Legal Education

Since remote MBE won’t be available for July bar, Nevada plans for essay-based test

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Considering social distancing requirements related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nevada is going forward with a remote, open-book bar exam, which will be administered in July.

According to a Nevada Supreme Court opinion published last week, the exam will be limited to eight essay questions on state law, and a performance test. The multistate bar exam, which has 200 multiple choice questions and is developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners will be removed from the test. The Nevada bar will be administered July 28 and July 29.

Other ideas considered were diploma privilege, which Utah adopted in April. That fails to adequately protect the public, the Nevada Supreme Court wrote. It also rejected postponing the bar until September, which other states have done, according to the NCBE.

“There do not appear to be sufficient assurances the MBE will be available other than in an in-person environment by September, or that a two month postponement will allow the Board to arrange and safely administer the exam in an in-person format consistent with the COVID-19 protocols,” the court wrote.

Judith Gundersen, president of the NCBE, told the ABA Journal in an email that the MBE will not be administered remotely for any July bar exams.

“We continue to work to develop alternative options for jurisdictions to use in the fall should in-person administration of the bar exam not be possible,” she wrote.

Some testing experts have concerns about whether a remote exam can deliver valid and reliable results, due to issues including exam security, an inability to control testing environments and Americans with Disability Act accommodations. Roger Bolus, a psychometrician, has been retained by the Nevada Board of Bar Examiners to make sure the exam is reliable for determining whether a candidate is competent to practice law, the opinion states.

The decision stems from a May 7 petition filed by Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Kristina Pickering and Associate Chief Justice Mark Gibbons. Indiana is also planning for a remote bar exam, which will be one day and limited to essay questions and short-answer questions based on MBE topics. California is also planning for a remote bar exam.

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