FAQs for Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) Students

Following the publication of our announcement on 13 May, we are receiving a high volume of queries from students. We understand that you are keen for more detail, but you will receive this in due course via your provider. We wanted to let you know as early as possible that there would definitely be an opportunity to take the exams in August. We now need to be able to get on with planning for these exams and with liaising with providers to understand any reasonable adjustments that you may need. The BSB is therefore unable to respond to individuals at this time but you may find the answer to your question in the FAQs below which we will be regularly updating.

I am close to finishing my BPTC and now my university is closed. What’s going to happen about my course?

Your university should be keeping you informed about what is happening and what you should do. BPTC providers are working hard to provide support and to deliver teaching where possible through their Virtual Learning Environments. Information about assessments (both the BSB centralised assessments and the provider-set assessments) at the end of the course is given in other FAQs on this page.

Has the BSB’s attendance requirement for BPTC students been scrapped?

The BSB has advised BPTC providers that it recognises that face-to-face teaching has now ceased and that virtual methods of delivery are being used where possible. We have asked providers to use their discretion to allow participation in the course in a virtual environment to count as attendance. Non-engagement with the course will still count as non-attendance. If you are unable to engage because you are unwell, you should talk to your BPTC provider.

The BPTC centralised exams In Civil Litigation, Criminal Litigation and Professional Ethics that I should have sat in April were postponed. When will I next be able to take the BSB centralised exams?

In view of the current situation with Covid-19 and in line with government advice, we took the difficult decision to postpone the April sitting of the BSB’s centralised exams and that the next scheduled opportunity to take the exams would be in August 2020.

We have now confirmed that the exams will take place in August, and will be computer-based examinations. They will be delivered using Pearson VUE’s OnVUE secure global online proctoring system, which will enable students and transferring qualified lawyers to sit the exams remotely.

We have signed a contract with Pearson VUE to deliver the August assessments via OnVUE its online proctoring solution. OnVUE uses a combination of artificial intelligence and live monitoring to ensure the exam is robustly guarded, deploying sophisticated security features such as face-matching technology, ID verification, session monitoring, browser lockdown and recordings.

Such robust security measures provide assurance to students (both past and present), the profession, and the public who will rely on the services provided by these future barristers, that the 2020 cohort of BPTC graduates will have been assessed to as high a standard as those in previous years as they will have taken the exams that they were intended to take in a secure environment. The revised arrangements are fully supported and endorsed by the BPTC providers.

The remote centralised exams will take place on the following dates:

  • 13 and 14 August - Professional Ethics
  • 17 and 18 August - Civil Litigation
  • 20 and 21 August - Criminal Litigation

Students will receive instructions for sitting the exams from their BPTC provider in due course, so it is very important for them to look out for communications from their provider. The exams can be sat remotely or, in certain cases, at an extensive network of Pearson VUE’s physical testing centres around the world (subject to local health and safety guidance and prevailing restrictions at the time of the exams). Providers will be in touch with students to determine what reasonable adjustments they may need.

Full BPTC and BTT results – including both the centralised and provider-set assessments - will be issued to students at the beginning of November. We have scheduled a new BPTC and BTT exam sitting in December 2020 to enable students, where necessary, to resit any of the centralised assessments.

Since the current health emergency began, we have been very conscious of the need to support both the safety and career prospects of this year’s cohort of Bar students and prospective pupils. Students and transferring qualified lawyers have had to face considerable uncertainty, which we very much regret, and we are delighted that we can now deliver centralised assessments remotely in August with Pearson VUE’s state-of-the-art online proctoring solution.

How do I register to take the centralised exams in August?

It is not possible to register to take these exams yet and we will be providing further information in the coming weeks. Students should look out for communications from their BPTC providers, as it will be important to respond to these promptly.

Will you be able to make reasonable and other adjustments if I can’t take the exams online?

As the delivery mode of the exams has changed, we have asked the BPTC Providers to conduct an urgent reassessment of their students’ equality and diversity needs. Your BPTC provider will be in contact with you shortly and you should discuss your individual needs with them in the first instance. We are working very closely with the BPTC providers and Pearson VUE on this. You may wish to talk to your BPTC provider if you are considering not taking the exams at this sitting.

