BSB puts aptitude test on ice for a year

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has delayed the introduction of its Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) aptitude test by a year.

James Wakefield
James Wakefield

The BSB launched its review of the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) in 2007, appointing Falcon Court Chambers’ Derek Wood QC to investigate whether the system was fit for purpose (2 November 2007).

Wood proposed that the BVC should be renamed BPTC and that an aptitude test be introduced to address the growing gap between the number of students applying for the bar course and those actually getting a pupillage.

The BSB responded by piloting the scheme in 2009 with 300 student volunteers. But an Office of Fair Trading report released in July that year said the Government would prefer a voluntary aptitude test, as restricting pupils entering the BVC will ultimately lead to “decreased quality and availability and increased prices in the final market for advocacy services”.

A second pilot is currently underway with 1,600 students participating. The pilot will close in October. Any proposals will then need to be approved by the LSB, the BSB said, leading to the delay in the implementation of the scheme, which will now be introduced in the autumn of 2012.

BSB chair Baroness Ruth Deech said: “We’re in no doubt that the aptitude test needs to be thoroughly piloted and have therefore amended our timetable to make sure that this is the case.

“This is not something that can be rushed, we’re happy to extend our timelines to ensure that those relying on the test in the future can have complete faith in it.”

James Wakefield, head of Kaplan’s BPTC, said: “I strongly the support the introduction of an aptitude test for those considering a career at the bar. It’s a real shame that this is being delayed another year but clearly the BSB want to get this right. Anything that can be done to make sure only the right people commit to such a course is welcome.”

“At Kaplan we believe in being rigorous with admissions and will continue to require all shortlisted applicants to undertake an interview, oral advocacy exercise and written test. This helps both Kaplan, and more importantly the candidate, check that this is the right profession for them,” added Wakefield.

The regulator said it would only decide whether the test is fit for purpose after it has analysed the results of the pilot scheme.