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The 2011 Remedial Law MCQ Bar Exam: A Post-Mortem Analysis

by: PROF. MANUEL R. RIGUERA

“He who diligently examines past events easily foresees future ones.”   Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses 1517.

  

The 2011 MCQ bar exams were the first of its kind and as to be expected of any pioneering endeavor there is not much information to be obtained about it.  With this in mind, I wrote this brief after-exam report on the remedial law MCQ exam, which hopefully will help shed some light on MCQ exams and prove useful to a bar examinee as he prepares for the 2012 bar.

 

Time Management

The 2011 Remedial Law MCQ bar examination was held on 27 November 2011 from 8 am to 10:30 a.m.   Initially the schedule was from 8 am to 10 am. But midway through the bar exam (in the light of feedback from the examinees that 2 hours was barely enough to answer 100 MCQs), the Supreme Court decided to add 30 minutes to the schedule. 

If the exam had been for two hours, the examinees would have on average 1 minute and 12 seconds for each MCQ. Since the exam was for 2 hours and a half, then it meant that the examinees had 1 minute and 30 seconds for each MCQ.  

We interviewed numerous examinees and found out that on average it took 26 minutes to transfer the 100 answers to the answer sheet. Simulated exams conducted by Jurists Bar Review confirmed this finding.  An examinee should thus give allowance of about 26 minutes for transferring the answers.  

Attention should be drawn to the fact that the Supreme Court has reverted to the 2-hour time limit.     If we deduct 26 minutes from the 2 hours, it means that the examinee has actually 1 hour and 34 minutes only to answer the 100 MCQs.  On average, this means that an examinee has only 56 seconds to answer one MCQ! 

Fifty-six seconds is not much time for answering an MCQ, especially a problem-type one.   It is thus important that an examinee train and home his time-management skills by taking mock bar exams which simulate the actual bar exam as to time, exam venue conditions, and paraphernalia.      

    

Types of MCQ Questions and their Distribution 

There are 3 types of MCQs:  (1) know-and-recall MCQs (Type A), (2)  read-and-understand MCQs (Type B), and (3) analyze-and-solve MCQs (Type C).  

Type A MCQs seek to test the examinee’s ability to know and recall a specific law or legal principle.   In drafting such an MCQ, the examiner will employ a specific law or legal principle as a proposition.  The first part of the proposition will then be the stem and the second part will be among the choices.  An example of this type of MCQ is as follows:  

            An action quasi in rem is: 

            A   Binding upon the whole world.

            B    A mix of a real and a personal action.

            C  Directed against particular persons but seeks the sale or disposition of defendant’s property.

            D   An action in personam involving real property.

 

Type B MCQS go beyond a mere know-and-recall task.  It tests if an examinee truly understands a specific law or legal principle by relating the law or legal principle to specific situations or particular examples.  An example is given below: 

            The best evidence rule bars the presentation of 

    1.   Photocopy of a marked money used in a buy-bust.
    2.   Testimony of plaintiff as to defendant’s answer to plaintiff’s question about the contents of a letter.
    3.   Photocopy of a print-out of an email message.
    4. Testimony of a witness as to what the defendant texted him.

 

The Type C MCQ tests the quintessential skill of a lawyer:  his ability to analyze a hypothetical case or problem, to determine the applicable law, and to reach a conclusion or opinion.   The MCQ consists of a fact-pattern of a hypothetical problem, followed by the call of the question, then by the four options.  An example of an analyze-and-solve MCQ is given below: 


Although more than 3 months had already lapsed from service by the Defendant of his answer, the Plaintiff had not yet moved that the case be set for pre-trial.  The Defendant moved that the complaint be dismissed for failure to prosecute.  May the court grant the motion?

 

    1. Yes, Plaintiff has the duty to move that the case be set for pretrial.
    2. No, the Defendant should have moved that the case be set for pretrial.
    3. No, the court should simply order the Plaintiff to move that the case be set for pretrial.
    4. No, the clerk of court shall issue a notice of pretrial.   

 

Justice Roberto Abad, the chair of the 2011 Bar, stated that Type B and C questions, since they test a higher level of intelligence, would each make up 40% of the total MCQs while Type A MCQs would make up only 20%, since they test merely rote memory.  

 

A perusal of the 2011 Remedial Law MCQ Bar however reveals the following actual allocation:

 

2011 REMEDIAL LAW MCQ BAR EXAM

Allocation of MCQ Types

 

MCQ Type

Desired Allocation

Actual Allocation

A (Know & Recall)

20%

36%

B (Read & Understand)

40%

29%

C (Analyze & Solve)

40%

35%

 

 

What happened was that Type A had the highest allocation.  Type A is the least challenging MCQ.  Whether a high percentage of Type A questions results in a higher pass rate remains to be seen. 

Justice Abad’s desired total allocation for Types B and C was 80%.  As it turned out the actual allocation was only 64%.   Most probably the reason for this is the difficulty in crafting Type B and C MCQs, as opposed to the relative ease in coming up with a Type A MCQ. (All the drafter has to do is break up a legal rule into a stem and an option and then come up with distractors).   

