As I begin turning my mind to the year ahead, there are still some essentials I have to get out of the way before I begin the BPTC. The first (and definitely most important) item on my to do list is the BCAT. Read on for what it is, why you have to do it to start Bar school and how I prepared for it.
No, the GDL wasn’t enough…there is still more work before the BPTC begins
The BCAT is the Bar Course Aptitude Test and, as the name suggests, it is the mandatory aptitude test that you must complete before you may begin the BPTC. “But WHY?!” I hear you cry. The Bar Standards Board (BSB) introduced the test in 2013 as a means to ensure that those who start the BPTC have the requisite skills to complete it and do well.
A cautionary note: you cannot start the BPTC without having successfully completed the BCAT. No ifs, no buts – if the course isn’t completed you don’t start the BPTC. That’s it.
What’s on the test?
In essence it is a critical reasoning test. The BSB explained the rationale behind the test in their BCAT handbook:
The BCAT measures critical thinking. We operate in a continually changing workplace, where large volumes of information are rapidly exchanged. An individual’s ability to efficiently and effectively evaluate this information and make good decisions sets the foundation for their success. Important competencies, including decision making, problem solving, planning, and strategic thinking, require sound critical thinking skills.
The test is divided into five sections and the aim is to test your ability to demonstrate three core skills – recognising assumptions, evaluating arguments and drawing conclusions. There are 60 questions in total and you have 55 minutes to answer them. For more, click here for the FAQs document the BSB compiled for the BPTC.
How do I book the test?
Booking for the BCAT is done via the Pearson VUE website. You pick a centre and a date then pay £150 to book. Yes, you did read that correctly. It costs £150. Yes, I was annoyed too. This really doesn’t help increase or encourage access to the Bar, especially if your income is low or you’re self-funding. But alas, we have no choice and it must be done. If this is a problem for you, be sure to raise it on the feedback section after the test.
How do I prepare?
Thankfully the test is both multiple choice and (relatively) easy to prepare for. Naturally if you feel like you require further preparation time, take it. I can only speak for myself and what worked for me.
The BSB has published a practice test on their website which is very comprehensive and covers the material contained within the test. Practice answering the questions and pay attention to the tutorials. Obviously there are no guarantees, but from my experience the content in the practice test was more or less identical in format to the real test. I highly doubt you’ll be surprised at the test content if you have successfully completed the test.
I prepared the day before. I honestly cannot vouch for whether or not that was adequate preparation time but I passed with a good mark. Do what is best for you.
What next after I do the test?
So once you’ve done the test you need to inform your BPTC provider of your result before the deadline they may have set. Once you’ve done that and fulfilled all the other requirements of your offer…you’re good to go!
I hope that covers everything!
Until next time,