Exams for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) will be able to be taken remotely, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has announced.
Following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the BSB delayed the exams, from April until August. The move affected the April sitting of centralised examinations (CEB) in civil litigation, criminal litigation and professional ethics.
The decison led to an outcry from students, who wrote in a to the BSB letter that the delay was “kicking the can down the road rather than developing a substantive solution”.
The BSB has now reiterated that the BPTC exams, along with exams for the Bar Transfer Test (BTT), will occur in August as planned, but that they will take place online, and will be delivered using Pearson VUE’s OnVUE secure global online proctoring solution, which will enable students and transferring qualified lawyers to sit the exams remotely.
The Professional Ethics exams will take place on 13 and 14 August, Civil Litigation on 17 and 18 August and Criminal Litigation 20 and 21 August. Results will now be released in November, with resits scheduled for December this year.
The BSB has also stated that anyone due to complete their BPTC or BTT this summer who has been offered a pupillage will be permitted to start that pupillage in the autumn while awaiting their exam results, provided those offering that pupillage are content for them to do so.
The decision alleviates students’ prior worries that exams might be delayed again and have to take place during pupillage; however, it does not address other stated concerns: namely, that students will to have to begin pupillage without knowing whether their have passed their exams, which they state is an “unfair and implausible arrangement for both chambers and pupils.”
Other issues cited include students who were due to pick up jobs over the summer, who will now not be able to take on shifts due to the added burden of study.
The BSB’s director-general Mark Neale said: “Since the current health emergency began, we have been very conscious at the BSB of the need to support the career prospects of this year’s cohort of Bar students and prospective pupils, while maintaining high standards. Students and transferring qualified lawyers have had to face considerable uncertainty, which we very much regret, and I am delighted that we can now deliver centralised assessments remotely in August with Pearson VUE’s state-of-the-art online proctoring system.
“Allowing students and transferring qualified lawyers to start the non-practising period of their pupillages in the autumn will also enable them to progress while maintaining the robustness of the assessment process. The BPTC and the BTT are gateways to a very respected profession, where high standards of competence are rightly expected, so it is right that standards of entry are maintained even in these most challenging circumstances.”