FAQs for students on one of the new Bar training courses

Following the government’s announcement on 4 January 2021, will my assessments go ahead as planned and/or will they be moved to remotely-sat computer-based exams?

As you will be aware, you are due to sit several exams in the first few months of 2021. There are some face-to-face assessments set by your course provider (we call providers Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs)) which as a result of the government’s announcement on 4 January may have to be rescheduled later in the year, and BSB-set centralised assessments in Criminal Litigation and Civil Litigation which are due to take place in the Spring. AETOs are responsible for the running of all these exams including the 2021 centralised-exams, so it is their decision as to whether all or some of these exams are held as computer-based examinations.

In mid-December 2020, we issued guidance to all vocational AETOs to enable them to deliver both the AETO-set and the BSB-set centralised assessments online.

Under the guidance, AETOs can choose to use computer-based exams for their own provider-set assessments prior to the BSB-set assessments on a pilot basis, provided they have registered their intentions with us.

Any future computer-based assessments, including where necessary for the BSB-set centralised exams in Spring 2021 will require our formal approval in the light of lessons learned from pilots where they have taken place. All approvals will be subject to a satisfactory Equality Impact Assessment being undertaken by the AETO.

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


When will we know the final results of the exams we sat in December?

The results of the December 2020 Litigation exams will be released to course providers at the end of January 2021. You should contact your course provider to confirm the precise date on which results will be released to you.  


FAQs for Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) Students

Following the government’s announcement on 4 January 2021, if I need to resit any of my BPTC or BTT exams, will these go ahead as planned and/or will they be moved to remotely-sat computer-based exams?

AETOs are responsible for the running of any resit exams, so it is their decision as to whether they are held as computer-based examinations.

In mid-December 2020, we issued guidance to all vocational AETOs to enable them to deliver both the AETO-set and the BSB-set centralised assessments (including any resits) online.

Under the guidance, AETOs can choose to use computer-based exams for their own provider-set assessments prior to the BSB-set assessments on a pilot basis, provided they have registered their intentions with us.

Any future computer-based assessments will require our formal approval in the light of lessons learned from pilots where they have taken place. All approvals will be subject to a satisfactory Equality Impact Assessment being undertaken by the AETO.

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


When will we know the final results of the October sitting?

The definitive result for anyone taking centralised assessments in August and October will be whichever is the better performance from the August or October 2020 sit. Providers released the Civil and Criminal Litigation results of the August 2020 sit on Monday 12 October and the results of the October 2020 sit on Friday 27 November 2020. They released the Professional Ethics results of the August 2020 sit on Friday 6 November and will release the results of the October 2020 sit in the week commencing 18 January 2021 (Students should contact their Providers to confirm the precise date).


When will we know the final results of the December sitting?

We also scheduled and ran an in-person BPTC and BTT exam sitting in December 2020. The results of the Litigation exams will be released to course providers at the end of January 2021. The Professional Ethics results will be released to course providers at the end of February 2021. (Students should contact their course provider to confirm the precise date on which results will be released to them).  


Please contact your course provider and not the BSB about your examination arrangements as we are not in a position to discuss these with individuals.


When will the Chair of the Centralised Examinations Board (CEB)’s report for the August and October exams be available?

To ensure the transparency of the centralised examinations, the Chair of the CEB publishes a report for each of the examination cycles, detailing statistical data for each sit and interventions (if any) approved by the Board of Examiners and applied to each of the three knowledge areas: Professional Ethics, Civil Litigation and Criminal Litigation.

There will be one Chair’s report that covers both the August and October 2020 examinations. This is because, as we have previously explained, these two opportunities have been treated as one sit. This was in acknowledgement of the issues faced by students attempting to take computer-based exams in August 2020; the October opportunity was provided as a means of global mitigation for the difficulties faced by some students. Those who chose to avail themselves of both the August and October opportunities will be able to keep the highest of the two marks as at the time of taking the assessments they were unaware of their marks. It is therefore logical for the Chair to write one report covering both opportunities.

Requests for a review of a decision made by the CEB can only be made after the publication of the Chair’s report. This means that requests for review of decisions made following both the August and October 2020 examinations may not be made until the report covering both is published in mid February 2021. Further details about requests for review can be found here.


When will the Huxley-Binns Review be published?

The independent review of last August’s exams which is being conducted by Professor Becky Huxley-Binns will be considered by the BSB’s Governance, Risk and Audit Committee on 23 February and by our full Board on 18 March. It will be published soon afterwards.


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. Your Inn may allow awards made in 2020 to be deferred if course dates change.


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.


I was supposed to start pupillage in Autumn 2020. As I didn't finish the BPTC in time will I still be able to start pupillage at a later date?

Given the exceptional circumstances and the fact that you did not know your BPTC or BTT result when your pupillage was due to start, we 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 following the release of the 2020 BPTC and BTT results and on 13 May 2020, 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. On 8 September, we published a report on the impact of Covid-19 on pupillage which you can read more about here.


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

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.