You’re set on course with your scholarship to fund your BPTC and have a conditional offer for a course place? Well done you! There’s just one more thing to consider before you’re on your way: ALL budding barristers wishing to undertake the BPTC must pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT).
What is the BCAT?
The BCAT is a requirement from the Bar Standards Board – the organisation that acts as regulator for all barristers practising in England and Wales. A barrister’s life will be off limits without first passing this entry exam. You’ll have to take it (and pass!) ahead of the year of entry for which you apply.
The exam itself is designed to pretty much do what it says on the tin. The nature of a barrister’s role demands a very specific type of character and way of thinking, and this test will suss out whether you possess the core skills in reasoning and critical thinking for the course.
A career at the bar demands a great deal of responsibility in one of the most competitive sectors around – it’s little wonder there is a mandatory test to ensure those taking on this career have got what it takes.
When do I take the Bar Course Aptitude Test?
The Bar Standards Board states a specific date by which all prospective BPTC students must have passed the BCAT. T You’ll have to check with the Bar Standards Board for the date for your chosen year - you can do this here.
You can take the BCAT as many times as you need to pass, but there will have to be 30 days between each sitting, and remember: you’ll still have pass ahead of the deadline for the entry year you’re aiming for too.
It’s possible to defer the year you begin your course and not have to take the test again.
Exceptions that may require a test resit include:
- When the prospective student wishes to switch provider;
- When the prospective student has already deferred and wishes to defer again.
If in doubt at all, it’s best to check with your course provider.
What does the BCAT involve?
The BCAT costs £150 to sit in the UK, and £170 if taken at a Pearson Vue test centre anywhere else in the world. It’s offered in 111 countries. The Bar Standards Board provides full listings of these countries, and you can find your nearest centre by visiting Pearson Vue’s website.
The test is in English only, and you’ll be required to answer all the questions on a computer at the test centre.
They give you 55 minutes to complete all of the questions, and the test centre will score your test and inform you of the result right there and then, so there’s no sweating for weeks waiting to see if you passed, and time to book again (hopefully!) if you were unsuccessful.
How do I prepare for the Bar Course Aptitude Test?
The Bar Standards Board doesn’t expect to flex your legal knowledge prowess in order to pass the test. In fact, legal knowledge won’t be required at all!
You can practise the test on the Bar Standards Board website. The realm of law study loves a tasty acronym, and here’s another one to add to the mix: the Bar Course Aptitude Practice Test (BCAPT). The BCAPT gives you a flavour of the types of questions that make up the real test, so don’t panic – you won’t go into it completely clueless.
Give the practice test a whirl and get your head around the kind of thinking required. Your success in this test will, however, ultimately depend on your natural aptitude for reasoning and critical thinking.
You can find out more about the BCAT if you trot along to the Bar Standards Board website.
Looking for more on what it’s like to be a barrister? Check out our Barristers’ Chambers section! Just what the doctor ordered.