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What does it mean to launch a comprehensive, future-focused study of the bar exam? For the Testing Task Force, it means—among other things—taking the time to consider some fundamental questions as we begin our work. What, at minimum, do new lawyers need to know and be able to do to be considered competent to enter the profession? And which of those things are appropriate to test on a professional licensing examination?

We are committed to a thorough exploration of the competencies that will be needed in the years ahead by newly licensed lawyers in a changing profession and world. To that end, we have started gathering articles, studies, reports, and information about what others have identified as the necessary competencies for lawyers, both in the U.S. and in other common-law countries such as Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. We’ve also been looking at how other professions, such as medicine, dentistry, accounting, and architecture, have identified the competencies to be assessed on their licensing examinations. We encourage you to look through the documents we’ve collected in our reading list and this summary of licensure and certification in various professions in the U.S. And check back periodically; we’ll continue to add resources as our study progresses.

As we look toward the future of the bar exam, it’s also important to know where we’ve come from. The tests currently offered by NCBE were developed over a period of many years, with the MBE introduced in 1972, the MPRE in 1980, the MEE in 1988, and the MPT in 1997. There have been other important changes as well. In fact, the history of the bar exam has been one of steady improvements, undertaken after careful study and much deliberation and discussion. If you’d like to know more, take a look at this timeline of NCBE testing milestones that reflects the most significant moments in the history of NCBE’s testing program.

In the next few weeks, the Testing Task Force will finalize its research consultant selection and begin developing a research plan. We hope you share our excitement about this study, which reflects NCBE’s long-standing dedication to producing high-quality tests in which all stakeholders can have confidence.

In the months ahead, we’ll be using this space to explore relevant topics and gather perspectives and ideas. If you’d like to know when something new is posted here or elsewhere on our website, please subscribe to receive email updates. We also encourage you to join the conversation by commenting below or contacting us directly. Don’t be shy about reaching out to us—we want to hear from you! Please let us know if you have ideas to share, if you’re interested in participating in the study (as a focus group member, survey respondent, subject matter expert, etc.), or if you just have a question about our work.

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