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The Bar Course Aptitude Test

Bar Standards Board logoWelcome to the BCAT information page. Here you’ll be able to access a practice version of the BCAT, as well as general information on the test.


Practice test
What does the BCAT measure?
Why is the BCAT being used as part of the Bar Course application process?
Tips on how to improve critical thinking skills
Further information for test takers
Contact information

Practice test

A practice version of the BCAT has been designed to give test takers the opportunity to experience the type of questions that they’ll be asked to complete on the real test. Whilst the practice test does not provide an exact replica of the Pearson Vue testing system, it does provide a realistic preview of the type of test content candidates will be faced with on their test day, in terms of instructions, question type and question style. As with the real test, a clock will countdown from 55 minutes, although in the case of the practice test, test takers will be allowed to continue after the countdown reaches zero.

After completing the practice test, feedback will be given to candidates that indicates whether they’ve passed, mirroring the actual BCAT.

In order to support test-takers with a disability, reasonable adjustments which remove or reduce substantial disadvantage can be made to tests.  Reasonable adjustment can be made to both the practice test and the BCAT itself, but they may not necessarily be the same as the practice test is taken on your own device whilst the BCAT is taken on a screen in a professional test centre.  N.B. Please read the important information below for taking the Practice test and the BCAT in a Vue professional testing centre.

IMPORTANT: Making reasonable adjustments to the Practice Test

The Pearson TalentLens test platform is compatible with most major browsers. Many browsers allow individuals to make reasonable adjustments to the screen appearance, such as changing colours or increasing the size of fonts. They also enable the use of screen reader technology. If you need to make such reasonable adjustments prior to taking the practice test, please visit the My Way section of the AbilityNet website (abilitynet.org.uk).

AbilityNet is a registered charity in England and Wales that specialises in technology services and advice for disabled people at work, home or in education.

Disclaimer: Pearson TalentLens is not responsible for any information or advice on the AbilityNet website and disclaims all liability for any issues that may arise.

IMPORTANT: Making reasonable adjustments to the BCAT

The Bar Standards Board is committed to making reasonable adjustments in order to remove or reduce substantial disadvantage for people with a disabilitiy undertaking the BCAT. This policy applies to all candidates who are applying to sit the BCAT.

Please visit the resources section of the Bar Standards Board’s website to see which reasonable adjustments are available at Vue Professional Testing Centres for candidates to sit the BCAT and how to apply for them (You will need to complete and submit an application four weeks prior to taking the BCAT).

Click to access the practice test


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What does the BCAT measure?

The BCAT is a measure of someone’s Critical Thinking Ability. Critical thinking is the ability to look at a situation and clearly understand it from multiple perspectives whilst separating facts from opinions and assumptions. It involves:

  • Thinking logically with clarity and precision so that an individual can recognise assumptions
  • Using an approach that is objective and accurate to evaluate arguments
  • Focusing on information that is relevant to draw conclusions


The RED Model

Critical thinking can be organised into a "RED Model," an organising framework to facilitate learning:

  • Recognise Assumptions
    It is deceptively easy to listen to a comment or presentation and assume the information presented is true even though no evidence was given to back it up. Noticing and questioning assumptions helps to reveal information gaps or unfounded logic. We also need to examine assumptions from different viewpoints.
  • Evaluate Arguments
    The art of evaluating arguments entails analysing information objectively and accurately, questioning the quality of supporting evidence, and understanding how emotion influences the situation. Common barriers include tending to favour information that is in line with a previously held view, or allowing emotions to get in the way of objective evaluation.
  • Draw Conclusions
    Bringing diverse information together to arrive at conclusions that logically follow from the available evidence is crucial when making a decision. People who can do this are careful not to inappropriately generalise beyond the evidence and they can change their position when the evidence warrants doing so. They are often characterised as having “good judgment.”


Watson-Glaser Development 1926-2013

The BCAT is a bespoke test based on the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal methodology. Published by Pearson TalentLens, the Watson-Glaser has a distinguished history, dating back to its initial development in the 1920s and regular revisions and enhancements have ensured that the test still remains a leading critical thinking appraisal tool today.

It has been used in thousands of private and public sector organisations worldwide as a selection and development tool and in academic settings. It is widely used throughout the law sector to help organisations recruit new employees. 

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Why is the BCAT being used as part of the Bar Course application process?

The BCAT is a form of psychometric test and like all good psychometric tests, it has a number of benefits over other commonly used assessment methods like interviews.

The test is a completely impartial measure of performance. There is no impact of human judgment that could potentially bias the performance of candidates. The test is administered under standardised conditions and the results are produced by a computer system to ensure further standardisation.

The test is ‘fit for purpose’ and research suggests those that do well on the assessment go on to do well on the course.  See the below section, ‘Validity Study’, for more information.


Validity Study

Prior to using the BCAT, the Bar Standards Board commissioned research studies looking at versions of the test and performance on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).

Two studies were carried out on samples of 187 and 1501 students on UK courses, with both showing strong associations between final grades on the course and test results. Furthermore, test scores were found to be more predictive of course success than A-level points, degree class and whether or not the student attended a Russell Group university.

The below table highlights the average test score for students scoring at the four levels of the final course grade. As can be seen, scores on the test increased with final score grade categories.

Bar Professional Training Course Result Average Watson-Glaser score
Outstanding 67.6
Very Competent 61.2
Competent 50.7
Referred 43.2


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Tips on how to improve critical thinking skills

Ask basic questions to identify assumptions. Ask yourself, “What is being taken for granted?”, “How do I know this is true?”

Rate the quality of different assumptions. Start by identifying and listing the assumptions underlying each scenario, then explore whether each assumption is appropriate (e.g., how likely is this assumption to hold for this situation?). Factor in the implications and consequences of each (e.g., what if this assumption is wrong?).

Watch for persuasion techniques. Does the argument include excessive appeals to emotions in place of sound reasoning? Does it push you toward a conclusion without exploring alternatives? Has key information been left out? Is there anything suspicious about the figures or sources used to support the argument?

Be objective and balanced. Look for information that is clear, relevant, credible and fair. Actively seek out strong evidence for and against all arguments, especially when you favour certain arguments. Take time to take control of your emotions. It is important to balance your emotions with objective evaluation approaches, especially when you deal with controversial topics.

Draw it out. Represent verbal information graphically by using pictures, matrices, hierarchical tree diagrams, flow charts, and/or any other visual representation that may be useful. You can clarify your thinking by translating the verbal into the visual. This will help you make connections that weren’t immediately apparent.

Evaluate different conclusions. Generate multiple alternative conclusions based on the evidence. Consider who stands to gain from certain conclusions. Be sure to explore the consequences and impact of different conclusions as part of this process.

Key "RED" Questions to consider when problem solving:

Key RED questions


Further information for test takers

For more information on what to do if you are about to take a test visit the Psychological Testing Centre.

For more information, research and studies about critical thinking please visit the Critical Thinking Community.

For more information on possible ways to improve critical thinking please visit the Open University's Skills for Study pages.

Further information on the Peter Honey Critical Thinking Development questionnaire.


Contact information

For further information please email BCAT@barstandardsboard.org.uk or phone on 020 7611 1444.

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