The NCBE Plans to Administer a Fall Bar Exam Due to the Coronavirus
Note: We are keeping track of all the states that are planning on delaying the July bar exam and offering a fall bar exam instead in this post so please refer to this post for the most updated data!
Update 4/6/20: The State Bar of California is meeting again on 4/14/20 to discuss “Consideration of Options for Preparation and Administration of the June 2020 First-Year Law Students’ Examination and July 2020 California Bar Exam.”
Update 3/28/20: The State Bar of California is meeting on 3/30/20 to determine what action to take in regard to the July 2020 bar exam and the June 2020 FYLSE. We will update this page and the post linked to above when a decision is made.
Update 3/27/20: The New York State Board of Law Examiners has officially postponed the July 2020 bar exam and intends to administer an exam at a to be determined time in the fall.
On March 26, 2020, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) released a statement concerning the July 2020 bar exam and a new fall bar exam. These decisions were triggered by the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States. There still is some uncertainty as to what will happen, as with everything concerning the coronavirus. However, the NCBE has laid out a plan for the upcoming bar exam administration.
The NCBE Plans to Administer a Fall Bar Exam Due to the Coronavirus
Those planning to sit for the July 2020 bar exam have had many questions about the impact the coronavirus might have on the exam. At this time, states have shelter in place orders, plus limits on gatherings.
Thus, the NCBE released a statement with its plans for both the July 2020 bar exam and a new fall 2020 bar exam. Here is a breakdown of the statement plus our thoughts on it:
Plans for July 2020 Bar Exam
The NCBE states that it will “make its decision about whether to deploy the MBE, the MEE, and the MPT for a July administration on or about Tuesday, May 5.” Thus, on May 5th, if there are enough states ready to administer the July 2020 bar exam, if there are enough examinees, and the state/federal/local health laws allow for it, the NCBE will release the proper bar exam materials to states who want it.
Each state ultimately makes its own decision on whether to administer the July 2020 bar exam, and the NCBE will support states in its efforts.
Some states are feeling the impacts of COVID-19 more than others. The NCBE sites to “office closures, state and local restrictions on gatherings, and test venue availability.” Additionally, states like New York and Illinois are facing a higher infection rate—which could be fewer people to help at the bar exam, and fewer people to take the bar exam. Thus, we think it is more likely that states like those will pass on the July bar exam.
At the top of the post, the NCBE makes clear that it “continues to monitor the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation closely.” Thus, there is always the possibility of changes to this plan.
Overall, this should be good news to students—there still is a possibility of the July bar exam.
Plans for Fall 2020 Bar Exam
No matter whether the July bar exam is canceled or not, the NCBE stated that it plans to administer a fall bar exam. The date is to be determined but the NCBE implies it will be about two months later when it says:
NCBE will offer another set of bar exam materials—MBE, MEE, and MPT—for an administration in the fall. If there is in fact a July exam, the fall exam materials will be a different set of questions. Scores earned in UBE jurisdictions in the fall administration would constitute UBE scores. We are currently working closely with jurisdictions all across the country to find a fall date that works for the most examinees and jurisdictions.
Jurisdictions that cannot administer in July, or cannot administer at normal seating capacity, will have the fall administration date as an alternative or additional option. It would delay admission, but only by about two months, which examinees should find preferable to waiting until February 2021.
This will be an alternative option for states who do not administer a July bar exam. And, this could be an additional exam for states who are able to accommodate a July 2020 bar exam. These will be new materials, so students will not know the answers if they choose to take the fall exam.
Our guess is that the vast majority of states will move the exam to the fall. As a result, we suspect the NCBE will not administer the materials for the July 2020 bar exam. We suspect New York’s decision will have a trickle effect, and all states will move to the fall exam for the safety of examinees.
Again, overall, we think this is good news for examinees. This means they will not have to wait until the February 2021 bar exam, and therefore even longer to be licensed! Plus, the fall 2020 exam naturally allows examinees to have more time to study. Especially students who have felt the impacts of the coronavirus at home, school, work, etc.—this extension will be much needed.
However, we realize it also does impose an inconvenience to students who were eager to get the bar exam over with in July and who have made other plans around it. It also remains to be seen how law firms will accommodate students.
Also, if your state chooses to cancel the fall 2020 bar exam, the NCBE states that “you can apply in another UBE jurisdiction and earn a portable score that will qualify you to seek admission in all the UBE jurisdictions.” This could lead to an increase in applicants at locations where the bar exam still is administered in July, which would not help calm the spread of the coronavirus. But, states could enforce caps on how many examinees can fit in its space. Thus, we suggest signing up early if this is your plan!
JD Advising will continue to monitor the situation and give readers updates as more information is released.
In the meantime, we have some great tips on how to pay attention in online law school classes. (If you need help with law school classes/finals, we are here for you! JD Advising offers law school tutoring virtually. You will get the same experience as being in person and the same materials!)
Wondering how the coronavirus might impact law school graduation? Check out our post!
You can also sign up for our free early bar prep tips here! We will include coronavirus updates in the early bar prep tips—so you will be the first to know about any important updates!
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