Bar Course Aptitude Test launched amid student outrage

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  • The condescending arrogance displayed by the BSB with regard to this matter is breathtaking. How can they possibly think it fair to allow students to apply for the BPTC, under the impression that they will have to pay £67 for the test (a rather hefty amount in itself) and then suddenly tell them that, if they wish to proceed further, they will actually have to shell out £150: more than double the suggested amount!

    Furthermore, what are the other professional practice courses that this fee "compares very well to"? The obvious comparison is the LNAT, which, as far as I am aware, only costs £50!

    I say that these fees are excessive, extortionate and unreasonable; and that they do not reflect the true cost of running these tests. If I am wrong in those assertions, then the BSB ought to be able to prove me wrong very easily. Therefore, I challenge them to provide the evidence demonstrating that these charges are reasonable.

    It will, I think, be very interesting to see what, if anything, they care to provide.

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  • The above shows why such a test is required.

    £150 is what 1% of the fees for the year, which seems on the face of it wholly reasonable to me.

    There is a massive over supply of BVC graduates and an under supply of pupils, restricting access to the course to those with the abilities to complete the course has to be a small but positive step. I've seen these tests and by god you'd have to be a muppet to fail one.

    Of course the real problem will remain, i.e. the gross over supply of places.

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  • Seems fair to me.

    There are lots of people who aren't barrister quality who have completed the BVC.

    If this puts even a few of them off, so much the better.

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  • I have to agree with Timothy Westwood above; the huge hike in the fee is completely unacceptable and highly unfair, especially given the estimate we were provided with on application.

    I'm interested in why anonymous thinks that paying even 1% of the course fee acceptable. Also, as the anonymous comment above highlights, the tests won't weed out that many people, so what are we actually paying for? It's not going to solve the problem of too many applicants/BPTC graduates; the only outcome I can see is the BSB making money out of penniless students. So much for trying to increase diversity at the Bar...

    Perhaps a refusal to pay by all applicants might get the message through to the BSB?

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  • As a final year student I could never have afforded to pay the £150 requested by the BSB in order to sit this aptitude test. I had to ask my parents for the £350 that the BSB required for me to apply for the BSB, which was a struggle in itself. I am currently a BPTC student at the College of Law. The standard of students there is quite high to be honest, most students are capable of a Very Competent, and only a few gain a Competent and an Outstanding. I think that law students do not get the credit that they deserve, and actually being a barrister is not that difficult.

    The fact is that being a barrister is a lucrative career, and anyone who wants to be a barrister has the right to go for it. There was a student on my law course who gained a First in his degree and then a First (equivalent) in his masters. This student was previously told that he was not allowed to do GCSEs because his year 9 SATs results were not very good.

    Human intelligence can never be limited to a verbal reasoning tests designed by other humans, who are not even the most intelligent humans at that.

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  • Of the comments above, I am more inclined to side with Timothy and Alice than the two anonymous posters. It does smack very much of retaining the Bar for the rich rather than the deserving - I understand and appreciate the point of the first anonymous poster that the quality of candidates needs to be higher, but I think they both fail to understand that the BSB should be seeking to balance the amount of middle- and upper-class applicants with those not born to such a lofty station rather than ensuring only those who have the Bank of Mummy and Daddy to pay for them.

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  • Here it goes again. Diversity taking one on the chin. Hurt but not down, one could argue.

    The fee will hurt many, but I hope it will not take any casualties.

    Let's take a small portion of the £150 which incorporates the apt' test "available globally(1), and minimising the risk of fraud(2)"

    1) How is this justified? Making something global is a matter of putting it online. Is the fee hike in relation to marketing the apt' test internationally?

    2) Again, how is this justified? Are measures in place such as encryption, when one 'checks-out' to pay? This is not a massive operation and certainly the increase margin doesn't really 'add up', IMHO.

    Another fine mess...

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  • One of the sections of the BCAT is that of evaluating arguments. In other words, you are presented with an argument and a conclusion; and, proceeding on the assumption that the argument made is true, candidates are asked to judge, in effect, whether or not the conclusion actually follows from the argument.

    So let's apply this process to the two anonymous posters above. The second draws the conclusion that the fees are 'fair' due to the need to put off those who aren't of barrister quality. What he forgets, of course, is that whether you have money is no indicator of whether you are of 'barrister quality'. Thus, his argument is extremely weak indeed.

    The first is no better. He says that these fees are 'reasonable' because they are only 1% of the BPTC course fees. Using identical logic, the matter would be reasonable were the students (before proceeding on to the BPTC) being forced to wash Baroness Deech's car - and pay £150 to do so. The point is that it is not enough to consider merely the amount of money being asked for in comparison to the BPTC fees. Rather. one must also look at what the students are being forced to do. And what the students are being forced to do is sit a test that the evidence (ie, the cost of the LNAT) suggests costs nowhere near £150 pp to provide. That is unfair.

