Wednesday, September 6, 2023
STATEMENT FROM THE ASSOCIATION OF ACADEMIC SUPPORT EDUCATORS
CONCERNING THE NEXTGEN BAR EXAM
The Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) has serious concerns about the prototype questions released by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) for the NextGen bar exam scheduled to be administered in July 2026.
The NCBE’s Testing Task Force, in their final report released in April 2021, recommended less emphasis on memorized material and greater focus on lawyering skills to more reflect the practice of law. NextGen purportedly tests applicants on skills they actually need to be successful attorneys. Unfortunately, the recently released exam structure and fourteen (14) questions do not fulfill that promise.
Significant memorization will be required on the NextGen bar exam. The NCBE outline displays some topics in each subject with a star and some without a star. The legend explaining the meaning of the star versus no star topics clearly shows that everything will need to be memorized. “Topics without a star symbol – Topics without a star symbol may be tested with or without provision of legal resources. When these topics are tested without legal resources, the examinee is expected to rely on recalled knowledge and understanding that will enable the examinee to demonstrate recognition that the topic is at issue in the fact scenario.” Since the language indicates non-starred areas may require memorized knowledge, applicants must memorize everything.
The July 11, 2023, and August 18, 2023, releases create additional uncertainty regarding the exam. In the July release, the multiple-choice section of NextGen Bar was described as “Initially, many of these questions will closely resemble Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) questions; this will ensure stability between scores for the current and NextGen bar exams. In future administrations, the variety of multiple-choice question types will increase.”
The statement raises a significant concern. Graduates will be preparing for an exam that is quite literally a moving target. The NCBE provided no information about how the “variety of multiple-choice question types will increase.” They only provided 14 questions to represent countless rules and skills. Graduates and law schools do not know what that variety looks like, how significant is the increase in variety, and how it will impact studying. In the August press release, the exam structure once again changed from previous announcements clearly illustrating the moving target. For a high-stakes licensure exam, a moving target with so few examples released in advance is inappropriate. Graduates have the right to know the exact make-up and nature of the exam they will take and have access to ample practice questions produced by the licensing authority.
AASE appreciates the NCBE attempting to modernize the bar exam to reflect the actual practice of law and decrease the disparate impact on certain populations. While their goal is virtuous, the current prototypes fall short of satisfying the Testing Task Force’s recommendations. AASE respectfully encourages all licensing agencies to fully analyze this assessment and consider whether alternative methods of licensure are more appropriate.
Issued: September 6, 2023
Direct inquiries concerning this statement to: Ashley M. London, President, or Steven Foster, Bar Advocacy Committee Chair.