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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I receive updates on the Testing Task Force's study?

To receive regular updates about our study, please visit our SUBSCRIBE page. Once you sign up, you will receive updates with the latest Task Force news, research, and blog posts.

Why is NCBE studying the bar exam?

NCBE studies many aspects of the bar examination on an ongoing basis. Periodic confirmation that the content being tested on a licensing exam aligns with competencies expected of a newly licensed professional is common and prudent in the field of licensing exams. The last large-scale survey-based study of this nature undertaken by NCBE was conducted via a job analysis in 2012. The Testing Task Force reflects NCBE’s ongoing efforts to support jurisdictions and to sustain confidence by all stakeholders in the testing process.

How is the Task Force study different from the 2012 job analysis

The Task Force study will be more comprehensive than the 2012 job analysis in several ways. The 2012 study identified the job activities of newly licensed lawyers in sufficient detail to provide a job-related and valid basis for the development of licensing examinations offered by NCBE. The Task Force study will identify competencies required of newly licensed lawyers in the 21st century; it will also research whether, how, and when the identified competencies could be assessed and in the process will study test formats, test delivery methods, and the timing of test administration.

Why is a more comprehensive study required now?

The legal profession, like other professions, is undergoing a period of accelerated change. Some of the changes are brought on by rapid developments in technology that impact both the delivery of legal services and the types of legal problems for which clients seek representation. Technology is also contributing to advances in the science of assessment and testing. In addition, competency modeling in the legal profession has become increasingly important in a variety of contexts, including assessment of competencies expected of newly licensed lawyers to protect the public. It is prudent to undertake a comprehensive and systematic study at this time to ensure that the bar exam keeps pace with developments and changes in the practice of law, legal education, technology, and testing.

How did the Task Force solicit input from jurisdictions and other stakeholders?

The task force conducted 30 listening sessions held at 10 events from November 2018 through June 2019. Stakeholders included bar examiners, bar administrators, legal educators, and practitioners. The purpose was to listen to stakeholders’ opinions about the current exam and solicit ideas for the next generation of the bar exam.

Who are the members of the Task Force?

Members of the Task Force bring many years of combined experience from their roles serving on the bench, in private practice, on state boards of bar examiners, as bar administrators, as legal employers, and as legal educators. They are familiar with NCBE’s examinations and knowledgeable about its test development processes. The Task Force is purposefully small in number to permit deliberate execution of its work, but it is committed to a comprehensive and collaborative study that draws heavily on independent expert assistance and on outreach to and input from stakeholders.

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How will the Task Force work with independent experts during its study?

The Task Force has selected two independent research consulting firms—ACS Ventures, LLC, and American Institutes for Research (AIR)—to support its study. In addition, the Task Force’s work is supported by NCBE’s Technical Advisory Panel of measurement experts.

What is the role of the Task Force?

The Task Force will oversee the study, which will include gathering input from stakeholders. The Task Force will periodically report on its progress to the NCBE Board of Trustees and through updates on its website. Ultimately, the Task Force will prepare a final report setting out its recommendations. The report will provide a documented record of the Task Force’s work and will include qualitative and quantitative data that support its findings and recommendations.

Other groups are studying the bar exam now, too. Will the Task Force work with these groups?

The Task Force looks forward to receiving feedback and input from other stakeholder groups that are studying the bar exam. Although the Task Force study will be undertaken independently, the Task Force plans to share the results of its research with other interested stakeholders.

What will the next generation of the bar exam look like?

The task force recommends an integrated exam, meaning that it will measure both knowledge and skills holistically using item sets and a mix of item formats. The exam will be offered as a summative event by computer with a compensatory scoring model.

The exam will test foundational concepts and principles including:

  • Civil Procedure
  • Contract Law
  • Evidence
  • Torts
  • Business Associations
  • Constitutional Law
  • Criminal Law and Constitutional Protections Impacting Criminal Proceedings
  • Real Property

It will also test foundational skills including:

  • Legal Research
  • Legal Writing
  • Issue Spotting and Analysis
  • Investigation and Evaluation
  • Client Counseling and Advising
  • Negotiation and Dispute Resolution
  • Client Relationship and Management

When will we see a new bar exam?

The Task Force has released its preliminary recommendations for the future bar exam, and will work to implement the new test in the next 4-5 years. 

Will the bar exam continue to be offered twice per year?

Yes.

How will the bar exam be delivered?

The test will be computer-based, administered either on candidates’ laptops at jurisdiction-managed sites, or at computer testing centers.

How will the changes affect the Uniform Bar Exam?

TBD