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Bar aptitude test scrapped as it no longer “serves a useful purpose"

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) will abolish the requirement that students should pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) before starting vocational training with effect from July this year.

Following a review of the test's effectiveness and a consultation, the board concluded that the BCAT no longer "serves a useful purpose". However, the Bar Council expressed disappointment in the move, referring to the test as a useful barrier to entry that keeps poorly suited students from embarking on a course "they will struggle to pass".

Passing the BCAT has been an admissions requirement for the Bar Training Course since 2013. It tests aptitude for critical thinking and reasoning with the aim to ensure that those undertaking the course have the ability to succeed.

Commenting on the decision, Mark Fenhalls QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said: "The problem of too many students wasting money embarking on courses they will struggle to pass is on the rise again. We fully support the aims of making sure the Bar is accessible to people from all backgrounds and so we are disappointed that the decision to scrap the BCAT has been made without putting robust alternative provisions in place.

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"The BSB should be doing more to make sure students are not being recruited onto expensive courses that do not lead to successful careers at the Bar."

However, BSB Director General, Mark Neale, said the board no longer think that the BCAT "serves a useful purpose".

He added that Bar training providers must comply fully with the requirements of the Authorisation Framework when selecting their students, and that includes obligations to maintain high standards and to promote accessibility.

He stated: "We shall continue to monitor providers carefully to ensure that their own selection of students is fair and rigorous. 

"To practise as a barrister, those who have completed their vocational training must also complete a period of work- based training, known as pupillage. We want to ensure that training for the Bar is accessible to people from all backgrounds but obtaining a pupillage remains highly competitive so students entering Bar training must have the aptitude to succeed."

The BCAT will cease to be an admission requirement for the Bar Course from 31 July.

Adam Carey

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