Our Examinations Team is managing our relationship with Pearson VUE, who will deliver the exams, and is acutely aware of the implications for accessibility.

It is possible that the remote proctoring solution will not best serve all students and the reassessment conducted by providers will give us the information we need to determine how best to assist those students.

There is an additional layer of complexity/challenge, in that we do not know what restrictions will be in place to control COVID-19 in August. Hopefully restrictions will continue to be relaxed. This means some of the potential barriers to access become easy to address, but we need to prepare for the possibility that they will not relax if the virus infection rate picks up again.

We are committed to working with all those in need of reasonable adjustments and relevant experts, providers and others as we prepare to deliver the exams, in line with the Public Sector Equality Duty and our duty to make reasonable adjustments and our wider commitment to accessibility.

We know there will be challenges due to the exceptional circumstances and the range of disabilities that may be impacted by remote proctored exams. 

What happens if a noise is detected outside of my control, such as a dog barking or the doorbell ringing, while I am taking my exam via the remote proctoring system? Will my session be automatically terminated?

No. If the ONVue system detects a noise while a student is sitting an exam this will alert a human proctor who, if an infringement is detected, will attempt to notify the candidate to take corrective measures. An extraneous noise will not therefore automatically end an exam as only a live proctor can terminate a session and this will only happen if there has been a clear infringement of the rules.  

Remote proctoring involves processing special category data – including using facial comparison technology and automatic processing of data. How can I be sure you are processing my data safely?

All data is encrypted while held in storage by, or in transit, from Pearson VUE. Pearson VUE systems comply with GDPR.

Data collected to verify identity are not retained by Pearson VUE for very long – for candidates in the UK or EU, their ID documents will be deleted straight away, their photos deleted within 30 days and their video images deleted within 24 hours.

Pearson VUE is an American company and they store data in the US, but the company maintains certification for and complies with the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework and so meets GDPR requirements. Here is their privacy statement.

I haven’t yet finished taking the exams that my provider sets – what is happening with those?

We have been working closely with BPTC providers and their External Examiners who quality-assure provider assessments on behalf of the BSB to consider the alternative arrangements that they are proposing for their own assessments. We are taking care to ensure that there is consistency and fairness across providers in what is offered. BPTC providers should by now have been in touch with their own students about the alternative arrangements for their own assessments.

Will students taking the BPTC find it easier to pass the course than in previous years because of all the alternative arrangements that are being put in place?

No. We have been very clear that while we will do all we can to enable BPTC providers and students to find alternative means of completing the course, this flexibility must not be at the expense of high standards and the integrity of the professional qualification. Our ultimate duty to protect the public must prevail, and the value of the award to the student must not be diminished.

Pearson VUE’s robust security measures provide assurance that the 2020 cohort of BPTC graduates will have been assessed to as high a standard as those in previous years as they will have taken the exams that they were intended to take in a secure environment. The revised arrangements are fully supported and endorsed by the BPTC providers.

Are the Inns operating?

Yes, though their buildings are 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. Your Inn may allow awards made in 2020 to be deferred if course dates change.

What will happen about Qualifying Sessions?

The Inns have begun to deliver some of their Qualifying Sessions remotely. See the Inns’ websites for details of what is available.

What arrangements are the Inns making about Call ceremonies?

We are working closely with the Inns who are making contingency plans for Call ceremonies following the centralised assessments. It is possible to start the non-practising period of pupillage before being Called.

I was supposed to start pupillage in autumn 2020. If I haven’t finished the BPTC will I still be able to start pupillage?

Given the exceptional circumstances and the fact that you will not know your BPTC or BTT result when your pupillage is due to start, we have waived the usual requirement that only those who have been confirmed as having successfully passed a BPTC or BTT may start the non-practising period of pupillage. We are encouraging pupillage providers to allow people to progress as planned to pupillage pending the release of the BPTC and BTT results in early November and on 13 May, published guidance to them and on the factors to consider when taking that decision. You should contact the chambers/organisation that has offered you pupillage and discuss your circumstances with them so they can make a decision about your pupillage.

