The Bar Standards Board has been inundated with complaints after technical issues meant some bar school students were unable to sit their first online exam.
Students on the Bar Professional Training Course who were due to sit a professional ethics assessment yesterday reported their difficulties on social media posts. Several candidates said the software crashed before or shortly after they started the paper. When they contacted exam provider Pearson Vue they were told they would receive a response within three to five working days.
Others claim they were temporarily locked out of the exam meaning they lost chunks of their allotted time, while some say they were repeatedly interrupted by the remote proctors.
A spokesperson for the BSB said: ‘The BSB has worked hard to ensure that students are able to sit the centralised BPTC assessments this year... Pearson Vue is responsible for delivering the examinations and we understand that the great majority of students’ exams which took place yesterday were completed successfully. Pearson Vue is highly committed to responding to students’ concerns in a timely fashion. The automatic response email to general inquiries reflects a 3-5 day waiting time, however all concerns - especially urgent concerns - are always addressed as quickly as possible.
‘Inevitably with any online based exam, some students did face technical issues that prevented them from accessing their exams. Pearson Vue will try to rearrange their exam to take place on another scheduled sitting date subject to availability. Students who have accessed the exam but experienced a technical failure during the course of it will be allowed to defer to December without penalty if they have not successfully completed enough of the exam to achieve a pass.’
Students are obliged to have passed the bar course and to have been called to the bar in order to start the practising period of their pupillage, known as ‘second six’.
On Twitter, the regulator asked students to contact Pearson Vue via the chat window rather than using social media. ‘This is the quickest way for you to get help,’ it said.
The build up to the centralised exams - which were due to take place in-person in April - has been fraught with difficulties. Last month, students with disabilities struggled to enrol in the assessments after the telephone booking system collapsed.
Meanwhile, some students claimed the remote system discriminates against women, carers and disabled candidates.