    But his reasoning failures continue. For he goes on to make precisely the same mistake as the second anonymous poster, by drawing the same false link between a person's intellectual abilities and their ability to put their hands in their pockets and come up with yet another £150.

    Another BCAT test is that of deduction: namely, working out what conclusions necessarily follow from a given set of facts. The first poster has clearly shown a breathtaking lack of reasoning skills; but, interestingly, he goes on to say:

    "I've seen these tests and by god you'd have to be a muppet to fail one."

    Given this information, I will leave it to the reader to work out the conclusion that does appear to follow from it.

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  • This ridiculously expensive and very basic test won't weed out many people, just those who do not have sufficient funds to apply - the very people the Bar claims to want to attract- or those who are barely literate.
    What price diversity?

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  • The concerns raised here, whether justified or not, or merely a drop in the ocean. The fundamental problem is the BPTC is in the hands of course providers who are largely motiviated by profit, rather than having an eye on the profession as whole. It is simply overpriced relative to the benefit one receives from it (one often has to "unlearn" many of the things taught) and, I have found, it offers little by way of real preparation for pupillage and practice.

    The "over supply" issue is a concern raised consistently, both publically and privately in the profession. However, the question comes down to this: who should decide whether an individual is capable of becoming a barrister? I, for one, would be extremely reluctant for the judge of that to be a BPTC course provider and its employees, many of whom may be of poor quality themselves or have no experience as to the area of practice that the student is interested in. The only relevant criteria for a course provider should be whether the student is capable of passing the course; the question of whether a student is capable of being a pupil and future tenant is, and should be, a matter for chambers. To suggest that the BPTC providers should hold the keys to the profession is, as all those with recent experience will attest, frightening.

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  • Typical bar, jobs for the old boys, diversity what a laugh! About time this closed shop was taken to the cleaners and a truely independant organisation put in control of the bar and the law society. Whats even more funny is some of those setting the rules would never be allowed to qualify now as they dont have the academics, I can think of one prominent QC who got a 3rd at uni and others without any degree!

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  • If you want to improve Bar Standards make the entry exam more demanding.

    If you want to raise more money make the entry exam more expensive.

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  • To qualify as a solicitor or barrister in Northern Ireland, you need to be admitted to the Institute of Legal Practice. The fee for admission, which includes a test, costs £200 for early applications, or £255 for later applications. There has been an admissions test fee in Northern Ireland for a long time (not sure how long, but definitely over ten years). Don't get me wrong, the system in Northern Ireland is far from perfect, but what it does do is avoid the horrendous oversupply of people who have forked out thousands upon thousands of pounds for LPC/BPTC equivalent courses without any realistic prospect of actually getting a job. What the BSB is doing is not without precedent, albeit I'll admit it may not be the best system.

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  • BCAT fees – 150

    BPTC fees – over 15,000

    Let’s argue how unfair BSB is? If we win we get a reduction on the 150 pounds. John McClane would be disappointed.

    How about arguing how unfair are BPTC fees compared with the chances of success in the profession?

    How many hours of paid manhandling does a BCAT paper get from its very first steps – i.e. from most probably when a committee is put together to produce the questions to when the results are given? Printing?

    150 for an exam fee does not seem overly expensive to me. Expensive yes but overly expensive certainly not.

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  • It seems the principal purpose of the BCAT is to filter out candidates so bad that the BPTC providers really have no business letting them onto the course in the first place. If that bottom 10% is such a serious problem then the BSB should be taking the providers to task for not doing their job properly (for £17,000+ it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect the providers to provide an appropriate learning environment), not creating an additional cost to every applicant.

    I am also curious how the providers will deal with applicants who've been made an offer, confirmed and paid their deposit but then fail the BCAT.

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  • Howsabout this then: £150 knocked off the cost of the BPTC? Would you be happy then?

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  • I'm 13 and i'm choosing my options at the moment, i am stumped on what to choose, I've always wanted to be lawyer and I don't know what GCSE'S or A-Levels to take? I was thinking, French, History, Business and enterprise, Media and ICT? please help...

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  • There is an alternative approach to restricting the proportion of applicants to the BPTC - that is, raising the minimum degree requirement to a 2.i. This would have less of an impact on diversity as there would be minimal cost implications. Such an approach would also ensure that the best students were selected from whichever university they attended, supporting wider participation in the profession. However, this suggestion has traditionally been opposed due to variability in the academic rigour of universities and the proportions of different degree classes they award.

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