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July 2020 Michigan Bar Exam One Day & Online

July 2020 Michigan Bar Exam One Day & Online

On May 18, 2020, the Michigan Board of Law Examiners announced that it will proceed with the July bar exam despite the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, this exam will be ONLINE and ONLY include the essay portion of the exam, not the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE). And, the exam will take place on one day: July 28, 2020.

July 2020 Michigan Bar Exam One Day & Online

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) announced on May 18, 2020 that it still plans to hold the July bar exam. However, this exam will be online and contain ONLY the essay portion of the Michigan Bar Exam. Thus, the exam will consist of only the 15 essay questions. The exam will be one day, July 28, 2020, rather than the traditional two-day exam.

According to the board, “An essay-only exam will test applicants’ knowledge of Michigan law, and a passing score will be sufficient to conclude an applicant should be admitted to the Bar. Experts will work with the BLE to determine an appropriate passing score based on results from previous July exams.” Note that the essay exam will cover “both state and federal law that would be addressed in the 200 question Multistate Bar Exam” so it is very important to be aware of both state and federal law.

Also, it appears the software traditionally used for the in-person exam will be the same as this online exam. The board states in its announcement: “The software provider of the BLE’s in-person laptop exams has confirmed its ability to conduct an online essay exam and to verify that the administration was honest.”

The NCBE previously announced it will offer two bar exams in the fall: September 9-10 and September 30-October 31. Since then, many states have chosen to delay their bar exam until the fall. Some states have even chosen to offer two exams!

Michigan had an announcement on its website that it would make a decision by May 5, 2020. However, it did not make this decision until May 18, 2020.

Applicants will get more information on the online exam “no later than July 1, 2020,” according to the board. Applicants with accommodations that preclude an online, remote test will take the exam in-person.

What are some important steps to take?

Here are some important things to be aware of in light of the announcement as well as some important tips:

Please make sure you have functioning wifi and a functioning laptop. 

The exam will be remote, online, and you may be required to even use video software (i.e. turn on your laptop camera) as a way to deter cheating. Make sure your laptop and wifi are functioning or that you have access to a functioning laptop and wifi.

Please make sure you learn MBE law!

The announcement specifically states that the essay exam will cover state and federal law “that would be addressed in the 200 question Multistate Bar Exam.” So you cannot ignore MBE law. We suspect we may see more MBE subjects (i.e. MBE subjects that are always tested on the Michigan Bar Exam – like Contracts, Evidence, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Civil Procedure and Real Property will likely be tested in conjunction with essays that are not always tested on the essay portion of the Michigan Bar Exam. Some of these less-tested subjects that could turn up are Sales and Torts.)

We suspect we may see some new topics — i.e. maybe less Michigan distinctions (though you certainly want to be aware of those) and more principles that would typically be tested on the MBE. In fact, the BLE has indicated in passing before that it typically tests Michigan distinctions on essays because the MBE tests “national law.” Now that there is no MBE, we may see more of this tested on July’s exam.

Also note that some students are getting confused by the seemingly contradictory statements on the BLE’s announcement–i.e. that the exam will test Michigan law and “law that would be addressed on the 200 question Multistate Bar Exam”. The Michigan essay exam has always had both areas of law as fair game–for example, common law/federal law is tested in Criminal Law questions, Civil Procedure questions, etc. So while the Michigan essay portion ordinarily tests state-specific Michigan law, it does also test common law and federal law (even pre-coronavirus!). 

Update: The BLE has indicated via email that it will administer the same exam that was going to be administered in person in July. (This would imply that the BLE will not necessarily be tweaking its essay portion at all to include more MBE law/topics and we can expect a more standard Michigan essay exam that focuses on Michigan distinctions.) However, this is not an official statement so please make sure to closely review all areas of law. 

Please write a lot of essays! (And do these on your computer screen!)

The best way to prepare for the essay exam is to complete past essays. Since the essays will likely be distributed online (i.e., on a computer) it is best to type these essays as you are looking at the question on your computer screen (rather than using printed exams). This will likely mimic the format of the bar exam so getting used to it sooner rather than later is ideal.

Work hard because the curve might be difficult! 

Some students may start to slack off, now that the MBE is not being administered and most students worry a lot about the MBE. But, now that it is an essay-only exam, you will want to work hard to make sure you can maximize your score. We suspect the grading curve will be hard (even more difficult than normal administrations) in light of the fact that the quality of essays overall will likely be better. The announcement by the Board specifically says that “Experts will work with the BLE to determine an appropriate passing score based on results from previous July exams.” This means that you should not expect the Michigan bar exam pass rate to jump significantly. It will likely be similar to what it has been in past administrations.

What’s next?

If you are looking for a bar prep class, we recommend our full service on demand course because we suspect that the essay exam will focus heavily on MBE subjects given that the MBE will no longer be part of the exam. (We do have a Michigan essay-only course but this does not cover MBE subjects and we suspect the MBE subjects will be tested more heavily than usual on this exam.) Here is a preview of the on demand class!

Check out this post on how to focus on bar prep during the coronavirus pandemic. And, here is a post for those who want to start studying for the bar exam early! Plus, make sure to check out our bar exam study schedule templates!

If you are struggling with online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, read this post for some tips on how to excel in online classes!

We’ll be adding more tips to this post soon so stay posted!

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