student giving bcat test

Mastering the BCAT: Your Comprehensive Guide to Success

The BCAT test is based on the Watson Glaser test and is well-known for being difficult. Thousands of candidates fail these exams each year, which makes it all the more important to ensure that you are well prepared and well practised. Job Test Prep can help you with the resources and test materials you need to make sure that you pass the test and secure your dream job.

Take the BCAT Aptitude Practice Test to improve your score.

What is the BCAT?

The Bar Course Aptitude Test — also known as BCAT — is widely used in the law sector. It is based on the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA). Since 2013 it has been used to gain entry to the Bar Professional Training Course and to become certified by the Bar Standards Board.

The test is compulsory. You cannot study the vocational component of bar training until you have passed your BCAT. You must undertake the test in the summer before you start your vocational training.

The test is taken online and usually at a local test centre. There are 60 multiple-choice questions designed to assess a potential candidate’s skills that are crucial for legal sector careers. These are:

  • Critical thinking
  • Reasoning skills

The BCAT is a requirement from the Bar Standards Board, which is the regulatory organisation for all barristers practising in England and Wales.

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What does the BCAT entail?

The BCAT is one hour long and is split into five sections in order to gain an overview of the applicant’s range of skills.

The sections are as follows:

1.  Drawing inferences from facts

In this section, you will be asked to draw some conclusions from a paragraph of information.

The paragraph will be followed by a statement that could be inferred from the text. The statement will describe something that could be observed or supposed from the given passage.

It will be up to you to decide whether the statement is viable based on the facts given in the text you have read.

This section measures an applicant’s ability to use sound logic and evidence in order to draw conclusions. To do this, you must evaluate all of the evidence before drawing a conclusion. You will need to assess the viability of different conclusions before reaching the most appropriate scenario. You should not make generalisations that are not explicitly given by the evidence.

2. Recognition of assumptions

In this section, you will be given a statement followed by an assumption. It will be your task to determine whether or not the assumption is indeed contained in the statement.

Assumptions are statements that are deemed to be true. Your ability to identify these means that you can also spot gaps in given information and enrich your perspective.

3. Evaluation of arguments

Presenting a well-reasoned argument is a vital skill for any law professional. In this section of the assessment, you will need to decide how weak or how strong an argument is in relation to a given statement. You will need to select from a number of possible arguments and decide on the one which best fits.

This part of the test aims to evaluate how well you are able to evaluate an argument objectively, putting your own prior beliefs and emotions to one side. Your ability to evaluate such arguments will help you to decide whether to agree or take appropriate action.

4. Deductive reasoning

In this section, you will be given a series of stated facts followed by a proposed conclusion. You will need to decide whether or not the conclusion is, in fact, supported by the first of the original facts.

For example:

An initial assumption is made
A second premise is made in relation to the first assumption
Next, the deductive assumption is tested in a variety of scenarios
Finally, based on the results of the test, the initial assumption is declared valid or invalid

An example of this could be:

  1. All women are mortal
  2. Mother Theresa is a woman
  3. Therefore Mother Theresa is mortal

The first statement declares that all objects classified as women are mortal. The second statement tells us that Mother Theresa is a woman. Therefore Mother Theresa must be mortal because of her classification as a woman.
In simple mathematical terms, if…

A goes to B and B goes to C then A must also go to C

5. Logical interpretation

In this part of the assessment, you will be presented with a paragraph of information followed by a statement about the text. It will be your task to decide whether or not the statement is accurate.

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What are the time pressures of the BCAT?

One of the biggest challenges faced by candidates taking the BCAT is the need to work under considerable time pressure.

There are 60 items in the test that need to be completed in 55 minutes, meaning that you will have less than one minute to answer each question. This time pressure can add to the stress load of applicants and can also lead to costly mistakes.

How can I prepare for the BCAT?

Making sure that you are well prepared can help you to overcome these challenges; being familiar with the format, practising your timings and finding organised techniques that will help you to answer accurately and in a timely manner. Job Test Prep test resources can help you to do this.

Here are some tips and techniques that you can use to help you:

Critical thinking

The BCAT assesses your ability to think critically. You will be required to assess a situation, consider multiple perspectives and separate fact from opinion and assumption.

