Victorian Bar Entrance Exam


To become members of the Victorian Bar, applicants must successfully complete an entrance exam and meet the eligibility requirements in order to undertake the Bar Readers' Course and a period of readership under a mentor.

The purpose of the Victorian Bar Readers’ Entrance Exam is to ensure every Bar Reader has a base level of core knowledge common to key areas of practice as a barrister. The key areas examined are Civil and Criminal Procedure, Evidence and Ethics.

The Exam ensures that Readers commencing the Readers’ Course are equipped to immediately commence the practical training exercises involved in the Course.

To gain admission to the Victorian Bar Readers' Course, applicants must first sit and pass the Exam and meet suitability requirements. The minimum pass mark is 75%. 

The Exam typically attracts a high number of applicants.  Successful candidates are offered places as per regulation 6(7) of the Bar’s Application and Reading Regulations (Regulations).

About the Exam

Eligibility

To be eligible to undertake the Exam a candidate must:

  • be admitted as an Australian Lawyer, or expect on reasonable grounds to become an Australian Lawyer by the time he or she signs the Bar Roll;
  • be of fit and proper standing, (refer to Victorian Legal Services Board’s Fit and Proper Person Policy);
  • be available and willing to undertake either of the next two Victorian Bar Readers’ Courses immediately following the Exam;     
  • be prepared to read with an eligible mentor for nine months, commencing at the start of the Readers’ Course;
  • agree to the Exam Rules and Conditions; and
  • register and pay the registration fee (non-refundable).

Candidates should consult the Entrance Exam Information Guide for Candidates and the Victorian Bar Application and Reading Regulations (Regulations)  for further information about eligibility to undertake the Exam and to apply to become a member of the Victorian Bar.

Important Dates

2020

Exam Information Seminar

Tuesday, 25 August 2020 at 4.00pm (AEST)

Registration Opens

Tuesday, 25 August 2020 at 5.00pm (AEST)

Registration Closes

Friday, 25 September 2020 at 5.00pm (AEST)

Exam Preparation Seminar

Postponed to:

Thursday, 1 October 2020 at 4.00pm (AEST)

Exam

Sunday, 25 October 2020 at 9.30am–12.30pm (AEDST)

2021

2021 March Readers’ Course

4 March – 6 May 2021

2021 September Readers’ Course

19 August – 21 October 2021

2021 Entrance Exam
(for 2022 Readers’ Courses)

Date to be confirmed.

Registration

The next exam will be held Sunday 25 October 2020.

To register, you will need to complete the online registration, provide photographic proof of identity and pay the registration fee (non-refundable).

The registration fee is $620 including GST.

Registration will open from 5:00pm on 25 August 2020 and will close 5:00pm on 25 September 2020.

Upon registration, candidates will be able to access the Exam materials and resources.

Persons interested in registering for the Exam should note that registration must be completed strictly within the time specified. Late registrations will not be accepted.

Exam Information Seminar

The Bar conducted a general information session about the exam on 25 August 2020. At this session the chief examiner provided an overview of the structure and format of the Exam. 

The recording of this session can be viewed below.

 

The accompanying questions arising from this session has been summarised and can be viewed here.

Preparing for the Exam

Electronic Exam

From 2020, the Exam will be delivered electronically using ExamSoft software.

To undertake the Exam, candidates must use their own laptop or other device which has a camera and which meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for devices as determined by ExamSoft.  Candidates will sit the exam remotely in their own location.  The Victorian Bar exam will require the use of three software programs provided by ExamSoft:  Examplify, ExamID and ExamMonitor.

The minimum system requirements differ according to the operating system for the chosen device, and are as described in the following links:

Candidate devices must meet the minimum requirements that apply for exams with ExamID and ExamMonitor enabled.  NB:  iPad is unsupported for use with ExamMonitor and cannot be used for the exam.

How will it work?

Candidates will undertake the Exam at their own location (e.g. home, office), using the ExamSoft software, which will be supplied to them after registration and must be downloaded onto their own device and tested well prior to the Exam.

Shortly prior to the Exam, candidates will download an encrypted copy of the Exam onto their device, which can only be accessed (via password) and completed on the day of the Exam.

Candidates will have three hours to complete the Exam after accessing and commencing it. This includes time to both read and complete the exam (there is no additional reading period).

On the day of the Exam, candidates must undertake the three-hour Exam within the permitted window, which is between 9:30am and 1:00pm (Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time). This means that candidates must access and commence the Exam at or shortly after 9:30am. Candidates will be automatically “timed out” three hours after commencing the Exam, and the program will lock the encrypted exam file.  They will then have to upload the Exam promptly before 2:00pm on the same day (as described further below).

During the Exam, candidates must type their answers directly into the software on their device. There is no mechanism for candidates to handwrite their answers. 

The Exam is an open book exam, but candidates may only refer to non-electronic materials (i.e. printed or hand-written notes and other hard copy texts and materials). While undertaking the Exam, candidates must not access or consult any electronic materials or other devices (including phone, tablet, smart-watch), and they must not communicate with any person.  

As the ExamSoft software and the Exam and video are stored locally on the candidate’s device, there is no need for access to the internet or Wi-Fi during the Exam, and the ExamSoft software will prevent that access. 

