Aptitude test for aspiring lawyers will reduce diversity, report claims

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has published research into aptitude testing as a method for selecting students onto the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Bar Professional Training Course.

The research report, prepared by Dr Chris Dewberry of Birkbeck College and published this week, explored whether such tests could help enhance diversity and fair access to the profession by testing the potential of aspiring lawyers on a “level playing field” where inequalities in previous academic achievements are irrelevant.

It concluded that compared to many other methods and techniques which can be used to select people for educational programmes, training courses, and jobs, cognitive ability tests and aptitude tests have a number of advantages. For example, they can be taken quickly, online, and at remote locations, with a large number of candidates assessed simultaneously.

However, the report also identified a number of problems with aptitude testing including most notably the fact that results from the test can be construed as more precise and accurate than they actually are. Additionally, the author raised major fears over a reduction in diversity as students from privileged backgrounds tend to perform better than others on aptitude tests.

College of Law’s chief executive Nigel Savage who is strongly opposed to the introduction of an LPC aptitude test said: “I instinctively don’t like artificial barriers being introduced to anything. What’s more this report doesn’t establish beyond reasonable doubt the need for an aptitude test.”