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Article by Hannah Forsyth
One of the key steps to securing a place on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) is to pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT). You will be asked for proof that you have passed it before you can enrol at a BPTC provider, so it’s really important to register to take it before you start your course.
What is it?
The BCAT is a critical thinking test designed to make sure that potential BPTC students are able to keep up with a very demanding course. It’s similar to other critical thinking tests such as the Watson Glaser model, and is aimed at testing your ability to evaluate arguments, draw valid conclusions and recognise where assumptions are drawn from information. The test contains 60 multiple choice questions and you can receive a “strong pass”, a “pass”, a “marginal pass” or a “significant fail”.
Why do I need to sit it?
The BCAT was introduced in 2013 after the Bar Standards Board (BSB) raised concerns that too many students were being admitted to the BPTC without the skills and talent to succeed on the course. There is a link between grades on the BCAT and results at the end of the BPTC, as students who received a “strong pass” tended to achieve higher scores on the BPTC.
Where and when can I take the test?
You can take the test at registered test centres around the UK and internationally. See the Pearson Vue website for a full list of test centres. You won’t be able to take the test before you have applied for the BPTC, and you will have to pay a fee when you book your timeslot. The fee is £150 in the UK and EU, and £170 in the rest of the world.
When you are booking, avoid choosing a time when you have other exams to prepare for. Do not leave the BCAT too late as if you do not pass, you will need to leave 30 days before you can resit it so you may not be able to start on the BPTC in time.
What should I do to prepare?
Practice! The more that you get used to the style of questions on the test papers, the more confident and comfortable you will be at answering them. There is a full practice test provided here, and multiple examples of Watson Glaser tests in this selection of practice law aptitude tests put together by JobTestPrep and TSL Training Contract Surgery. Learn from the results of the tests and watch out for the areas that you find more difficult.
Outside of the test framework, spend time reading and develop your skills in analysing arguments. One of the key skills, both on the BPTC and in wider legal practice, is to be able to analyse arguments from different sides and identify where assumptions are made. If you need any adjustments or learning support, check the BSB website for the full policy and form.
On the day, make sure that you arrive at the test centre with plenty of time as you may need to check belongings into lockers and sign into different registers. You need to bring two forms of ID with you – check the BSB website for more information on what forms of ID are allowed. You may be sharing the test room with other people so try to find a workstation on your own and make sure that you stick to your own time. You’ll have 55 minutes to complete the test – this should be enough time to complete and check through the test.
Collect your results from the test centre and make sure you hold onto them, as you will need them when enrolling on the BPTC. If you didn’t pass, you will need to re-book the test before you start the BPTC. If you did, congratulations – you’re one step closer to the Bar.