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 have now published a detailed candidates’ guide to taking the centralised assessments in August.

We are unable to respond to individuals at this time but you may find the answer to your question in the Guide or in the FAQs below.

Please do not contact us about your examination arrangements as we are not in a position to discuss these with individuals. BPTC/BTT providers have all been given clear instructions about how to advise students. Contacting us will only delay us in the work we need to do to deliver the exams. Thank you.

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 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 and its global network of physical testing centres. This will enable students and transferring qualified lawyers to sit the exams in August.

On 29 June, we published a detailed guide for candidates taking these centralised assessments. You can view this guide here

We have signed a contract with Pearson VUE to deliver the August assessments via OnVUE its online proctoring solution and at its network of test centres. 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 centralised exams will take place on the following dates:

  • 11, 12, 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 from Wednesday 1 July, so it is very important for them to look out for communications from their provider.

The exams can be sat remotely or at an extensive network of Pearson VUE’s physical test centres around the world (subject to local health and safety guidance and prevailing restrictions at the time of the exams). Providers are in discussion with students requiring reasonable adjustments.

Any student whose needs we assess as being best met in a test centre will not need to take their exam remotely via the OnVUE solution. Breaks, for example, will be permitted in test centres. Indeed, test centre bookings will be available more widely, depending on students’ other needs. Priority will be given to those who require reasonable adjustments or who have a specific need to take their exams in a test centre, however, and others may not always be able to attend the test centre nearest to them. Pearson VUE has the largest and most widely available network of local centres in the UK and globally. Please refer to the candidates’ guide for further information. 

Civil and Criminal Litigation results will be made available to students via their providers on Friday 9 October. This is a month earlier than previously announced. This means anyone due to start a pupillage in October should only be awaiting their Professional Ethics result – which will be made available from your provider on Friday 6 November - by the time they start their pupillage.

Full and final BPTC and BTT results – including all of 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 will be able to deliver the centralised assessments in August.

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

Information on how to confirm arrangements for taking the centralised assessments can be found within our candidates’ guide. Please follow the instructions which you will receive from your BPTC/BTT provider.

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. Students should follow their provider’s instructions to make sure that the arrangements necessary to meet their needs are in place. Further information for students requiring reasonable adjustments is contained within the candidates’ guide.   

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. Those students who can show that they have specific needs which cannot be catered for, will not be required to use the remote proctoring system, OnVUE, as they will be able to take the exams in a physical test centre. We are also discussing with providers the possibility of other venues being available to take the assessment if one of the Pearson VUE test centres is not a suitable option for a candidate.

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.

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?

Civil and Criminal Litigation results will now be made available to students via their providers on Friday 9 October. This is a month earlier than previously announced. Professional Ethics results will be made available on Friday 6 November.

This means anyone due to start a pupillage in October should only be awaiting their Professional Ethics result by the time they start their pupillage.

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 registrations were suspended. How will I be able to 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 are able to sit the BCAT under the same remote proctored conditions being used for the August BPTC and BTT centralised assessments. 

The BCAT reopened for registrations on 29 May. The BCAT can be taken via OnVUE, Pearson VUE’s online proctoring solution, or at a test centre where these are available. To register to take the BCAT, please visit: https://home.pearsonvue.com/bsb The BCAT remains an entry requirement for the vocational component of Bar training.

I registered for the BCAT before registrations were suspended but have been unable to take the test because of the lockdown. When will I be able to complete my test?

Please contact Pearson VUE to book or rebook your sitting of the BCAT. You will now be able to take your test either through OnVUE – the remote proctoring solution – or at a physical test centre where these are available. There will be no additional charges to rebook your sitting.

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 and its global network of physical test centres. This will enable students and transferring qualified lawyers to sit the exams in August. More information is provided in the questions above for BPTC students.

For more information about taking the centralised assessments in August, please refer to our candidates’ guide.

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.