Reforms to Bar test 'inadequate' says Bar Council

10 March 2016

Despite recently announced changes to the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT), which include raising the pass mark, the Bar Council believes the test is still inadequate as a mechanism to filter applicants who have no prospect of obtaining pupillage or practising as a barrister.

Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, Chairman of the Bar, said: "Over 1,500 students enrol on the BPTC each year, which costs between £12,000 and £19,000 in tuition fees alone, but there are only around 400 pupillages available.

"One of the messages I hear consistently on circuit visits is that the system is producing large numbers of applicants who have little or no prospect of obtaining pupillage or practising as a barrister. These arrangements build false hope for too many students at too high a cost."

A summary of the changes indicates that a pass mark of 45 applied to the 2013/14 BCAT cohort would have reduced the number of students progressing onto the BPTC by 16.6%. The review also suggests that providing an actual score for the BCAT, rather than a simple pass or fail grade, will give students a good indication of how well they will do on the BPTC, as there is a positive correlation between the results.

Bar Council Policy Analyst Alex Cisneros, said: "Judging by past results, increasing the pass mark to 45 could reduce the number of students who pass by around 16%, which is not a sufficient change to address the problem properly. If the BCAT is to serve a gatekeeping function, it must filter out students who have no reasonable prospect of obtaining pupillage or practising as a barrister, not just those who have no prospect of passing the BPTC."


Notes to Editors 

  1. The summary of the Bar Standards Board's BCAT review are available here. 

  1. Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and

  2. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes: 

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board