BSB will not reinstate spring BPTC exams

updated on 01 April 2020

Despite pressure from students, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) will not reinstate spring Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) exams. The regulator said it would be impossible to create a “suitable, secure alternative” to in-person assessments by April.

BSB director general Mark Neale responded to a letter from Bar students to confirm that centralised examinations will not take place until August. He also said: “The integrity of the assessments is paramount; we must be able to reassure stakeholders that learning outcomes have been assessed and standards have been maintained.”

Earlier in March, 200 students on the BPTC warned the BSB of the “significant long-term effects” that postponing exams would have on students. According to the Law Gazette, the students stated that the “indeterminate” delays would result in students sitting exams during pupillage, which they argued is “an unreasonable, excessive, and avoidable burden on pupils.”

Neale said the BSB is “very conscious of the difficulties students may face if examinations are postponed indefinitely” but it is “not possible to set up a suitable, secure alternative to a physical sit of the exams by April”. Outlining the BSB’s thinking, he added: “We hope that the exams scheduled from August onwards are able to go ahead as planned. However, we are aware that the situation is changing rapidly and we cannot know what circumstances will prevail in August. We are working on contingency plans in the event the August sit is not possible.”

Responding to reports that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has relaxed its supervision requirements for LPC exams, Neale said that “the SRA does not set and mark the LPC exams as we do with the centralised examinations” so it would be unfair to directly compare the decisions.