Aspiring barristers caught up in last month’s bar exam fiasco will have to decide whether or not to retake them before knowing their results.

Students have until 21 September to register to take the centralised Bar Professional Training Course in professional ethics and civil and criminal litigation – using the traditional pen and paper – starting from 5 October. They will have to decide before knowing the results of their August exams, which were plagued with technical faults. The civil and criminal litigation results for the August sit will be released on 12 October. The professional ethics results will be released on 6 November.

Yet the BSB said last Friday that the December assessments will not be open to those who do the October sit 'because the results of the October examinations will not be available in time to register for that sit'. Anyone who failed the October sit would have to wait until spring next year to retake the exams.

The BSB told the Gazette that the August exam results could not be released sooner for quality assurance reasons.

It said: ‘We understand that candidates might prefer to know their August marks before deciding whether to register for one or more of the October exams but there are a number of quality assurance processes that must be followed before results can be formally confirmed and issued; it is not possible to issue them any earlier. It is also a widely accepted academic principle that a candidate who has passed an exam should not be able to resit that exam simply to improve their mark.

‘If a candidate is concerned that their grade in August might not reflect their true ability, whether or not they believe that they may have passed, they should opt to resit in October before their August sit results are known, and the better of their August and October grades will then be regarded as definitive. The October exams are open to all candidates who have not exceeded the maximum number of permitted attempts and have been put on as a means of mitigating the issues that any candidates encountered with the August exams. We are therefore treating August and October as the same “sit”.

‘Once the results for the August exams are known to candidates, they will have an opportunity to resit an exam in December but only if they have failed that exam in August.’

The BSB apologised again last week to students who experienced difficulties last month. Some students claimed to have resorted to ‘adult nappies’ and other receptacles after being told they could not leave their desks during the three-hour assessments.

Around 2,200 students were due to sit the August assessments. The BSB estimates that around 1,600 students will want to sit the autumn assessments.