open four weeks before the exam and will be open for one week only. This is so that you have time to receive a result from the previous exam.

If you choose to resit at the next available sitting and have a previously agreed adjustment or other arrangement, you will be required to reconfirm your requirements with us before booking your resit exam. This is so that we can ensure your adjustment is correctly implemented for your resit exam.

Your first two attempts to pass the Professional Ethics exam are funded by the BSB from the money we receive from the profession via its annual Practising Certificate Fees.

The fee for third and subsequent resits is £832 per exam.

Your pupillage provider may pay the fee for third and subsequent resits or it may ask you to pay yourself.

Full payment for any third or subsequent sits should be made promptly so that you are able to receive your results at the earliest opportunity. Where payment is pending, results will be withheld until payment is made.

Complaints about your exam

If you want to raise a formal complaint about the quality of service you received from the BSB before, during, or after your exam, please refer to our complaints process. If you have a complaint concerning a technical issue with Surpass or about the exam itself, please email EthicsExam@BarStandardsBoard.org.uk.

Summary of key deadline dates referred to in this Guide

Here is a summary of the key deadline dates for each exam sitting as referred to within this Guide:

  • Nine weeks before the exam: Deadline for notifying us that you will require an adjustment or other arrangement, and if necessary, to provide evidence. Please note you are encouraged to submit your application as early as you can.
  • Eight weeks before the exam: Latest date by which candidates will be informed about decisions regarding adjustments or other arrangements.
  • Seven weeks fore the exam: Exam booking window opens.
  • Five weeks before the exam: Exam booking window closes.
  • Four weeks before the exam: Exam booking window opens for immediate resit attempts (ie for those who sat at the last available sitting).
  • Three weeks before the exam: Deadline for immediate resit candidates to notify us about adjustments or other arrangements before booking their resit.
  • Three weeks before the exam: Exam booking window closes for immediate resit attempts.
  • Two weeks before exam: Latest date by which immediate resit candidates will be informed about decisions regarding adjustments or other arrangements.
  • Two weeks before the exam: Deadline for cancelling an exam booking.
  • Five working days before the exam: System check emails sent to those sitting an online proctored exam. Please ensure you complete a full system check before your exam.
  • Three working days before the exam: Deadline for changing from a test centre exam to an online proctored exam (in exceptional circumstances).
  • Three working days before exam: Email with a link to the actual exam sent to those sitting an online proctored exam. This is the link you will need on the day of your exam.

DAY OF THE EXAM

  • 10 working days after the exam: Deadline for applying for an extenuating circumstance.
  • Eight weeks after the exam: Results available on MyBar.

Glossary of the BSB’s and BTL’s suppliers and their systems referred to in this Guide.

Here is a brief glossary of the different organisations and systems referred to within this Guide:

  • BTL: Our main partner who we have appointed to help us administer and deliver these exams. They are a global provider of assessment technology and services.
  • EventMap: EventMap is the name of BTL’s supplier who provide the Scheduler exam booking system.
  • ProctorExam: The name of BTL’s supplier who provide the ProctorExam online invigilation/proctoring system.
  • Scheduler: Unless told otherwise as part of an agreed adjustment or other arrangement, Scheduler is the booking system in which you will need to book your exam either in a test centre or via online proctoring. Scheduler is maintained and operated by EventMap.
  • Surpass: The online platform in which you will enter your exam responses. Surpass is maintained and operated by BTL. Unless you have an agreed adjustment to sit a pen and paper exam, you will use Surpass irrespective of whether you sit your exam in a test centre or via online proctoring.

New ethics exam for pupils webinar, 6-8pm, 13 January 2022

We would like to invite you to our online webinar between 6-8pm on Thursday 13 January 2022.

The webinar is your chance to find out more about the new centralised assessment in Professional Ethics to be taken by pupils during their pupillage. All pupils who started their Bar Training in 2020 or 2021, or who completed the Bar Transfer Test after August 2021, must take and pass this new exam before they can complete their pupillage. (BPTC graduates are not required to do so, as they have already passed a centralised exam in Ethics, and some transferring qualified lawyers may have been given a waiver by us so may be exempt.)

The first such exam will take place in April 2022, with additional sits scheduled in July and October 2022. From 2023, sits will usually take place in January, April and July.

This webinar is designed especially for Pupil Supervisors and others working within Authorised Education and Training Organisations. It will provide more information about the new exam and how pupils should register and prepare. It will cover topics such as the format of the exam, exam rules, and how it will be marked. We very much hope you will be able to join us.

The webinar will be held on MS Teams. Please register your intention to attend by emailing your name and organisation to exams@barstandardsboard.org.uk

Joining instructions and a link to the Teams invite will be sent to registered attendees closer to the time.

A recording of the event will be made available on our website after the event.

In the meantime, you can find out more about the introduction of the new exam on our website.