Ben Maples  · Nov 22nd 2021

The BCAT is an important postgraduate examination and those looking to become a Barrister will find it impossible without having first passed the BCAT.


For those looking to become a Barrister, the BCAT is one of the most important tests you will need to take. Becoming a Barrister relies on being able to sit two main examinations, the BCAT and the BPTC, in that order.

The BCAT is infamous in the world of Law and has become the industry-standard for those looking to practice Law as a profession.

BCAT classes

What is the BCAT?

The BCAT is the Bar Course Aptitude Test, an exam that must be sat before you can become a Barrister. In order to become a Barrister, you must pass the BCAT and take the BOTC.

The BCAT is an Aptitude Test that is designed to test out your reasoning and critical thinking skills. It is a fifty-five-minute computerised test that is usually taken at a local test centre. The test is entirely multiple choice and has sixty questions, which tests your critical thinking, your ability to understand arguments, whether or not you can identify different perspectives and also tests your ability to be able to distinguish accurately between facts, opinions and assumptions. You will receive your score immediately after completing the test.

There are five sections that are covered by the BCAT:

  • Dedication
  • Evaluation of Arguments
  • Inference
  • Interpretation
  • Recognition of Assumptions

If you fail the test, then you are allowed to resit, however, you can only resit the exam twice in a single calendar year, assuming you pay the fees.

How much is the BCAT?

For those sitting the test inside the European Union (EU), the cost of the test is £150, for those sitting the test outside the EU, the test is £170.

The cost can sometimes be covered by a scholarship, bursary or grant or by an employer. The test can be sat at a Pearson Vue test centre anywhere in the world.

BCAT schedule

Do I need to have passed the BCAT to sit the BPTC?

The test has been mandatory for BCAT students ever since 2013. Studies indicated that students who sat the BCAT prior to the BPTC were likely to achieve a higher grade and is generally considered to be a better indicator of a student’s abilities than A Level results.

You can only sit the BPTC if you have passed the BCAT along the way. The BCAT is not only needed for the BPTC either, you will also need to have the BCAT when it comes to applying for jobs, as this will help you to stand out from the crowd.

How long is my BCAT score valid for?

The validity of the BCAT score is constantly changing and is down to the dates that you took the exam, so your validity may change.

For the most part, the BCAT score you achieve is valid for five years. Those who achieve a lower score than forty-five have been known to only be limited to a one-year validity.

How can I prepare for the BCAT?

Revision for the BCAT can be difficult as the BCAT does not necessarily require you to have any prior legal knowledge in order to sit the test. Though it certainly helps to have prior legal knowledge and experience or some kind of background to do the test, it is not essential as it is more of a test of your reasoning abilities than your knowledge of the law.

Pearson Vue, who run all the applications for the BCAT, also runs a BCAT practice test for students to sit as well. The test is not an exact copy of the test you would normally sit, but it does give you an interesting glimpse into the kinds of questions you will be asked. The practice test is also a little different in that, though there is a time-limit (fifty-five minutes) you can still carry on once the timer has finished.

The best preparation that you can do for the BCAT is by taking other critical thinking tests online and other multiple-choice tests, so you can get a feel for what the BCAT will be like.

BCAT resit

Extenuating circumstances

As with any test or examination, there are always extenuating circumstances earmarked for students that are unable to sit the test or are in any way disadvantaged, these work in the same way as mitigating circumstances at university.

As per the Bar Standards Board (BSB), the extenuating circumstances allowed for the BCAT are circumstances that are outside of the control of the person taking the exam which have in any way prohibited or prevented you from taking or otherwise registering for the BCAT.

The following are considered to be an extenuating circumstance by the BSB are:

  • Bereavement: Death of a close relative or significant other.
  • Evidence of any long term health conditions worsening.
  • Late notification or unexpected loss of arrangements for care.
  • Serious short term illness or accident.
  • Significant adverse personal or family circumstances.
  • Unforeseen effect of a disability, specifically, where the impact of said disability has not previously been anticipated.

The following are not considered to be acceptable extenuating circumstances by the BSB:

  • An alleged medical condition that is supported only by “retrospective” medical evidence.
  • Any claim that is not supported by reliable evidence.
  • Claims to be unaware of the date or time of registering or otherwise completing the BCAT.
  • Confusion over date or time.
  • Financial issues surrounding either travel or living arrangements.
  • Foreseeable transport issues, such as traffic or roadworkers.
  • Holiday(s).
  • Illness of a distant relative.
  • Inadequate arrangements for babysitters or childminders.
  • Late disclosure of circumstances.
  • Minor illness or ailment.

There are other issues that may arise that are still not covered by the BSB’s extenuating circumstances policies, however, these are the most obvious ones.

In order to report any extenuating circumstances, you will need:

  • A Medical/health certificate (date must be relevant to the BCAT).
  • Death certificate.
  • Explanation from a recognised or verifiable support service.
  • Explanation from an independent third party.
  • Letter of support.

The supporting evidence that you provide must be verified and it must be deemed acceptable by the BSB.

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