BSB presses on with Bar student aptitude test after positive pilot results


Aptitude test: pilot finds strong correlation with actual resultsAn aptitude test that indicates whether Bar students will pass their exams is “the best single predictor of course outcomes”, a pilot study has concluded.

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) heard yesterday that the positive results of the pilot means it can press ahead with plans to introduce the test formally in autumn 2012 for September 2013 starters.

They will need to pass the test to gain admission to the bar professional training course.

The pilot covered the 2010-11 cohort of students and found that both outcome grades on the course and the average final exam scores of students “showed strong relationships with test scores. The correlation between test scores and course examination results was very marked, which is highly statistically significant”, a report to the board said.

This strong relationship was also found when looking at course outcomes: 54% of those attaining an ‘outstanding’ grade were in the top fifth of test scores, whereas 44% of those who failed the course scored in the bottom fifth of the test.

The impact on subgroups of the students was examined closely and the report said that while there were “some significant differences” in how they performed, “there is no evidence that the [test] would show bias against any of the lower scoring groups”.

Where the pass or ‘cut’ mark was set was examined closely for its diversity impact. “No substantial adverse impact was found using a range of low to moderate cut scores for gender, primary language, age, disability or whether the first degree was from a Russell Group institution,” the report said.

“The largest impact was for ethnic groups, with students from minority groups being somewhat less successful than the white group overall. However, even these findings were within the generally accepted range for a cut score.”

Dr Valerie Shrimplin, the BSB’s head of education standards, said: “We are pleased that the pilots for the aptitude test has have now concluded, a culmination of a great deal of hard work and effort. Our aim has always been to ensure a fair and equitable system for those applying for the bar professional training course, a system that will recruit on merit, regardless of the background of the candidate.

“We look forward to providing detailed information in December and consulting on our proposals in early 2012.”

The Law Society has also investigated the desirability of introducing an aptitude test for legal practice course students and fed the results into the legal education and training review being conducted jointly by the BSB, Solicitors Regulation Authority and ILEX Professional Standards.

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