English language test to be added to BPTC

All would-be barristers wanting to study the new Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) will have to prove they have a minimum standard of English, after the Bar Standards Board (BSB) called for an extra language test to be added to the admissions process.

The BSB has put in an application to the Legal Services Board (LSB) to amend the Bar Training Regulations to require all applicants to take an English language test in a bid to improve the standard of English among aspiring barristers.

If the application is accepted all candidates will have to take the assessment on top of the aptitude test, which is due to be rolled out from September 2010.

The eventual aim will be to incorporate English language test elements into the aptitude test and run one single exam. The BSB however could not say when this would be finalised.

A BSB spokesperson said: “Because of the difficulties with the standard of English language of some students on the course, with the problems of defining what is ’first language’, with the need to avoid discrimination against any section of the student body, we seek to alter the requirement such that all applicants would need to demonstrate a minimum level of English.”

All students will be required to demonstrate that they are of a minimum 7.5 International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or equivalent recognised by the BSB.

The BSB has been continually toying with the idea of introducing an aptitude test for aspiring barristers wanting to secure a place on the BPTC since the publication of the Wood Report in 2008.

But following criticism from the Office of Fair Trading, which hailed such an exam “anticompetitive”, the BSB pushed back its plans to launch a test for 12 months. Now, following a pilot of the test, the aptitude test will be made compulsory from September 2010.