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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Monday, July 21, 2014

New Scoring Method for Bar Exam Essays

Back in the summer of 1988, I took the bar exam along with hundreds of other lawyer hopefuls, then administered at one of MSU's convention halls near the Brody dormitory.  Thankfully, I passed on the first try.

Back then, if you scored a 50+ on the "multi-state" portion of the test [multiple choice questions], you passed without even having your essay questions evaluated.  Although I missed passing on the multi-state by two points, my 8.5 out of 10 average on the essays was good enough to pass; whew! [I've always been more on an essay kind-of-guy.]

Next week, the latest crop of lawyer hopefuls will truck up to East Lansing to sit for the 2-day exam.  They will be facing a new assessment technique developed by the Michigan Board of Law Examiners, in conjunction with and approval from the deans from all of Michigan's five law schools.  [Note: Long ago, the Board of Law Examiners did away with passage via your multi-state score.]

The Board of Law examiners is charged with ensuring that law school grads who pass the Michigan Bar Exam demonstrate the minimum level of competency necessary to become a member of the bar [a requirement to be a lawyer in Michigan].  In this way, the public is protected.

The essay exams next week will be assessed in a different manner than in years past.  For the first time, the exam takers will have their essay answers assessed by a method that more accurately:
  • ensures that the essay test scores across various administrations of the exam reflect the same skill level; and
  • continues to reflect differences in the difficulty between the multiple choice portion of the exam and the essay portion of the exam.
How the Board is going to do this remains part of their "secret sauce".  The idea behind the new assessment method is to ensure that a passing score should mean the same thing with regard to basic competence, from one year to the next.

In adopting the new method of assessment, the Board utilized a firm of leading experts in the development of "high stakes" professional examinations.  The new assessment establishes a common scale that accounts for differences in difficulty across different exam administrations.

You see, in the essay portion of the exam, the subject matter changes over the years.  Different topics are covered; some more difficult than others.

Well, good luck to all the exam takers next week; sure does suck to be you.  I fondly recall spending the month of July locked in the law library in Ann Arbor [back then without a/c], waiting for the doors to open at 8:00 am and dragging myself back out at dusk, wondering what kind of summer day I missed.

Good practice for the real world of lawyering.

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1 Comments:

Blogger david stark said...

The issue that you raised in your blog is really very serious, and most of people lose the quality and integrity of such subjects, when they try to pen it down. But, your job is well done.
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April 30, 2015 at 5:00 AM 

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