I am unable to comply with the identification requirements that are needed for a criminal records check that has to be undertaken prior to Call because I am currently overseas

As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 health emergency, some international students, or those currently practising overseas who are looking to transfer to the Bar of England and Wales, may be unable to comply with the identification requirements necessary for the criminal record checks to be undertaken prior to their Call to the Bar ceremony. The BSB, therefore, is providing a waiver from the requirement to have criminal record checks undertaken for candidates for Call to the Bar in certain circumstances. Please read the Waiver criteria and guidelines for Criminal Record Checks for Inns’ student members applying for Call in 2021 to see if the waiver applies to you and, if so, what you need to do to apply. The application for a waiver should be made directly to your Inn, not to the Bar Standards Board. It is essential that you read this information carefully in order to prevent any delay to your Call.


For students on one of the new Bar training courses

Please contact your course provider– and not the BSB – about arrangements for your 2021 Bar training exams.

An independent review of the August 2020 exams was commissioned and we published its report and an Action Plan on 6 May 2021. You can read more about this on our website.  

For Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) Students

Please contact your AETO – and not the BSB – about arrangements for your 2021 exams.

What were the findings of the independent review of last August’s exams?

The report of the independent review of last August’s exams which was conducted by Professor Becky Huxley-Binns was published on 6 May 2021. It is available here on our website.

The Review found that the difficulties experienced by candidates sitting the August 2020 examinations were due to a variety of factors which are explained in the report. The Review also contains a number of recommendations. 

What was the BSB’s response to the findings of the independent review?

In response to the recommendations made in the independent review, we also published an Action Plan to ensure that we act upon those recommendations. The Action Plan is grouped into five main themes and includes measures to:

  • improve our communication and engagement with students and training providers during the exams process;
  • make the centralised assessments more accessible and inclusive especially for those who need reasonable adjustments;
  • make our approach to policy and process development in this area more inclusive by improving our engagement with key stakeholders;
  • introduce a critical incidents policy and improve data protection and project management; and
  • clarify the roles and responsibilities of the BSB and training providers in the management of the centralised exams and, where we contract with a third party supplier, to hold external parties to account in a more structured and formal way with clearer service expectations and performance measures.

We would like to repeat our apology to all those students who faced difficulties completing their exams. Our Chair, Baroness Tessa Blackstone, made a full statement when the report of the independent review was published on 6 May 2021. You can read this statement here.

Are the Inns operating?

Yes, though their buildings may be closed. See the Inns’ websites.

Can I still join an Inn?

Yes, the Inns are still processing admissions. See the Inns’ websites.

Will the Inns still be awarding scholarships?

Yes, the award of scholarships is unaffected though the selection process may be amended.

What is happening about Qualifying Sessions?

The Inns are now delivering some of their Qualifying Sessions remotely. See the Inns’ websites for details of what is available.

Will there still be a five-year time limit for starting pupillage after completing the BPTC or will this be suspended?

The five-year time limit set out in the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy remains in force. Prospective pupils who came to the end of their five-year period by the end of December 2020 and have been unable to obtain pupillage this year due to COVID-19 will be able to apply to the BSB for Dispensation from the time limit without paying an application fee. 

FAQs for Bar Transfer Test (BTT) candidates

New arrangements for Transferring Qualified Lawyers have been published and can be found here.