The requirement to complete vocational training and be Called to the Bar will remain in order to commence the practising period of pupillage. Although the current lockdown may affect the number of pupillages which can be offered, we hope that as many as possible will remain available.

I am going to sit the centralised exams in August 2020. When will I get my BPTC results?

The BPTC results will be released in early November.

FAQs for Bar training students intending to commence new Bar training courses in autumn 2020

I am just finishing my undergraduate law degree/Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) but haven’t been able to do my final exams. Will that stop me being able to go on to train for the Bar?

We recognise that universities are doing all they can to enable students to complete their undergraduate awards under the current challenging circumstances and while the universities themselves are closed. Under our requirements, universities are free to determine how and when students should be assessed. There is no change to the BSB and SRA requirement that the Foundations of Legal Knowledge subjects must be studied and assessments in those subjects successfully passed. This may include alternative forms of assessment.

My undergraduate university has introduced a "no detriment" policy as part of its alternative measures to enable me to complete my undergraduate degree. Does this mean my degree won’t count for completion of the academic component of Bar training, or that the classification won’t be recognised?

The BSB’s requirement is that the Foundations of Legal Knowledge subjects must be assessed and passed. As long as this is the case, your degree will be compliant with the requirements of the Academic Component. The BSB does not prescribe how universities calculate their degree classifications, so the classification given by your university under current special arrangements will stand.

I have a place to start one of the new Bar training courses later in 2020. Will I be able to start it?

Information about new Bar training courses will be given by the AETO so they should be the first point of contact for what the arrangements will be as the situation evolves.

I haven’t been able to take the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) because the test centres are closed. What will happen if I can’t take it by the time I’m due to start my Bar training course?

Those students intending to start their Bar training on one of the new authorised pathways starting in September will be able to sit the BCAT under the same remote proctored conditions being used for the August BPTC and BTT centralised assessments. Some students have already taken the BCAT, but registrations were suspended when the test centres closed under lockdown.

It is anticipated that the BCAT will reopen for registrations before the start of June. The BCAT can then be taken via OnVUE, Pearson VUE’s online proctoring solution, or at a test centre where these are available. The BCAT remains an entry requirement for the vocational component of Bar training.

FAQs for Bar Transfer Test (BTT) candidates

What is happening with the deferred April sit for Bar Transfer Test candidates?

Earlier in the pandemic, BPP deferred all April candidates on the BTT to sit the test in August. It has now been confirmed that the centralised exams for the August BTT will be computer-based examinations. The BSB exams will be delivered using Pearson VUE’s OnVUE secure global online proctoring system, which will enable students and transferring qualified lawyers to sit the exams remotely. More information about OnVUE is provided in the questions above for BPTC students.

Fees paid for the April sitting will be carried forward. If a candidate cannot attend in August, BPP will consider a refund (if evidence is provided) and each claim will be considered on a case by case basis.

I am supposed to take the exams within a period of two years from the BSB’s decision letter that I got when I applied to transfer to the Bar of England and Wales. Will I get an extension as I haven’t been able to take the exams?

We will consider fee waiver requests on a case-by-case basis where an extension is needed directly because of issues relating to the Covid-19 situation. The period of authorisation should allow a candidate at least three, and possibly four, opportunities to take the Test.

How can current UK Law Degree and GDL students progress to the vocational component of Bar training (ie a Bar Training Course) before completing the academic component?

We have now issued an updated waiver application form and guidelines to permit current UK Law Degree and GDL students to progress to the vocational component of Bar training (i.e. a Bar Training Course) before completing the academic component.

This waiver will allow students to start a Bar Training Course when they have results outstanding in a maximum of two subjects on a UK Law Degree or GDL. The final results for any outstanding subjects must be known by 1 December of the year in which the student commences their Bar Training Course. There will be no fees payable for this application for students affected by the COVID-19 lockdown.

The application form and guidelines are available on the following page of the BSB website, under the section ‘For current and prospective students’ – it is the first application listed in this section.