Bar Course Aptitude Test launched amid student outrage

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has angered potential barristers by more than doubling the cost of taking the new Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT), formally launched today.

Candidates were emailed yesterday informing them of the change, which raised the cost from the previously suggested fee of £67 to £150.

The previous fee was established during the consultation on the introduction of the Bar Professional Training Course, which replaced the Bar Vocational Course in 2010/2011.

The BSB has defended its decision to more than double the entrance fee. A spokesperson said: “When we were asked to provide a suggested fee, we were at a much earlier stage in the planning process. The published fee compares very well with other professional aptitude courses.

“A combination of factors affect the price: not least ensuring it is available globally, and minimising the risk of fraud.

“It is important that we recover costs and thus avoid placing a cost burden on others. We will evaluate the test carefully and ensure that the fee reflects no more than cost recovery.”

Hopeful barrristers have vented their annoyance on Twitter. Joy Lewis, a GDL student at Nottingham Law School said: “Springing the cost of the #BCAT on us at this late stage is both unnecessary and unfair. It has been a shambles from the start”.

Fellow Nottingham GDL student Tom Herbert asked: “£150 for the #BCAT on top of high course fees and £40 to even apply – is the Bar really open to all?”

The price hike has prompted questions on the overall price of taking the BCAT as only a small proportion of graduates go on to become barristers. Students also questioned the practice of not limiting the number of resists per candidate.

Cambridge graduate Cathy Jaquiss tweeted: “Unsure about a £150, take-as-many-times-as-you-want verbal reasoning test. How about a requirement for providers to be more selective?”

Would-be barristers now have to pass the BCAT to be admitted onto the BPTC. Applicants can register for the BCAT from 1 March and take the test from 3 April.

Chair of the BSB, Baroness Ruth Deech said: “Most students who fail the BPTC do so because they struggle with the critical thinking and reasoning required for practical elements of the course. Students role-play court room and client interactions and if someone on the course finds this difficult, it impacts on the learning of all students…

“The BCAT is a significant intervention to improve the quality of learning for all students on the BPTC.  It will also save prospective candidates the cost of sitting an expensive course they are unlikely to pass.”

Last year, the BSB revealed applications to become a barrister were at a five-year high (14 November 2012).