Monday, September 28, 2015
No, the MBE was not "harder" than usual by Derek Muller.
"Despite some hesitation or tentative conclusions offered, I'll restate something I began with: "Let's instead focus on whether the July 2015 bar exam was 'harder' than usual. The answer is, in all likelihood, no--at least, almost assuredly, not in the way most are suggesting, i.e., that the MBE was harder in such a way that it resulted in lower bar passage rates.
We can see that the MBE uses Item Response Theory to account for variances in the test difficulty, and the NCBE scales scores to ensure that harder or easier questions do not affect the outcome of the test. We can also see that merely adding a new subject, by itself, would not decrease scores. Instead, something would have to affect test-takers ability to an extent that it would make them perform worse on similar questions. And we have some good reasons to think (but, admittedly, not definitively, at least not yet) that Civil Procedure was not that cause; and some good reasons (from declining law school admissions standards on LSAT scores and UGPAs, and MPRE scores) to think that the decline is more related to the test-takers ability. More evidence and study is surely needed to sharpen the issues, but this post should clear up several points about MBE practice (in, admittedly, deeply, perhaps overly, simple terms).
Law schools ignore this to their peril. Blaming the exam without an understanding of how it actually operates masks the major structural issues confronting schools in their admissions and graduation policies. And it is almost assuredly going to get worse over each of the next three July administrations of the bar exam."