In short, this means not accepting information purely at face value.

  • Ask yourself multiple questions about what you have read – what is FACT and what is an assumption? The more you practise this skill, the better you will become at it.
  • Look at the assumptions you have been given and rate them according to which you feel are most and least valid. Then you can discard the ones that you feel are not at all possible and make a more informed judgement about the ones that remain.
  • Who was this text written for? Who is the audience? Think about the impact that the text will have on its intended audience and whether the author is seeking to persuade, appeal to emotions or push the audience towards a specific conclusion.
  • Consider all sides of the argument, especially those that may not reflect your own views. It is important to remain objective.
  • Use a pen and paper. Sometimes drawing your thoughts in the form of pictures, flow charts, diagrams, or any suitable format, can help you to organise your thoughts and possibly to make connections that perhaps you didn’t spot in the beginning. The ability to ‘visualise’ a problem can prove a powerful technique.
  • Create a summary of what you have read. As with diagrams, writing down your thoughts or questions can really help you to organise your thinking.
  • Evaluate different conclusions. Think about who stands to benefit from particular conclusions and what impact that might have on others.

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Can I take practice tests for the BCAT?

The experts at Job Test Prep have developed a series of questions designed to help you practise the questions you are likely to face when undertaking the BCAT. These practice tests closely mimic the real assessments, including study guides, drills and 40 questions on each section of the test.

Mastering critical thinking skills is possible with practice. The great thing about using the practice tests is the comprehensive answers you will receive that will enable you to analyse where you have made mistakes and how you might rectify them and improve your score.

Taking the time to practise these sample questions will put you at a distinct advantage on test day – it is not advisable to take the test without any form of preparation.

BCAT scoring

You will be given your score once you have completed the test with a score report to confirm your results. How well you do in the BCAT correlates strongly to a candidate’s performance on the Bar Professional Training Course, which is why the test and its results are so highly valued and trusted.

The result of your test is measured in four categories

  • Pass (strong)
  • Pass
  • Pass (marginal)
  • Fail

You must answer at least half of the answers correctly in order to achieve a pass. If you fail, you are able to re-sit the test a further two times in any one calendar year, subject to payment.

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How do I book my BCAT?

In order to book your BCAT, you need to have received a place on the vocational component of the bar training. It is usual for a term to start in September, and therefore most people complete their BCAT in the summer running up to the new term – you must pass before your course begins.

Your BCAT needs to be booked through the Pearson Vue Bar Standards Board webpage. You will undertake your test in one of the many test centres located throughout the UK (the centres are also worldwide), and so it should be fairly easy to find a centre not too far from your home.

It is strongly advised that you book your test well in advance as there will be many other applicants also scheduling their tests at the same time. If you leave your booking too close to the deadline, you may come unstuck, especially if you do not pass the first time and have to reschedule and retake the exam.

At the time of this article, the cost of the BCAT is around £150 for individuals taking the test within the UK or EU and £170 for individuals outside of the EU.

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In summary

The nature of a barrister’s role requires a very specific type of character and a unique way of thinking. It is essential that you are able to demonstrate that you have the critical thinking and core skills needed to undertake the barrister training.

The BCAT assessment is designed to do just that. Course administrators need to know that potential applicants have what it takes to participate in the course. People that pass with flying colours stand out as candidates most likely to succeed in a legal career with efficiency and capability.

The demands and responsibilities of a legal career are significant, and therefore it is vital to make sure that future barristers are able to cope with, understand and fulfil those responsibilities. The legal sector is also one of the most competitive sectors around. It is little wonder that there is a mandatory test in order to enter the profession.

With so much at stake, preparation is key if you are to rise above your competitors and secure a prestigious and rewarding career. Job Test Prep looks forward to giving you the tools to help you secure your dream career!

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Written by Karen Stanley

​​Karen is a former teacher of 20 years and ten times published author. She writes content for educational organisations and businesses, nationally and internationally. She coaches new and budding writers through to publication and is passionate about creativity; she runs creative writing workshops in schools and fostering agencies.