THE NEW 2012 BAR EXAMINATION FORMAT: ITS IMPACT ON BAR REVIEW AND PREPARATION
Last March 20, Justice Martin S. Villarama Jr., chair of the 2012 Bar Examination Committee, announced to the law deans the new changes approved by the Supreme Court for the 2012 Bar Examination.
The changes had their genesis from an ongoing debate on the format of the bar examination, which was not settled with finality despite the adoption of the combined MCQ and performance-test format in the 2011 Bar.
One side advocates the use of MCQs and performance tests as the new and progressive trend in bar examinations. The other side contends that the essay examination is still the gold standard in measuring the competence of those aspiring to be lawyers. The latest changes appear
to be a compromise between the two views.
Justice Villarama said that the bar examination will be held in October 2012.Traditionally the bar was held in September. The 2011 Bar however was administered in November in order to give the examinees more time to adjust to the new format.
For the bar examination subjects, except legal ethics, the examination would consist ofan MCQ portion and an essay-exam portion. There will still be a performance test (trial memorandum) on the afternoon of the last Sunday. The MCQ portion would have a weight of 60% while the essay-exam part will have a weight of 40%.2 For political law, civil law, commercial law, and remedial law, the MCQ exam will consist of 100 MCQs to be answered in 2 hours while for labor law, taxation, and criminal law, it would be 75 MCQs in 1½ hours.
The essay examination will follow the MCQ exam and will consist of 10 essay questions (with sub-questions) to be answered in 2 hours for political law, civil law, commercial law, and remedial law, and 1½ hours for labor law, taxation, and criminal.
The legal ethics examination will be held on the afternoon of the last Sunday and will consist of a one-hour, 50-MCQ examination. After the legal ethics exam, the examinee will be given 2½ hours to prepare a trial memorandum on a hypothetical civil or criminal case. Note that the trial memorandum will not be on the subject of legal ethics.
For greater clarity, the schedule of the examination is tabulated below:
Impact on bar exam preparation and review
The combined MCQ and essay-question type of bar examination would pose new and additional challenges to the bar examinee. This would require that the examinee be a multi-skilled one, able to analyze and answer both an MCQ and an essay question.
There is one set of skills for reading and answering an MCQ and another for reading and answering an essay question. Yet it should be noted that both the MCQ and the essay question components are to be tackled by the examinee in a single 4-hour or 3- hour examination. In effect the examinee would be tackling four exams (two in the morning and two in the afternoon) in one day. The bar examinations would thus be an arduous test of both cerebral and physical fitness.
MCQ and Essay exam under grinding time pressure
It is to be noted that the examinee is given only 2 hours to answer 100 MCQs in Political Law, Civil Law, Commercial Law, and Remedial Law; 1½ hours to tackle 75 MCQs in Labor Law, Taxation, and Criminal Law; and 1 hour to answer 50 MCQs in Legal Ethics. Hence on average an examinee has only 1 minute and 12 seconds to answer an MCQ. Compare this with the 1 minute and 48 seconds that an examinee has on average to answer an MCQ in the US Multi-State Bar Exam (MBE).
After having tackled the rigorous MCQ exam, the examinee without any rest will proceed to tackle the essay examination. The essay examination is composed of ten questions, with subquestions. Law students who have taken 2-hour final examinations consisting of 10 questions with subquestions are familiar with their nerve-wracking nature. Note that in Labor Law, Taxation, and Criminal Law, the examinee will have only 1½ hours to answer the 10 essay questions; hence time-wise these will be tougher than the morning subjects.
Importance of coaching
There is thus a cogent need for a training and coaching program that involves not only a series of mock-bar examinations but also one-on-one coaching with a feedback mechanism. The mere taking of practice exams by a reviewee and the giving to him of the answers would be inadequate. The reviewee must have the benefit of feedback from an experienced and competent trainer and this can only be had under a program that provides for one-on-one and face-to-face interaction with a coach. Using a series of specially crafted mock bar exams, the coach would be able to assess the weaknesses and strengths of the reviewee and to monitor and guide his progress.
Individualized coaching is especially important for training the bar reviewee for the essay examination. Since the essay question requires the subjective judgment of the examiner, the examinee must be trained and honed in the proper manner of presenting his answer. Each examinee has his own strengths and weaknesses in approaching and answering essay questions and a “one size fits all” lecture or training session is not the proper approach. The comprehensive training program should address the following: analysis of the question, issue-spotting, responsiveness to the question, and the presentation and format of the answer.
Time management is an important aspect of the examinee’s training and coaching. Examinees who have not undergone training on time management may find themselves running out of time to answer all the questions or to finish the trial memorandum.
Jurists in excellent position to respond to the changes, resounding success in 2011 Bar
Jurists Bar Review Center is well placed to adjust to the new 2012 Bar exam format because of its experience and expertise. Jurists already has a proven and tested practice-exam and coaching program in place since 2005 and employed in the 2005 to 2010 bar examinations to produce stellar pass rates. This program was based primarily on training and coaching students to analyze and answer problem-type and essay questions using the renowned Jurists Method.
In the 2011 Bar Examination, Jurists was the only bar review center to implement an intensive mock-bar and one-on-one coaching method for the MCQ and performance test components of the bar. The Jurists program proved to be a resounding success in the 2011 Bar Examination. 193 out of 307 examinees hurdled the 2011 Bar for a pass rate of 62.87%, almost double the national pass rate of 31.95%. For the reviewees who faithfully followed the full training program of 9 mock bars and attendance in the one-on-one coaching sessions, the pass rate was an outstanding 73.16%. Jurists reviewees who made history by passing the inaugural MCQ and performance test bar examination attested to the big part played by the Jurists Program in their success.
Utmost preparation and training
With new and additional changes being implemented again by the Supreme Court, the bar examinee should leave no stone unturned in his preparation for the 2012 bar. With the return of the essay examination, the 2012 bar will be a battle royal from start to finish. Those who have faced essay examinations in the bar know the extreme challenge they pose. Nor should the performance test be taken lightly. In the 2011 bar exam, it was reported that only 15% passed the trial memorandum test. An examinee would greatly enhance his chances of victory if he employs a rigorous study regime backstopped by a tested mock-bar and coaching program which addresses the MCQ, the essay-examination, and the performance-test components of the 2012 bar examination.