The Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) – A Guide |
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The Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) – A Guide

Written by Ben Taylor

The Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) is an important step on the way to becoming a barrister, fulfilling the vocational element of Bar training. During a one-year, full-time course you’ll learn practical skills and gain knowledge of procedure, as well as attending sessions with your Inn of Court.

We’ve a written an introduction to everything you need to know about the BPTC, from fees and funding to entry requirements and course structure.

What is the BPTC?

If you want to become a barrister in England and Wales, you’ll need to take the Bar Professional Training Course. It’s a qualification designed to build on the academic knowledge gained during an undergraduate Law degree or Graduate Diploma in Law, preparing you for pupillage at the Bar.

Although the BPTC is primarily a classroom-based qualification, modules have a practical, vocational focus. A typical BPTC syllabus will cover the following compulsory topics, along with two optional specialised subject areas:

  • Advocacy
  • Civil litigation and evidence
  • Conference skills
  • Criminal litigation, evidence and sentencing
  • Dispute resolution
  • Drafting
  • Opinion writing
  • Professional ethics

In addition, you’ll need to complete 12 qualifying sessions at your Inn of Court before being called to the Bar. These qualifying sessions are a chance to network with practising barristers, attend lectures given by legal experts and take part in training sessions.

BPTCs and Inns of Court also provide students with an opportunity to engage in extracurricular activities to boost their CV, such as:

  • Mooting
  • Pro bono work
  • Debating
  • Mock trials

BPTCs are currently offered by eight providers across England and Wales. You can browse BPTC courses here on FindAMasters.

Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC)
Type Taught / Professional
Subjects Law
Qualification Level 7 (NQF)
Length 1-2 years
Credit Value 120 CATS / 60 ECTS
Availability England and Wales

What is a barrister?

A barrister is a qualified legal professional who provides independent legal guidance to a range of clients, advising them on the strengths and weaknesses of their case and representing them in court if necessary.

How long is the BPTC?

If you study the BPTC on a full-time basis, the course is one year long. However, several providers offer a part-time BPTC, which takes two years to complete.

What are the entry requirements for the BPTC?

To apply for entry onto a BPTC, you’ll usually need to have one of the following qualifications / grades:

You should also be a member of one of the four Inns of Court by the time the course begins. Extra-curricular experience – such as a mini-pupillage or a placement – will be beneficial to your BPTC application.

In addition, you’ll need to pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT), which is an exam administered by the Bar Standards Board (the regulatory body for barristers in England and Wales). This costs £150 to sit.

You can be accepted onto a BPTC prior to passing the BCAT, but you must pass the test before beginning the BPTC itself. The BCAT can be taken at test centres in over 100 countries. It’s a good idea to schedule taking the test fairly early in the application process in case you need to retake it (places at test centres can fill up quickly, particularly when the deadline is approaching).

The BCAT doesn’t require any specific legal knowledge – instead, it will test your critical thinking and reasoning skills. The current pass score is 45.

How are BPTCs assessed?

You’ll be assessed in several different ways over the course of the BPTC.

For the civil litigation and criminal litigation elements of the programme, you’ll take two three-hour multiple choice exams administered by the Bar Standards Board.

Other subjects – compulsory and optional – are assessed via a combination of open and closed book written tests, as well as oral examinations.

If you pass the BPTC, you’ll receive one of the following grades: outstanding, very competent or competent.

Changes to the BPTC

In September 2020, the Bar Standards Board is launching three new pathways for Bar training, which will be offered in addition to the current system. These Bar training courses aim to be more flexible than the existing route to becoming a barrister.

If you’ve already begun a BPTC before then, there will be a transitional period during which you can complete the qualification.

How much does the BPTC cost?

BPTC fees vary according to the provider. You should expect to pay between £15,000 and £19,000 for a full-time, one-year programme.

Fees are the same, regardless of nationality – if you’re an international student, you won’t pay more than a UK / EU national.

How can I fund my BPTC?

As you can see, the Bar Professional Training Course isn’t a cheap qualification. There are a few different BPTC funding options open to you, however.

The four Inns of Court each offer scholarship schemes for BPTC students. The value and nature of the scholarships varies between institutions. You can find out more on their websites:

It’s also worth seeing if your BPTC provider offers any scholarships. This funding won’t always be BPTC-specific. Find out more in our guide to university funding for postgraduates.

If you apply for a combined BPTC / LLM programme, you may be eligible for a Masters loan to cover part of your tuition fees and living costs. Read our guide to Masters of Law to find out more about the LLM. Postgraduate loans aren’t available for standalone PGDip BPTCs – only Masters-level qualifications including an LLM.

Search for a BPTC

Ready to find your perfect Bar Professional Training Course? Browse BPTCs listed on our website.

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Last updated: 08 January 2020