During the Exam, internet access and other features of a candidate’s device will be disabled by the ExamSoft software, which will access the camera on the candidate’s device and will capture a video of the candidate.  This may subsequently be reviewed and retained by ExamSoft and the Victorian Bar.   

Exam Materials and Resources

Exam materials including the Reading and Legislation Guide, access to video tutorials and seminars and electronic practice exams will be provided to candidates on successful registration.  It is strongly recommended that interested persons register well prior to the deadline to maximise their access to preparation resources.

Past Exam Materials

The materials below relate to the October 2019 Exam which was not conducted electronically. Candidates are advised that future exams will be in electronic format, however the examinable content will remain relatively similar.

 October '19 Exam Paper

 October '19 Exam Paper with Answers

Alternative Sitting Arrangements

In extenuating circumstances, candidates may apply for alternative sitting arrangements (per Regulations, reg. 6A).

In your application you will need to include:

  • Basis for your request, and
  • Detailed supporting documents, eg medical certificate/letter from health professional explaining basis for request.

Applications for alternative sitting arrangements can be made at registration or by email no later than five full business days prior to the exam.  Applications made later will not be considered.  Some requests may be subject to surcharges.

Approval or refusal is at the discretion of the Admissions Officer.

Special Consideration Applications

An applicant who registers to sit the Exam and who considers that his or her result in the Exam may be affected, or has been affected, by illness, injury, bereavement or other hardship, may make an application for special consideration (per Regulations, reg. 6A).  A request for special consideration must be made in writing no more than five full business days after the date of the Exam. Special consideration will only be considered if the candidate would not otherwise receive an offer.

Frequently Asked Questions
Can I sit the exam if I am overseas or interstate?
Yes, but you must give notice to the Victorian Bar office at the time of registering for the exam under Alternative Exam Sitting Arrangements.  You will be required to sit the exam at the same time as local candidates, (AEDST).
 
What time commitment is required to study for the exam?
This will vary between individual candidates and is dependent on the individual’s study habits and techniques.
 
Can I hand write my exam?
There is no option to hand write the exam.  A hand-written exam cannot be remotely invigilated. 
 
Will I have allocated reading time for the exam?
There is no separate reading time, however, allowance for reading time is "in built" into the examination time. 
 
Can I use a secondary electronic device as a timer during the exam?
No. Only the electronic device you use for the exam is permitted. Any additional electronic devices are strictly prohibited.
 
Do I need to have stable internet connection throughout the exam?
There is no need to access the internet during the exam.  The Examplify program will block the device’s internet access once the exam begins until completion. Internet connection is required only prior to the Permitted Time Window to download the exam file and again after the exam is completed for uploading the completed exam. 
 
Can I print the Exam Reading Guide materials?
Prior to the exam, candidates may choose to print any of the Reading Guide materials to bring into the exam. You may print and prepare any hard copy materials you wish to bring into the exam room with you. This includes any notes, text books, print outs etc.  You cannot print during the exam.
 
How is cheating detected?
ExamSoft offers military-grade exam proctoring and security services. Examinees will log in through ExamID and verify their identity. During the exam, the Examplify software locks the candidate’s device so the exam can be completed while all other software, files and features are disabled.  ExamMonitor captures a continuous audio and video recording of the examinee using both webcam and screen capture. (No WiFi connection is required.) Once the exam is completed, all exam footage is uploaded and analysed by sophisticated artificial intelligence software which detects abnormal activity that potentially indicates collusion or academic dishonesty.
This detected activity is then reviewed by a professional invigilator.  All suspicious behaviour will be reviewed and dealt with by the Victorian Bar. The Victorian Bar has a zero tolerance policy for cheating, and candidates who engage in cheating will be disqualified from the Exam and may face additional consequences including possible reporting to relevant bodies for professional misconduct.
 
What happens after I sit the Exam?
Approximately 6-8 weeks after the Exam, you will be notified of your result. 

The number of participants in each Readers’ Course is limited.  Successful candidates may receive an offer to commence the next Readers' Course or may be required to submit a preference of course intake. Please refer to s.6(7) of the Regulations regarding allocation of places.

If you receive an offer, you will be expected to participate in the Readers' Course offered. A deferral to the next reading period may be granted only in exceptional circumstances. An exceptional circumstance includes where your current employment contract requires more than two months' notice of resignation. You cannot defer beyond that second reading period.

If you are unsuccessful in obtaining an offer you are welcome to sit the Exam in future intakes, but you must pay the non-refundable application fee to sit that Exam. 

General feedback regarding the Exam is provided to all unsuccessful candidates in the form of selected model answers.  These will be communicated after results are finalised.
Candidates who have been unsuccessful after three or more attempts may apply for an interview with Chief Examiner for individual feedback (fees apply.)
 
How much does the Readers Course cost?
The course fee in 2020 was $7000 including GST.  The course fee is subject to change for 2021.  More information is available on the Readers Course webpage.
 
Does the Bar provide any financial hardship assistance for exam candidates?
No. The Victorian Bar Inc is a not for profit, member organization.  Exam fees are set on a cost recovery basis.  Being a barrister can be an incredibly rewarding career.  The VicBar’s brochure 'Becoming a barrister' may help you to assess whether this is the right time to join the Bar.
 
When will exams be set for 2021?
Exams for 2021 will be confirmed later this year.  The number of exams offered is contingent on the number of successful applicants for the October 2020 exam.