Vocational stage

The second stage of training to become a barrister is the vocational stage. This takes the form of the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), which can either be taken over one year full time or two years part time; the latter of which allows time for students to carry out paid work and gain useful legal experience. 

The BPTC aims to give students the skills required for a career at the Bar. It is primarily a practical course including plenty of advocacy and role-playing, as well as exercises in drafting legal documents and writing opinions.

As well as completing a law degree or equivalent qualifications, students must successfully pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) and join an Inn of Court before commencing the BPTC.

Bar Course Aptitude Test

Before starting the BPTC, you must successfully pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT). This tests students' critical thinking and reasoning, the core skills required for the BPTC. The aim of the BCAT is to ensure that those undertaking the BPTC have the required skills to succeed. Information is available on the  Bar Standards Board website.

Course Content

The main skills taught on the Bar Professional Training Course are:

  • Case work skills:
    • Case preparation, and
    • Legal research
  • Written Skills
    • Opinion-writing (giving written advice on cases), and
    • Drafting (writing various types of documents required for litigation)
  • Interpersonal skills
    • Conference skills (interviewing clients)
    • Negotiation, and
    • Advocacy (court or tribunal appearances)
  • Legal knowledge
    • Civil litigation and remedies
    • Criminal litigation and sentencing
    • Evidence
    • Professional ethics, and
    • Two optional subjects, selected from a choice of at least six.


Assessment takes several forms and may differ between institutions. Key areas of knowledge are often assessed through multiple choice tests. Written skills are evaluated by means of written papers, whilst advocacy, negotiation and conference skills may be appraised by video-recorded performances of practical exercises.

How to Apply

Applications for the BPTC take place online, through a centralised system known as the Bar Student Application Service. The service lists approved BPTC providers; prospective students can apply to up to three courses, indicating an order of preference.

Applications should be made early in the academic year before commencement of the BPTC (i.e. the first term of the GDL or of the final year of a law degree). Students should consider carefully the teaching and assessment methods at each provider when choosing where to study