Bar Exam Organization

According to a nationwide survey of over four hundred stakeholders, the “strength of the bar exam” is the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) portion of the bar exam. The MPT was widely viewed as the component that is most representative of the skills needed to practice law.

The NCBE stated that the stakeholders represented included bar administrators, bar examiners, and justices; law school deans and doctrinal, clinical, and academic support faculty; and lawyer members of the American Bar Association (ABA).

The Uniform Bar Exam has two MPTs. Each contains a “file” (documents that reflect the facts of a case) and a “library” (cases and/or statutes that contain the law). Examinees are supposed to follow the directions listed in a task memo to apply the law found in the library to the facts found in the file.

The MPT is viewed at as testing the skills that are most relevant to practicing law — that is, dissecting a file to pick out the relevant information and understanding which law applies as well as how it applies. The MPT tests critical thinking skills applicable to most areas of law.

The rest of the survey responses were very interesting. A few points that were raised were, for example:

  • whether the multiple-choice portion is relevant (many stakeholders noted that multiple-choice questions have nothing to do with the practice of law, but they also stated that the multiple-choice portion was more objective and left less room for bias)
  • whether the bar exam should be administered more than twice a year
  • whether there are too many subjects/too many nuances tested on the bar exam (MBE and MEE)
  • whether there should be a uniform passing score or more guidance by the NCBE as to how to grade the bar exam

The NCBE is still in the “study” phase as it contemplates designing the bar exam of the future. But it is interesting that there was uniformity among stakeholders in believing the MPT was the most critical part of the bar exam. This makes us wonder if the MPT will be expanded to be worth more points than it currently is.

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