Monday, 11 June 2012

Ceiling patterns

Unlike most people in my position, it is not the quest for pupillage that keeps me up at night, staring mindlessly at the ceiling while Ladyfemale dozes next to me, merrily giggling to herself as a result of some insane dream. Don't get me wrong, pupillage applications are worrying enough to keep even the most serene of people awake until 2am - but, for me, there is a darker shadow looming just this side of the horizon that I just can't ignore:

The results of the Civil Litigation Exam from my BPTC.

In the days following the exam, there was a lot of chat online - there seemed to be a groundswell of support for the idea that the Civil Exam was 'unfair' or 'not fit for purpose'. The complaints have been well rehearsed in all the usual places, but a good summary can be found on the excellent Legal Cheek blog in this post.

As you can see in the linked post, there were various concerns about the exams that were centrally set by the BSB (Civil, Crime, Ethics), and those concerns resulted in a student petition signed by many hundreds of students. I wasn't one of them - firstly because I thought it was appallingly written, and secondly because I didn't agree with many of the complaints. My only cause for concern was that I found the Civil exam difficult, which was to be expected.

However, in the weeks and months since my concern has grown - there have been a number of rumours flying around, and a few hints from tutors at various law schools, which have caused my minor quibbles to grow into a state which can best be described as 'the brink of panic'.

BPTC students who participate in, or simply look at, various online fora and networking sites will be no stranger to the rumours that 80% of BPTC students nationwide have failed the Civil Exam. Now, I'd normally ignore this kind of rumour, but it's appeared from so many different sources that it's managed to seep into my psyche.

There are, however, two versions of the rumour: a) flat out, 80% of people have failed; b) 80% of people failed according to the mark scheme, but [insert any number of solutions here] has happened, so now that figure is markedly reduced.

The second cause of worry ties into rumour "b" above - the supposed rigidity of the BSB mark scheme, and the fact that markers from individual providers have no discretion to award marks. On the last day of the course, BPP hosted an end of year drinks party (much fun), and some of the tutors were slightly more loose-tongued than normal.

I challenged 2 or 3 tutors with the 80% statistic and the response was pretty uniform: "That is definitely NOT the case at BPP", but all of them did (whether through word, or subtle deed) seem to confirm that there were some worries about the rigidity of the mark scheme. My understanding is that the BSB has prescribed very a very specific form of words to use in each of the questions, and if those exact words aren't used, marks can't be awarded. Which is petrifying.

Now, I also know that BPP, and all the other law schools have been consulting with the BSB over the last couple of months, and have been trying to make things a little bit more fair. 

From my other results to date, achieving an Outstanding is genuinely within my reach. Sadly, one failure, any failure, irrespective of the exam, means you can't be awarded the Outstanding, even if your average mark is above the 85% mark. Also, it'll be pretty tricky explaining to various Chambers why I can't give them my final results after 5 July if I have indeed joined the massed throng of Civil failures. 

So here I am, wondering whether my original answers were in line with the mark scheme; if they weren't in line with the mark scheme has the mark scheme been adjusted; if it hasn't been adjusted, have I failed, if I've failed have I buggered up my pupillage chances? And that, dear friends, is why I find the ceiling so incredibly interesting at 2am.

3 comments:

  1. As someone who went through the exact same heartache last year I can really sympathise with this post. In my case, however, I fixated on the wrong module and it was actually professional ethics that caught me out! This is not designed to worry you further I promise, just to point out that civil lit takes over a HUGE proportion of the course and most tends to sink in over the year. Therefore, you are likely to do better than you think. Also, the mere fact that you are contemplating an outstanding is likely proof of your ability. I can (almost) guarantee that you have done better than you think. I do agree that multiple choice and short answer questions ARE a ridiculous way to assess people and make for an extremely frustrating process. Also, if worse does come to worse, you can still get a very competent which will be sounds grounding for pupillage applications. It's the 'competent' that people should be fearful of.

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  2. As a successfully candidate last year for pupillage, I can say that chambers could not care less what the classification of the BVC is as long as you pass, even if the pass is through a resit, unless it is a chambers that has an implied condition in their pupillage offer.

    Hope this puts you to sleep

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  3. I agree with the last comment. There are many more important issues to tackle in the quest to obtaining a pupillage rather than spending sleepless nights over the BPTC result, which, in my humble opinion, has become a filtering tool used by BSB in getting rid of those candidates who they think cannot crack the Bar in on over-saturated market. I agree that this is the wrong way of doing it as these poor soils lose a lot of money in the process, but for those who pass it, that is all that matters. The pupillage quest and succeeding in it, depends more on relevant work experience, mooting, debating, FRU etc. Plus you have to have the right traits too. An Outstanding might get you an interview, but a Competent will get you an interview too. Once at the interview stage it is a level playing field and only those who can demonstrate the right traits and attitude succeed.

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