Even though bar exam pass rates rose nationwide in 2020, those who took the test in person did better than those who took it online in states that offered both options.
In Texas, for example, the 1,037 candidates who took the September in-person test (at designated hotels) had a pass rate of 76.66 percent while the 1,116 who took the October remote exam had a pass rate of 60 percent.
Arizona and Idaho, which also administered both in-person and remote tests, saw similar results (though the total number of test takers was smaller.
One reason exam administrators gave for the discrepancy is that it’s easier – and faster – to compose essay answers in a booklet rather than onscreen.
“The act of writing in a booklet and taking notes the way people have been practicing to do, it’s so much more efficient,” said one official in this ABA Journal article. “For a typical essay, students might spend 10 minutes planning how to write an answer. Online, they might spend up to 15 minutes, including the scrolling back and forth.”
However, a spokesperson for test prep company Kaplan says with time, training and greater familiarity, online exams will prove more efficient than paper tests.
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Online Bar Exams Here to Stay
Meanwhile, the National Conference of Bar Examiners has announced that the bar exam of the future will be administered by computer, with in-person proctoring.
“The change is expected to be in place by 2026,” according to the ABA Journal. “The ‘NCBE plans to once again gather candidate feedback after the February bar exam administration, and will use that information to enhance the candidate experience and standardized test delivery going forward.’”
The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination will remain a separate test.
Jay Reeves is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Now he writes and speaks at CLEs, keynotes and in-firm presentations on lawyer professionalism and well-being. He runs Your Law Life LLC, which offers confidential, one-on-one consultations to sharpen your firm’s mission and design an excellent Law Life. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-619-2441.