Passing the BCAT: A rite of passage

It is a requirement to pass the bar course aptitude test (BCAT) before you can enroll on the bar course – the path to becoming a barrister.

Hi there, after a slightly unrested night and morning, and one exam down, I have returned home with a smile on thy face. So, today was the ‘big’ day, the BCAT exam. Scheduled for 10:30am, I arrived at 10am and stuck all my personal belongings into a locker except my ID. I spent almost all of the exam time allowed making sure I was happy with my answers… spending some more hesitating over the submit button.

I passed. Achieving 56/60 on the exam which lasts an hour. Had I not prepared for this, then it’s possible it would have gone another way. Preparation is key, and although the majority think that this test can’t be prepped for, that is in fact nonsense.

A few months back, when the reality of having to take this expensive £150 test dawned on me, I set out to practice and practice I did. Working through the how to become ‘Bar course aptitude tests’ book, which contained 5 sections and a mock test. Although the questions weren’t related to the real exam questions in any way, they did help to improve my critical thinking. One area I struggled with at first was inferences, I don’t know what score I got in that section but 56 is nearly all correct overall, so a lot were right!

One of my strengths is being able to recognise assumptions – a crucial skill for any lawyer – this section had a significant amount of questions, so you can imagine I was delighted.

If you want to take the test, for £150, practice. Make sure you are clear on what the 5 sections require and make sure any weaker areas are focused on. You have 3 opportunities to pass the exam in 1 year, and you can only sit said exam once a month.

Apparently the results are supposed to indicate your potential success on the bar course. Again, this is not accurate. Yes you are required to think critically during the course, but this exam couldn’t tell you whether you will pass or understanding complex law exams. For example those achieving a marginal pass are said to struggle with the complex analysis and decision-making on the bar training course and that 47.8% have either failed or not completed the course yet. Compare that with a strong pass, in which 3.% have failed or not yet completed the course. I hope these are accurate as they are from the bar standards board. So, people still fail no matter what they achieved on the bcat. There is no guarantee of success, everyone will struggle at some point.

What’s the takeaway? You can’t avoid the test. Anyone wanting to enroll on the barrister training courses available in the UK has to pass this multiple choice exam. At first it appears easy, but don’t be fooled, don’t rush in thinking you can pass first time without practice. Maybe you can, but do you want to risk that? Practice!

This is potentially a good indicator of success and for choosing whether to go ahead and fully enroll on the course.

As an aspiring barrister, I hope that my decisions are the right ones. Trust in God that if it is to be, then it will be.

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