As you may or may not already know, the Multistate Bar Exam, which makes up the multiple choice part of the bar exam, is comprised of 200 questions. In the past, 10 of those 200 questions were actually experimental questions or “pretest questions” that the NCBE was trying out to see if they wanted to use them as real questions in the future. These 10 questions (and you never knew which 10 they were) didn’t count towards your score, which meant the exam was actually scored out of 190 questions.
But this month, the NCBE made a change that has led to much debate and discussion: beginning in February, the number of experimental questions will increase to 25, making your total graded questions 175, not 190, and this has led many prospective examinees to start panicking. Here are the answers to your burning questions.
What does this mean for those preparing for the exam going forward?
Well, mathematically, it of course means that each question is worth more. The scoring for the exam will not change (exams are scored on a 200 point scale), so each right answer gets you closer to the score you need to pass, but that also means that you have less chances (15 less chances to be exact) to earn those points.
Why are people upset?
For a few reasons. First, the 10 pretest questions took up approximately only 18 minutes of time, or 5% of the six hours. 25 questions will now means test takers will have to allot 45 minutes, or 12.5% of exam time to questions which will not benefit them in any way. Moreover, pretest questions have a reputation for being more ambiguous or challenging than established questions, so test takers fear they will waste even more time trying to correctly answer a question that does not contribute to their scores, when that time could be spent on scored questions. Bar passage rates have been historically low over the past few years, so making this change is upsetting many prospective test takers.
So why is the NCBE doing this to us?
The NCBE believes this change will actually improve the exam, making the questions better. Pretesting has been an important part of standardized tests like the MBE for many years, as it helps to measure a question’s clarity, difficulty, and usefulness. Erica Moeser, president of the NCBE, stated that the NCBE wants to make sure that every scored question used on the MBE is pretested first. To accomplish this, they need to pretest questions at a faster rate. Questions that almost everyone gets right and those that almost everyone gets wrong are not useful, because they do not distinguish those who know the material from those who don’t. So in pretesting every question before using it, the NCBE hopes to make the exam a better indicator of who actually knows the law.
Should I study differently with this change?
No, the exam itself isn’t changing in terms of content. But your accuracy is more important than ever, so you want to take every opportunity to improve your test taking skills. Make sure to practice every MBE question you can get your hands on and take your studying seriously. You need to understand WHY you are getting answers to practice questions wrong and then correct the source of your errors. Do you not know the law well enough and need to review it more? Do you often pick an answer that is technically a correct statement but not the “best” answer? Understanding and fixing your mistakes will be critical to improving your score.
We will have to wait a while before the actual effects of this change are evident, but prospective test takers for the 2017 exams should keep in mind that for individuals, all this means is that effective preparation is even more important.
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