Students will write to the Bar Standards Board today challenging its decision to move exams online, citing potential unfairness and discrimination.

Centralised assessments for the Bar Professional Training Course – which were due to take place in physical exam halls in April – will now be carried out via computer in August. The regulator said ‘robust security measures’ such as live monitoring, face-matching technology and browser lockdown will ensure candidates cannot cheat.

However, students are concerned that online exams will adversely affect those with caring responsibilities, poor internet connections or noisy shared houses, as well as those who require reasonable adjustments such as regular breaks. International students in different time zones and women on their period could also be negatively impacted, they said.

Under current arrangements, invigilators will be able to terminate assessments upon hearing noise and the online proctoring system chosen by the BSB will not allow candidates to take breaks, despite some exams lasting three hours. 

The letter will suggest a move to open book conditions, which would allow for breaks.

A spokesperson for the BSB said: ‘We are very conscious of the need to ensure that the arrangements we have made are fair for everyone and we are committed to working with relevant experts, providers and others as we prepare to deliver the exams, in line with the Public Sector Equality Duty and our duty to make reasonable adjustments and our wider commitment to accessibility.’

Online exams for future solicitors have also experienced teething problems.

The Gazette understands that a Legal Practice Course assessment which was due to last for 2.5 hours shut down after 40 minutes because of a technical glitch. Anti-cheat devices have also caused some computers to crash