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, and 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 reasonableprospect of obtaining pupillage or practising as a barrister, not just those who have no prospect of passing the BPTC.”