New compulsory test for prospective Bar students

20 Feb, 2013

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) today announces the introduction of the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) as an entry requirement for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).


A BCAT pass is now a necessary entry requirement onto the BPTC, an essential step towards qualifying as a barrister. Applicants can register for the BCAT from 1 March 2013 and take the test from 3 April 2013.


The BCAT will test students’ critical thinking and reasoning the core skills required for the BPTC.  It is not a test of knowledge and so no studying is required, although practice tests will be available to help students get used to the sort of questions that will be asked.


Chair of the Bar Standards Board, Baroness Ruth Deech said. “Most students who fail the BPTC do so because they struggle with the critical thinking and reasoning required for practical elements of the course. Students role-play court room and client interactions and if someone on the course finds this difficult, it impacts on the learning of all students. 


“The BPTC is a unique course that moulds future barristers, so it is right that we only allow those who can demonstrate key fundamental skills to sign up. The BCAT is a significant intervention to improve the quality of learning for all students on the BPTC.  It will also save prospective candidates the cost of sitting an expensive course they are unlikely to pass.”


The test has been introduced in response to recommendations made by the Bar Vocational Course Review Group, chaired by Derek Wood QC. The report found that nearly half of BPTC students considered that the presence of weak students had affected their learning experience on the course[i].


The BCAT was developed after two years of pilot studies which involved 1800 students taking part in the trials. The results showed a strong correlation between BCAT scores and performance on the course.  Students with high BCAT scores were much more likely to pass the course with a high grade, whereas those with a low score were more likely to fail.  As a result, the minimum passing score for the BCAT was set to exclude only those applicants most likely to fail the course.


Applicants will sit the tests in assessment centres located across the UK and around the world. Practice tests will be available on the Bar Standards Board website from April 2013. Prospective students can register to take the BCAT from 1 March 2013 and sit the test from 3 April 2013. Students hoping to start their BPTC in 2013 will have until the end of July 2013 to pass the BCAT. However, students are advised to take the test sooner rather than later to allow time for retaking the tests.


The test is priced at £150 for UK and EU applicants and £170 for those overseas. Applicants will be able to take the BCAT as many times as they need to, subject to a fixed interval in-between retakes.


Further details including example test questions are available at or students can call 020 7611 1444. 

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