I am pleased to host this guest blogpost by Dame Judi Bench.


I just saw a picture of a bottle of yellow liquid in a bar exams. Those crazy students and their Lucozade

That’s not Lucozade.

Of course it is. That’s what all the kids drink during exams. It’s what I drank. It gave me strength.

Give me strength. Do you remember my last post?

I do, but just remind me again

Here it is. [Link]

I see, they aren’t allowed to get up and go to the bathroom. Why then would they drink Lucozade? It makes no sense unless… NO IT CAN’T BE. IS THAT WEE WEE?

It is.

Right, now I’m listening. I mean I need to pour bleach in my eyes but we can get to that later. How did it come to this? Are all home exams like this?

No. Home exam software records a student using their camera, microphone and screen. What they are allowed to do is up to the organisation who runs the exam. The BSB have decided that you can’t get up, drink, look away from the screen or think about cake.

That’s a joke isn’t it?

Well one of them is. I’ll leave you to decide.

It’s August though and the hottest one on record. Not being able to drink is ridiculous

You’re doing that thing again where you don’t actually ask questions but rely on inflection, but given the seriousness of this, I’ll let you get away with it.  It is ridiculous but despite the reasonable representations made, the BSB won’t budge.

What about the other demands? Why can’t these be open book exams?

We covered this last time. While of course they should be, you can’t just take closed book questions and make them open book. It won’t work. Closed book questions rely on you recalling facts. If you had the book it wouldn’t be the same test.

But that’s just silly and not what lawyers do

I know. I despair too.

Okay, but I also hear that all of these exams are becoming open book next year, so why not just expedite that?

I’m afraid that’s not quite accurate. At the moment there are three closed book unseen exams run by the BSB. Civil, Crime and Ethics.  From September 2020 when the bar course changes so do they, but not quite so starkly.  Crime remains as is.  Civil splits into two exams to cover the current syllabus plus ADR.  The ADR paper is open book but the main Civil paper remains closed book.  Ethics splits into two exams, one during the bar exam and one in pupillage.  Both are closed book. 

Why are any of them still closed book? Also, why is my pupil now going to have to take an ethics exam during pupillage? What if they fail that? How is that going to work?

No idea. Who knows. Shrug. Musical statutes in Lincoln’s Inn.

But given these students have passed all of their other exams, why can’t they just be waived through these ones on the basis of passing others?

The other nine modules of the bar course are set by the providers and have much higher pass rates.  Ask anyone who has done the BPTC and they will tell you that Civil, Crime and Ethics are the tough ones. Far more difficult than the others. Really, they are the ones that determine whether you pass the course or not. To waive them would be to waive the actual bit of the course that is difficult to pass. 

But we’ve established that they don’t really test what a Barrister does so why rely on them?

Good point, but what about people who failed one of them or all three of them in previous years but passed all their other exams? Hardly fair on them.

They didn’t face not being able to pee for three hours

Agreed but it would lead to a single group being treated very differently to all others since 2010.

But this lot have no choice. This is their only chance to sit

Except it isn’t. They can sit in December or later, even if they have pupillage. Granted that means not being able to take their exams now or chambers who won’t let them start without passing despite the BSB dropping that requirement for this group.  You can see why many of them want to sit now.

I feel drained. I need some energy. Pass that bottle of Lucozade.

It’s not Lucozade. We’ve been through this…

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