Wednesday, September 23, 2015

More on the Case of the Befuddling Bar Exam

To continue with last week's popular "blame...something else" post, I give you this article from Montana of all places:
Instead, [Montana Dean Kirgis] points to changes in the exam itself.

As of 2014, Montana law graduates are required to pass a new test called the Universal Bar Exam. [Law...on Mars!]  Created by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and recommended by the State Bar of Montana, the Montana Supreme Court adopted the exam in 2012. At the same time, they increased the score needed to pass by 10 points.

The new exam is different because it has more multiple-choice questions and doesn't have any material specific to Montana law, Kirgis said.

"This is an extremely controversial subject nationally," he said. "The law schools are very unhappy about these results. The National Conference of Bar Examiners have rejected calls to reveal their testing methodology. They have said publicly they have double-checked their exam, and this is all because the students aren't as good. To us, it looks like our students are comparable to students in the past."
Of course they look comparable, with their succulent flesh and ability to sign a master promissory note.

One must appreciate Kirgis raising the "it's a different test!" argument in addition to making the vague "NCBE is hiding the ball!" argument. It's not like Montana is the first state to have ever adopted the UBE. Idaho, Wyoming, and North Dakota all adopted it prior to Montana and one would think a law dean and/or news outlet could check some records to see how the switch affected bar exam results in comparable states.

Consider Idaho, which has a higher bar for UBE passage:

February 2010: 69.6%
July 2010: 80.5%
February 2011: 73.4%
July 2011:  80.5%
February 2012: 78.2% [first admission of UBE]
July 2012: 80.3%
February 2013: 75.3%
July 2013: 80.3%
February 2014:  73.4%
July 2014: 65.1%
February 2015:  72.1%

Obviously, the UBE is such an insidiously complicated test that it can have up to a five cycle delay before the dreadful effects are felt.

Of course, as your source for law school propaganda that truly goes above and beyond, I have bribed an unnamed bar exam authority for access to bar examination questions, past and present, and it confirms my suspicions that the new bar exam is significantly more difficult than the old one.


O grants Blackacre "to A for life and then to B." What is B's interest?

A. Contingent Remainder
B. Vested Remainder
C. Life Estate
D. A Bucket of Plum Sauce


In Ulysses, Joyce, through Stephen Dedalus, states that "Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves." As you ponder what they means for justice and providing legal services to the poor and needy at no cost, is your client guilty of second-degree manslaughter?

A. Yes
B. No
C. "It depends"
D. Joyce was almost as overrated as Samuel Beckett and I would much prefer Proust or Nabokov on future bar examinations, which I certainly will be taking after this inscrutable nightmare.

Clearly, the new bar exam presents broader challenges for law students, and it should be no surprise that the same student quality is struggling a bit in gaming those beautiful 90% pass rates.

Of course, all of this reinforces my previous idea that we should require a fourth year of law school in order to compensate for the NCBE's treachery in foisting this cowardly new world upon us.

Also, we should audit the NCBE.

And maybe give a standardized allotment of points to account for the inevitable annual ExamSoft clusterfucks, as well as to compensate for past ones causing forward trauma.

Oh - and we should give adjustments to students' scores based on variances in the weather and/or student dieting habits, as medical SCIENCE proves that those factors can affect standardized test outcomes.

Also, some students just test poorly. While that's a constant over time, we should figure out who they are and just give them a passing score for persevering through life with a disabling non-disability.

And also, we should just pass students who have historical metrics (like a 3.5+ gpa) that would equal bar exam passage. Wisconsin has the right idea with just opening the gates to in-state students; they should try it in Florida and Michigan and New York, or something...

Really, do we even need a bar exam?  The more these results drop and serious scrutiny is placed on law schools' admission habits, I start to think the answer is "no."

It may seem paradoxical to get rid of regulation while the regulation is clearly working to prevent the abuse it was intended to prevent, but, uh, it', and it's making law schools very unhappy.

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