Vocational Training for the Bar

The name of the bar course varies between providers – look out for courses titled Bar Course, Bar Training Course (BTC), Bar Practice Course (BPC), Bar Vocational Course (BVC) and Bar Vocational Studies (BVS).   However, if you refer to it as the Bar Course everyone will know what you mean!    It is an essential part of training.

The course lasts one academic year, full time or two years, part time.  The courses are expensive and oversubscribed.  Most years there are twice as many applicants as places.   There is a number of entry requirements:

  • Minimum 2:2 degree classification (BUT: given the rigour of the course and the statistical proof that those who succeed in finding Pupillage are most likely to have a 1st (the majority) or a 2:1 most providers will look more favourably on a 2:1.   I recently (2020) had sight of some statistics which I think were produced by the Bar Standards Board which showed that in the previous 6 years not one pupillage was gained by a graduate with a 2:2.  I’m sorry about the lack of reference for this information but please be assured that it is correct and you must take heed of this if your degree classification is not 2:1 or above.  These statistics were for the UK only.)
  • (for non-law graduates you will also need a law conversion course)
  • BCAT – a critical thinking test (see below for links to more information).
  • English language capabilities.  If you have taken your degree at Kent (and thus, in English) you do not need to do anything more unless, your application causes concern to the Bar Course provider i.e. your use of English is poor.
  • Member of an Inn of Court – you must join one of the four Inns by 31st May in the year that you commence the BPTC

How to apply

There is no application deadline for the course but early applications are advised as they do get oversubscribed. Apply directly to the provider of the course via their website.


BCAT: Bar Course Aptitude Test

In order to secure your place on the bar training courses you will need to pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT).  This is a multiple choice test of 60 questions which takes 55 minutes..

The BCAT asks you to:

  • Draw inferences from facts –  discern truthfulness from a given statement
  • Recognise Assumptions –  work out if a second statement is a correct assumption from the first.
  • Deduce – use a series of premises to decide if a statement is a strong or weak argument.
  • Interpret –  decide if a conclusion follows from a paragraph of information and a statement.
  • Evaluate Arguments –  decide if an argument is strong or weak based on a statement and a number of arguments.

You can sit it as many times as you need to but you will have to pay each time –  it will cost you £150 if you sit it in a UK or EU centre or £170 elsewhere in the world. Do not leave it late in the year to register as the available seats in test centres can fill up the later you leave it.

Future of the test: At the time of writing (3/9/21) the Bar Standards Board is considering the future of this test as the fail rate is just 3% (with only 1% failing to pass after more than one test).  It may be that this test is removed from the process or it is made harder.   If you are taking the test in 2021/2022 make sure you check for up to date information if this page has not been updated.  (this story refers)


You can read more on these weblinks:

Preparing for the test:

Registering for the test: