The next generation of barristers have complained that they were forced to urinate in bottles and buckets during their professional ethics exam this week.

The students were told they would fail their two hour 45 minute Bar Professional Training Course assessment if they left their desk to go to the loo, or if they did not maintain eye contact with their online invigilator. 

And so the nation's future barristers, having drunk copious amounts of water to stay hydrated on one of the hottest days of the year, found themselves weeing in containers while staring at a stranger on their laptop.

Bar student Tian Juin See told RollOnFriday that when he asked to be excused about an hour into the exam, the online proctor refused.

"I tried to hold it, but a little while later I asked again and he said no", said Tian.

"It became rather unbearable and it was having an effect on my concentration", he said. Despite "literally begging" the proctor, Tian was told that "policy doesn't allow the use of toilets during exams. I told him that if I'm not allowed, I'm going to have to pee in the bottle, but he still wouldn't let me use the toilet". 

"Finally, I couldn't hold it anymore", said Tian. "so I dumped out the water in my bottle all over my carpet", though he couldn't see where he was pouring it as the proctor said he was not allowed to turn away from the camera, "and attempted to take a piss into my bottle, blindly, while trying not to move around too much or look away from my screen". 

"When I was done I raised the now yellow bottle to the webcam as if to say: 'Are you happy now?'" 


wee

Storm in a pee cup.


Others were pushed to similarly humiliating extremes. Sophie Lamb, who is studying at BPP University in Leeds, said she had to maintain eye contact with her webcam while urinating, after she was unable to get booked at a test centre. "I took a bucket in and wore a long maxi dress so that I could squat down with my face still on camera", she said. "The sacrifices we make for our careers".

BPTC student Pete Kennedy said, "shorts and 5L bottle for me. Think I stealthed it."

Students also reported the online exam crashing and failing to load, leaving them to seek help fruitlessly from Pearson VUE, the education company which provided the online assessment.

For some, the experience was infuriating. Charlotte McNally, a Cambridge Law grad, said she checked in to begin the exam at 9am and was presented with a blank screen. When she messaged Pearson VUE for assistance, a chat robot told her she would be contacted "in 3-5 business days". The exam was subsequently rescheduled.

Jamie Jones, studying the BPTC in Leeds, said she "physically cried" during her ethics exam after a technical fault meant she had to restart. "I was faced with a choice of whether to continue with my exam despite having lost all of my work AND 40 minutes of time, or end the exam with no guarantee of a restart (thanks to the advice of a very rude, unhelpful and unsympathetic proctor".

Calling it an "absolute shambles", Jones "decided to carry on but then the the system failed again anyway". Now she will have to resit her exam in December.


Loo chair

Problem solved.


In a statement, the Bar Standards Board said that it "has worked hard to ensure that students are able to sit the centralised BPTC assessments this year, which were originally due to take place in April, but which have been delayed as a result of COVID-19" (translation: blame the virus). 

"Pearson VUE is responsible for delivering the examinations", it said (translation: blame Pearson VUE) and "we understand that the great majority of students’ exams which have taken place were completed successfully" (translation: blame the minority who got wet carpets).
 
The BSB said that "inevitably with any online based exam", some students experienced technical issues that prevented them from accessing their exams, but that Pearson VUE would "try" to reschedule those students' exams "subject to availability". Students who were able to access the exam but then experienced technical difficulties would be allowed to take it again, said the BSB, but not until December, and not if their glitched effort was good enough to secure them a pass.

Refusing to take responsibility for WastewaterGate, the BSB said that students who took the online exam "using Pearson VUE’s online remote proctoring system" (please, please blame Pearson VUE) were provided with "straightforward guidance which makes clear that, to protect the integrity of the exams" they "are not allowed to leave the room during the exam".

On Thursday, Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar Council, stepped in to tell the Bar Standards Board that she was "very concerned", and that the Bar Council’s Education and Training Committee had written to it in early July "to express concerns and to request that the BSB consider a short comfort break during the lengthy exams".

"It is disappointing that this was not progressed", she wrote, adding that the Bar Council "also cannot understand why students in test centres are not permitted water on their desks, especially bearing in mind the hot weather".

Pinto QC said it was "difficult to understand" why students who suffered technical difficulties during their exam had to defer their exams until December, rather than a date later in the week. "This enforced deferral will mean that many will not know whether they have passed their exams before they start pupillage, inevitably adding to their stress. We believe those students deserve an explanation", she said.

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Anonymous 14 August 20 09:04

Some seriously kinky stuff from the BSB...

...the most jaw dropping part is that the BSB must have anticipated these requests and therefore taken a policy decision that this is an appropriate response. Shocking and unacceptable.

Anon 14 August 20 09:41

Totally unacceptable.  And arrogant.  And appalling.  Whatever risks there were about cheating, the stress caused to those taking the exams under these conditions surely were worse.  It is up to the examination board to find a solution - it could have changed its examination process or the law schools who charge obscene sums used some of that money to book out safe test centres for a few hours.  There will be a reckoning that is going to be bad for those who caused this. 

Anonymous 14 August 20 10:19

Don't be ridiculous Anon 09:41. Cheating & faked qualifications are rampant in education these days especially amongst those from cultures where it's seen as just part of gaming the system. A strictly enforced rule such as this is entirely reasonable. The examinees can either plan appropriately like the adults they are supposed to be, say perhaps *shock* go to the toilet before the exam, or wait to take it at time public gathering conditions are more suited to the deficiencies of their potty training.  COVID is not a chancer's charter.

Wow 14 August 20 10:31

"...The BSB said that "inevitably with any online based exam", some students experienced technical issues..."

I'd love to see that RfP response.

RfP question: Does your system experience technical issues when students log in and, if so, how do you mitigate this risk?

Pearson VUE RfP response: Hey, no sweat. There are always inevitable issues logging in to any online portal and people just suck it up. Our access failure rate is within the normal distribution curve. Should be fine, in any case you won't get any complaints because students are rarely active on social media or take up complaints procedures, especially legally-trained ones. Please hire us.

 

Anon 14 August 20 10:59

At Anon 10:19 - or as the article suggests, you know, allow a comfort break.  For example, with about 5 minutes thought I might suggest one could split a three hour exam into two parts taken consecutively with 3hrs total question answering time but between part 1 and 2 the students are allowed say a 5 minute break.  As long as they can't access the answers to Part 1 after the break or the questions to Part 2 before the break then its no chancers charter.  You know, maybe the BSB, like highly intelligent adults they are supposed to be could you know, use some intelligence and plan for natural human bodily functions rather than humiliating future professionals and colleagues!

My wife recently took an exam on Pearson view and it was a similar shit show - the company is useless from a technological stand point.

Anonymous 14 August 20 11:09

I’m surprised nobody has commented on the irony of denying peeing rights lest students cheat - on an ethics exam. 

Jamesmatthews 14 August 20 11:23

We'll, peeing into a bottle while maintaining eye contact is certainly one way to establish dominance...

Anon 14 August 20 11:35

@10.19. 
 

If cheating is so common for this particular exam, where are your figures to show the numbers of candidates who were caught and punished over, say, the last five years?  Or if you are referring to people who don’t get caught, how do you know?  Also, it doesn’t mirror the rules applied for examinations in person where you can go to the toilet for five minutes anyway and cheat on a mobile phone etc, if you were that way inclined  

In any event, even if cheating is a concern, that concern could have been dealt with by having facilities at a test centre where exams are monitored.  When you pay serious amounts of money to sit professional examinations it’s reasonable to expect - particularly during a pandemic - reasonable adjustments to be made.   

 

 

 

Anonymous 14 August 20 11:49

How will they cope in court with a 2.5 hour session before the Judge? I’ve never seen counsel ask for a loo break.

empty your bladder beforehand- one of the most important things to learn for a career at the Bar

NaylandS 14 August 20 11:51

Lord Denning: "They still knelt down and worshipped it, but they concealed under their cloaks a secret weapon." [George Mitchell (Chesterhall) Ltd v Finney Lock Seeds Ltd]

Sophie Lamb: "I still sat down and stared at the examiner, but I concealed under my maxi dress a handy bucket." [Lamb v Pearson VUE Ltd]

Anonymous 14 August 20 11:58

Absolute disgrace.

Typical approach of blaming an outsourced independent contractor. 

Weasel behaviour and does not take on any share of responsibility and blames the victims.

Students are now forced to resit with a blot against their academic record and delays to their career. 

The providers couldn't care less. They got paid. Fuck the students. 

The Fonz 14 August 20 12:02

Surely the obvious answer is to bring an ironing board into your toilet (a makeshift sit/stand desk) and take the exam from there. Good for numbers 1 and 2.

Anon 14 August 20 13:21

@Anonymous 14 August 20 10:19

Please elaborate on this: "especially amongst those from cultures where it's seen as just part of gaming the system."

Which cultures are you referring to? Go on, enlighten us. 

Surrey Solicitor 14 August 20 13:31

Welcome to a profession where those with any degree of control do not give a s**t (no pun intended) about anything except £££ and a feeling of power 

 

Anon 14 August 20 14:39

The arrogance of the BSB is astounding.  “We warned you to take a toilet break”. Who are these people?  Who advises them on PR?? 
 

They make the problem a problem for the students when it should be a problem for the BSB to deal with.   They have the money and the resources.  But presumably not the intellectual capacity to work out that the papers could have been split into two, with a five minute comfort break.  Astonishingly badly handled at all levels.  

Christina Aguilera 14 August 20 15:26

If you wanna be with me

There's a price you have to pay

Have a pee pee in a bottle

A true confession 14 August 20 16:18

I was one of the students. I didn’t really need to pee but wanted to check something online quickly. I admit it. We were told to pee beforehand and the reasons for that are obvious. It’s to avoid the cheating that is rampant. All the fake outrage here is embarrassing. 

Anonymous 14 August 20 16:45

Whatever happened to the good old days?

Back when girls covered their legs in biro and went for a toilet break 30-60 mins into a 3 hour exam so they could read their notes having a fake pee and then return to the exam hall and suddenly write their answers twice as fast.

Anonymous 14 August 20 17:14

@Anon 15.26

If you wanna be with me

There's a price you have to pay

Have a pee pee in a bottle

 

And don’t you look away 

Anonymous 14 August 20 20:23

Any instance of previous cheating in this particular exam Anon 14 August 20 is frankly irrelevant, though telling of your character how you try to wheedle out of the issue. Did your usual method not work out for you this time?

SecularJurist 14 August 20 21:43

A total ****-show. Well, the BSB have now got plenty of time to pre-prepare physical exam hall venues (with safety measures in place) for next year's new BVS course. No excuses.

There's undisputable mitigation for those affected by over-zealous proctoring or technical glitches. 

 

SecularJurist 14 August 20 23:15

I took my Bar Course Aptitude Test at Pearson VUE, though there wasn't an agent of the Thought Police watching my every move. 

Anon 15 August 20 08:15

You’re claiming that cheating is rife.  That is a claim.  Where is your evidence?  

Anonymous 15 August 20 14:36

The question in this circumstance is actually where is your evidence that it isn’t given the risk of cheating is acknowledged in all exams by the need for invigilation  itself and there is a clear need for enhanced measures to protect against it when invigilation is remote. 
 

Wishing you every success in your retakes of which there have no doubt been many.

noname 16 August 20 13:42

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/another-problem-with-shifting-education-online-a-rise-in-cheating/2020/08/07/1284c9f6-d762-11ea-aff6-220dd3a14741_story.html

Anonymous 17 August 20 20:26

@ 16:09, your desperate Google only found an American survey. And that only found the highest cheating in engineering, nursing and business. Not law.  

Enjoy your career processing domestic conveyancing files at Taylor Rose.

Ali Campbell 18 August 20 16:48

Wee

Fight for the right to go pee

Wee

Build our own lavatory

Wee

Wee

Wee will bring

Bring our own bog

Anon 19 August 20 10:06

Yes - the attempt at evidence was a bit pathetic.   The reason why I question the extent of cheating in bar school exams is because many people sitting them are (if they’ve come this far) already extremely good at doing well in exams.  They don’t need to cheat.    If you are caught you’re entire career is over.  In other subjects, cheating doesn’t necessarily carry the same sanction.   I’m not suggesting cheating doesn’t occur, it’s just without evidence of it then it’s hard to claim - as it claimed above - that is happens a lot.  

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