The vocational component covers a range of subjects to ensure that you acquire the specialist skills, knowledge of procedure and evidence, attitudes, and competence to prepare you for becoming a barrister. These are outlined in the Professional Statement. There are different ways to satisfy the vocational component:
- a course in one part, which may be full-time over a year or part-time over a longer period, similar to the old Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC);
- a course in two parts, which may involve face-to-face teaching for both parts or may involve self-study only for one of the parts, and
- a longer course which combines study of the subjects of the vocational component with an undergraduate degree in law.
These courses may form part of an academic qualification such as an LLM.
You can view a list of Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs) offering the vocational component of Bar training on this webpage. You can also find information about the success rates for students and Bar vocational training providers under the previous vocational training arrangements here.
You can read more about our Curriculum and Assessment Strategy on this webpage.
In additional to meeting the requirements of the academic component, there are some entry requirements which you must satisfy in order to begin the vocational component.
- Passing the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT – the BCAT tests your aptitude for critical thinking and reasoning; it does not test legal knowledge. Its aim is to ensure that those undertaking the Vocational Component of training have the aptitude to succeed. The test consists of 60 multiple choice questions, lasts 55 minutes and is completed on a computer at a test centre. The current cost of the BCAT is £150 if taken inside the EU, and £170 if taken outside the EU.
Following a review of its effectiveness as a test of suitability for enrolment on the vocational component of Bar training, and an extensive consultation exercise, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has decided, at its meeting on 31 March 2022, that it will seek approval from the Legal Services Board (LSB) to discontinue the requirement that students should take the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT). An application to the LSB will now be made so that the decision can be implemented. Meanwhile the BCAT remains a requirement for entry onto a Bar training course. A timeline for the implementation of the decision will be set out shortly. For those thinking about enrolling on a Bar training course this summer or autumn, July is likely to be the earliest the BCAT could be withdrawn as an entry requirement for their chosen course.
- Joining an Inn of Court - you will need to join one of the four Inns of Court before you start the vocational component. The Inns of Court are the professional associations for barristers in England and Wales. Your Inn will "Call" you to the Bar after you have successfully passed a Bar training course and completed ten "qualifying sessions" at your Inn.
- Being fluent in English.
A Bar training course involves taking centralised assessments, which are exams set and marked by us, as well as exams set and marked locally by an Authorised Education and Training Organisation (AETO) delivering the course.
If you started a BPTC in, or before, September 2019 and have yet to complete it, you need to be aware that changes to some assessments started to come into force from September 2020. More information on how you may be affected can be found on our page on transitional arrangements.
Reporting a concern
If you are a student on a Bar training course and you have a concern about your AETO, you should follow your institution’s internal complaints procedures. If you are unhappy with the outcome of that complaints process, you may be eligible to submit your concern to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator. We cannot get involved in complaints on behalf of individuals. However, if you would like to tell us something, you can use our Online Reporting Form or use this Word version of the form and email it to us at email@example.com or post it to us at: The Bar Standards Board, 289-293 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7HZ.The rules and requirements relating to the vocational component of training can be found in Part 3 of the Bar Qualification Manual.