Bar set to scrap student aptitude test
By Gazette Reporter >>
(4 April 2022)
The bar is set to scrap a much-criticised student aptitude test because it has not been operating as an effective filter to the profession’s formal training course.
The Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) was introduced in 2013 because the number of students failing the bar training course was deemed too high. Aspiring barristers must pass the test before beginning formal bar training.
However, analysis has shown that fewer than 1% of candidates who took – or retook – the assessment between 2013 and 2019 failed. Excluding retakes, the failure rate has hovered at around 3%.
Last Friday the Bar Standards Board said that, following a review and subject to the approval of the Legal Services Board, it plans to scrap the test this summer. With the introduction of new Bar Qualification Rules in 2019, training providers are now required to have ‘clear and robust’ admissions policies and be more selective, the BSB stressed. The aptitude test is therefore considered redundant.
BSB director general Mark Neale said: ‘Our reforms to bar training place the onus on vocational training providers to ensure that they only enrol students who have a good chance of passing the course. So while we no longer think that the [BCAT] is necessary, we will be monitoring providers carefully to ensure that their own selection of students is fair and rigorous. Students who want to go on to pupillage must be able to perform well on their vocational training course.’
Students currently pay £150 to sit the aptitude test in the UK and £170 abroad. July is likely to be the earliest the BCAT could be withdrawn as an entry requirement for bar training, the BSB said.
Concerns remain that the bar is severely oversubscribed, with thousands of students completing the bar training course – which costs up to £14,000 – only to find no pupillages available. Last year 3,301 candidates applied for just 246 positions via the pupillage gateway.
(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)