TARGETjobs black logo
Bar course study

The qualification all barristers need: the Bar course

Find out about the Bar course, the vocational qualification for all graduates who want to become barristers.

The Bar course (formerly known as the Bar professional training course or BPTC) is the vocational stage of training for aspiring barristers and equips them with all the skills they need to succeed. Please note that, as of 2020, the course is known by different names at different course providers. It comes after the academic stage (either a law degree or, for non-law graduates, the conversion course also known as the CPE or GDL) and before the year of on-the-job training known as pupillage.

The one-year Bar course (two years part time) is designed to bridge the gap between the academic study of the law in the classroom and its practical application in the courtroom. Courses are accredited by the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

The Bar course aptitude test (BCAT) requires aspiring barristers to meet a minimum standard of entry to the Bar course You can only take the test between December and August of the year you are due to start your Bar course – it costs £150 to take the BCAT.

How is the Bar course structured?

The Bar course puts a greater focus on professional ethics and conduct, case work skills, legal research and interpersonal skills than its predecessor, the Bar Vocational Course or BVC. There is also further emphasis placed upon opinion writing (giving written advice).

You will be taught the core skills on the Bar course:

  • case work skills
  • legal research
  • general written skills
  • interpersonal skills
  • advocacy
  • opinion writing
  • conference skills
  • resolution of disputes out of court (ReDOC).

These skills are taught within a framework of knowledge areas, which are:

  • civil litigation and remedies
  • criminal litigation and sentencing
  • professional ethics
  • evidence.

In addition students select two elective modules (known as options), from a choice of at least six, in which to specialise. The courses on offer vary between institutions. See TARGETjobs Law paper publication and individual course prospectuses for more information.

What are the teaching methods like?

During the course you will spend time developing, practising and receiving feedback on the core skills through a variety of exercises. These could include cross-examination exercises, running mock cases, writing statements, multiple choice exams and making submissions to judges. Advocacy is key, so it’s important to ensure that the thought of standing up in court, handling witnesses and thinking on your feet doesn’t fill you with dread. Expect the use of audiovisual equipment such as presentation software and mock court facilities. You may be able to 'watch back' recordings of mock trials and advocacy exercises to help you improve.

How should I apply?

Getting on the Bar course is competitive: around 3,000 candidates apply for approximately 1,400 places each year. Applications should be made directly to your chosen institution from November.