For the reviewee, what this all means is that he should not take lightly the study of and training for Type A MCQs.  Until MCQ writers gain more experience and the Supreme Court attains a critical mass of Type B and C questions in its data bank, one can reasonably expect Type A MCQs to comprise the majority of MCQs, or at least to exceed the 20% cap. 

It may not be amiss to remind the examinee that the 3 types of MCQs all have the same weight of one point for scoring purposes.  Thus if you answer correctly a Type A and a Type C question, you will get one point for both, not one point for the Type A and two points for the Type C.

 

FORMAT OF QUESTIONS

Majority of MCQ testing experts recommend against negative questions, the reasons being that the focus is on finding a wrong premise rather than searching for the correct answer and that negative questions could confuse the examinee.  However there were 16 negative questions in the remedial law MCQ bar.   This was somewhat surprising as Justice Abad himself had advised against using negative questions unless the purpose was to test the examinee’s knowledge of rule exceptions. One negative question is MCQ No. 4.

 

4.  Which of the following is NOT CONSISTENT with the rules governing

expropriation proceedings?

 

A. The court shall declare the defendant who fails to answer the complaint in

default and render judgment against him.

B. The court shall refer the case to the Board of Commissioners to determine the amount of just compensation.

C. The plaintiff shall make the required deposit and forthwith take immediate

possession of the property sought to be expropriated.

D. The plaintiff may appropriate the property for public use after judgment and

payment of the compensation fixed in it, despite defendant’s appeal.

 

            The above question does not test the examinee’s knowledge of an exception to a rule but requires him to search for the inconsistent or incorrect premise.   The lesson here is that the examinee should also be trained to tackle negative questions, even those which do not call for knowledge of rule exceptions.  As a matter of fact majority of the negative questions asked did not test knowledge of exceptions.  Nonetheless knowledge of rule exceptions should still form part of the examinee’s arsenal. 

            Justice Abad recommends that as much as possible a negative question should be redrafted into an affirmative format.   Let us look at MCQ No. 15.

 

15. Which of the following grounds for dismissal invoked by the court will NOT

PRECLUDE the plaintiff from refiling his action?

 

A. Res judicata.

B. Lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter.

C. Unenforceability under the Statutes of Fraud.

D. Prescription.

 

            A negative question also suffers from the disadvantage that it could be somewhat confusing. Note that “not preclude” is actually a double negative, but the examinee may under grinding time pressure overlook this. Following Justice Abad’s recommendation, the MCQ could have been redrafted to read, “[w]hich of the following grounds for dismissal will allow the plaintiff to refile his action?” which phrasing is less susceptible to being misunderstood.  It is praiseworthy however that in negative questions, the negative words were capitalized in order to lessen the chance of confusion.  

            It was also good that the examiner avoided MCQs which call for the best answer, and those with “all of the above” and “none of the above” as options.   

            Question-series type MCQs in which a series of two or more questions are based on a single fact-pattern were not used.  An example of a question series is the following:

 

Questions 72 and 73 are based upon the following facts:  A, a resident of Dagupan City, secured a favorable judgment in an ejectment case over real property located in Malolos, Bulacan, against X, also a resident of Dagupan City, from the metropolitan trial court of Manila.  The judgment entered on 15 June 2006, had not as yet been executed.

     

72.  If A decides to enforce the judgment of the MeTC, what is the procedure to be followed by A in enforcing the judgment? 

 

      A.   Action for revival of judgment.

      B.   Action for enforcement of judgment.

      C.  Ex parte motion for execution of the judgment.

      D.  Motion for execution of judgment with notice and hearing.

 

73.  With what court and in what venue should A institute the proceedings?

 

      A.  RTC Dagupan City.

      B.  MeTC Dagupan City.

      C.  RTC Manila.

      D.  RTC Malolos, Bulacan.  

 

            Question series are liberally used in the U.S. Multi-State Bar Exam (MBE).  It remains to be seen whether they will be employed in the Philippine MCQ Bar.  It is prudent however that an examinee be also trained to tackle such kinds of MCQs.

 

Effectiveness of MCQ Tactics and Strategies Proven

Our study of the 2011 Remedial Law MCQ Bar showed that MCQs were “vulnerable to attack” by MCQ tactics.   Any MCQ no matter how carefully drafted will leave tell-tale signs and clues which can be exploited by a trained examinee.  

MCQ tactics can generally be classified into two types:  The first type is comprised of elimination and discounting tactics, that is, those tactics which look for indications that an option is wrong or dubious.  The second type is made up of hunting tactics, that is, those tactics which look for clues that an option is correct. 

The experience gained from the 2011 Bar together with feedback from the Jurists candidates enabled Jurists to further fine tune and improve its MCQ training manual and system.  

 

Effectiveness of Mock Bar Exam and Coaching

After-exam debriefing of Jurists examinees showed the effectiveness of Jurists’ mock bar and coaching system.   The examinees stated that the series of mock bars and one-on-one coaching sessions trained them to apply the time-management and MCQ tactics and strategies that had been taught to them.  Testimonials from the successful Jurists examinees were one in praising the Jurists system for enabling them to land in the history books as passers of the first ever MCQ Bar Exam.        

 

-oOo-

May 2012