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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

Committee defers decision on two-day bar exam

By Laura Ernde
Staff Writer

The Committee of Bar Examiners voted last month to indefinitely postpone the idea of shortening the bar exam from three days to two.

Senior Director of Admissions Gayle Murphy still favors the change, but said it’s a question of timing. Her office is dealing with a number of other State Bar projects right now, including a computer system upgrade, an internal operations review and an upcoming move of the bar’s Los Angeles office.

Another factor is the Board of Trustees’ decision to pursue competency training requirements for newly admitted lawyers, which could affect the staff’s workload. The admissions office would be responsible for ensuring that applicants completed the pre-admission requirements.

“Implementation of those new requirements and a change in the format of the bar examination may be just a little too much for applicants to process at one time,” Murphy wrote in a memo to the Committee of Bar Examiners.

The committee has researched the idea of shortening the test for several years and held a public forum in May. What emerged was a proposal to have one day set aside for written testing and one day for the multiple-choice Multistate Bar Examination, weighted equally for grading purposes. One essay question and one performance test would be cut.

Experts have confirmed that a two-day test would still provide an accurate measure of the test-taker’s minimum competence in the law. However, there remains a perception that a two-day exam would be easier and that reducing the essay portion would send a message to law schools that legal writing isn’t as important, her memo said.

The benefits of a two-day exam would include efficiency and cost savings. There’s also the possibility that it would reduce the time it takes to grade the exam.

Many consider the California bar exam to be the toughest of its kind in the country, not because of its length but because it requires a higher score to pass.