Following a review of its effectiveness as a test of suitability for enrolment on the vocational component of Bar training, and an extensive consultation exercise, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has decided, at its meeting on 31 March 2022, that it will seek approval from the Legal Services Board (LSB) to discontinue the requirement that students should take the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT).
An application to the LSB will now be made so that the decision can be implemented. Meanwhile the BCAT remains a requirement for entry onto a Bar training course. A timeline for the implementation of the decision will be set out shortly. For those thinking about enrolling on a Bar training course this summer or autumn, July is likely to be the earliest the BCAT could be withdrawn as an entry requirement for their chosen course.
The BCAT was introduced in 2013 at a time when it was found that too many students who had little prospect of successfully completing vocational Bar training were being enrolled on courses. BCAT scores have been a reliable predictor of performance on previous vocational training courses but the BSB’s latest review found that the BCAT is no longer necessary as a prerequisite for enrolment, given that providers of Bar training are now taking a more selective approach in accepting students for training. With the introduction of the new Bar Qualification Rules in 2019, and the new Authorisation Framework, which supports those rules, course providers are now required to have clear and robust admissions policies giving due regard to the principles of the BSB’s Bar Training reforms which include high standards. The BSB believes that these changes have proved to be much more effective than the BCAT at ensuring that training providers only admit students with the aptitude to succeed on a Bar training course.
BSB Director General, Mark Neale, said:
“Our reforms to Bar training rightly place the onus on vocational training providers to ensure that they only enrol students who have a good chance of passing the course. So while we no longer think that the Bar Course Aptitude Test is necessary, we will be monitoring providers carefully to ensure that their own selection of students is fair and rigorous. Entry to the profession remains extremely competitive and students who want to go on to pupillage must be able to perform well on their vocational training course.”