The Bar Standards Board has apologised to students after its exam booking system collapsed, leaving some disabled candidates unable to enrol in core assessments.

The regulator said delivering Bar Professional Training Course exams under current conditions is a ‘challenging task’ but that ‘good progress is being made’. Less than 40% of students requiring reasonable adjustments have managed to book exam slots so far, after a technological malfunction last week.

Students reported spending several hours on the phone, only to be told to call back later. Candidates also claim that exam provider Pearson VUE hung up on them; that emails have been ignored; and that they have been charged for telephone calls. Contrary to previous guidance, they have now been asked to book online.

However, disabled students claim that many slots have already been taken by those who do not require reasonable adjustments and were able to book via computer from the outset. 

The centralised BPTC assessments were originally due to take place in exam halls in April but were postponed until August and moved online because of coronavirus. Students have the option of sitting the exams in a physical test centre if required.

‘Because this option is particularly suited for some of those who need reasonable adjustments we are determined to ensure that their needs can be accommodated where possible before bookings for test centres opens for other students,’ the BSB said. It has now delayed the opening of test centre bookings for other students, which had been planned for 15 July, until 20 July.