Decision about releasing July bar exam materials will come in May, NCBE says
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The National Conference of Bar Examiners, which develops and produces the attorney licensing tests used by most U.S. jurisdictions, will announce in early May whether its tests will be released for the July bar exam.
Each jurisdiction will make its own decision about the July bar, based on issues such as COVID-19 related office closures, state and local restrictions on gatherings and test venue availability, according to an announcement on the NCBE website. The organization’s decision on releasing the exams depends on whether there are enough jurisdictions and test-takers to support equating scores, scoring support and grader training.
“Jurisdictions are at varying points on a decision about a July administration. Some have felt the impact of COVID-19 more severely than others. The goal is that by May 5 we will all know more and can have more confidence in our decision about whether there will be a July exam anywhere,” the announcement states.
Also, the NCBE will offer another set of exam materials for a fall bar administration.
“If there is in fact a July exam, the fall exam materials will be a different set of questions. Scores earned in (Uniform Bar Exam) 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,” the release states.
As of March 25, New York, California and Florida were considering a potential delay of the July bar exam, Bloomberg News reported. Also this week, a group of legal academics in a working paper urged states to consider diploma privilege for 2020 law school graduates, as well as supervised practice.
It’s impossible to predict what will happen with the coronavirus. But it seems certain that it will still be present through the fall, and no vaccine or treatment will be available by then, Deborah J. Merritt, one of the paper’s authors, told the ABA Journal in an email.
“We administer bar exams in a way that is almost certain to spread the infection—even with smaller groups of examinees. Tired, immune weakened people in a room together for two days; using the same restrooms; staying together in nearby hotels. State supreme courts face a real prospect of creating ’super spreader’ events that—starting with a single infected test-taker—will spread widely throughout their state,” noted Merritt, an Ohio State University law professor.
If the July bar exam is postponed, people signed up for BarBri will continue to have access to the bar review course, at no additional cost.
“In the unlikely event that licensure via diploma privilege is granted and you are not required to take a bar exam for full licensure, BARBRI will provide an equitable refund,” the organization posted on is website on March 26.
Barry Currier, managing director of accreditation and legal education for the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, told the ABA Journal that the section is aware of NCBE’s planning efforts.
“We are supportive of their efforts and have expressed our willingness to be helpful in any way that we can,” he wrote.