PAST NCBE COVID-19 UPDATES
The following are past announcements from NCBE relating to COVID-19 and NCBE services and exams. This page will be updated as new announcements are made on the NCBE Covid-19 Updates page.
October 19, 2020, 2:00 pm (CDT)
NCBE Announces Initial Plans for Remote Option for February 2021 Bar Exam
NCBE today announced initial plans that will allow jurisdictions the option to provide the bar exam remotely in February 2021, since challenges related to COVID-19 will likely still be present next year. More details will be provided in the coming weeks.
To provide flexibility to jurisdictions and candidates as we all continue to navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, NCBE plans to make a full set of bar exam materials available for a remote administration in February 2021 to be held on the same dates as the in-person administration (February 23–24, 2021). Each jurisdiction will select which mode it will use for its administration.
NCBE plans to equate the MBE, calculate scaled scores for the written components, and provide UBE and MBE score transfer services for both the in-person and the remote administrations.
Additional details will be announced in the next few weeks as jurisdictions and NCBE complete their review of the October remote administration, which was the first time the bar exam has been given to candidates testing in their own environments using their own computers.
June 1, 2020
NCBE to Provide Additional Support for Jurisdictions During COVID-19 Crisis
NCBE will provide a limited set of questions (MBE, MEE, MPT) to jurisdictions for an emergency remote testing option for local admission during the COVID-19 crisis. The materials will be offered for a remote administration on October 5–6, after all three administrations of the bar exam/Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) have occurred, and will provide jurisdictions an emergency option should administering the in-person bar exam not be possible.
This remote testing option will not constitute the full bar exam or the UBE. Scores earned on the remotely administered test will be used for local admission decisions only, and will not qualify as UBE scores. The scores will not be eligible to be transferred as UBE or MBE scores to other jurisdictions or released to candidates via NCBE Score Services.
The emergency remote option follows steps we have previously taken to support our stakeholders in light of the COVID-19 crisis. In early April, we announced we would provide materials for two additional fall administrations of the bar exam/UBE (September 9–10 and September 30–October 1) in addition to the July 28–29 exam.
Nearly all jurisdictions are planning to hold the in-person bar exam this year on one of these scheduled administrations, while making provisions for social distancing and other safety measures. (For information about jurisdiction announcements, visit our July 2020 Bar Exam: Jurisdiction Information page.)
In providing the remote testing option, NCBE is responding proactively to the continuing uncertainty the upcoming months will bring, and the possibility that local or state health and safety restrictions will prohibit in-person testing.
“NCBE understands the enormous challenges facing recent law graduates during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the uncertainty over whether they will be able to sit for the bar exam, which is why we have taken additional steps to facilitate licensure in 2020,” said NCBE president and CEO Judith Gundersen.
“NCBE continues to strongly advocate that a full-length, standard, in-person administration of the bar exam/UBE is best for a number of reasons, including psychometric issues, exam security, and the testing environment of candidates, who may not have access to comparable testing conditions or equipment. We recognize, however, that these are extraordinary times. It is worth noting that many other high-stakes professional licensing exams, such as those for the medical, health care, engineering, and public accounting professions, are to the best of our knowledge still being held in person or are being postponed until they can be held in person,” Gundersen concluded.
Each jurisdiction will have flexibility in deciding which of the abbreviated test materials to use. While the materials’ subject matter coverage will follow NCBE’s subject matter outlines for the three tests, less content will be covered in shorter testing sessions.
Jurisdictions that must use the remote testing option will have candidates using their own computers in their own testing environments and may choose from among the three technology vendors that already assist jurisdictions with in-person bar exam administration. Each jurisdiction (and its candidates) will deal directly with the jurisdiction’s chosen vendor regarding registration and administration, just as they do currently when laptops are used during the bar exam. NCBE’s role will be to make the test materials available to the vendor designated by each jurisdiction and establish the testing dates and start times for each set of materials.
Jurisdictions will be responsible for scoring the tests and interpreting candidate performance. NCBE will not equate the MBE portion or scale scores from the written portion of the test to the standardized MBE portion as we would do for the standard, full-length bar exam. Without further research, scores from an abbreviated version of the MBE administered by remote testing cannot be considered comparable to the standard, paper-based, full-length MBE administration, such comparability being an essential requirement for equating and scaling.
May 5, 2020
As of May 5, 19 jurisdictions have announced that they intend to cancel or postpone the July bar exam; the other jurisdictions either plan to go ahead with the July exam or have not yet made a decision. Based on this information, NCBE has determined that there will most likely be a sufficient number of July examinees to administer the bar exam. Accordingly, we plan to make our exam materials (MBE, MEE, and MPT) available to those jurisdictions that choose to administer an exam in July.
As we announced on April 3, NCBE is also making additional sets of exam materials available for two fall administrations for those jurisdictions that have delayed their July exams or decided to offer an additional administration in the fall in the event they must limit seating for the July exam. For information about jurisdiction announcements, visit our July 2020 Bar Exam: Jurisdiction Information page.
We also continue to study and formulate options for an emergency remote assessment for those jurisdictions that cannot administer an in-person bar exam due to COVID-19 restrictions.
We will continue to work closely with jurisdictions in the weeks ahead to help ensure that law graduates have the answers they need as they prepare for licensure.
April 3, 2020
At NCBE, we understand the anxiety and frustrations that law students and graduates have regarding the uncertainty surrounding administration of the July bar exam. The bar admissions process, like everything else, is being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
NCBE’s mission is to promote fairness, integrity, and best practices in admission to the legal profession for the benefit and protection of the public. That mission is more important than ever at a time when there is such great need for a competent and ethical legal profession to serve the public. It is with that aim in mind that we are seeking to ensure that the bar exam can be administered to as many candidates as possible in 2020.
To provide needed flexibility for jurisdictions and candidates, in addition to preparing materials for a July bar exam, NCBE will make bar exam materials available for two fall administrations in 2020: September 9-10 and September 30-October 1. Each jurisdiction will determine whether to offer the exam in July, in early September, or in late September.
We don’t yet know what the months ahead will hold. NCBE is being proactive and continuing to explore solutions for as many scenarios as we can anticipate. We are consulting with outside testing, technology, and exam security experts to consider various options and alternative methods of testing if the traditional group setting must be canceled or modified.
But no matter what happens, we are committed to ensuring that law students have every opportunity to become licensed so that they can put their legal education to work in helping those affected by this crisis.
March 31, 2020
We are all facing an unprecedented set of challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At NCBE, we understand the concerns candidates have about the July bar exam, and we have been working diligently with jurisdiction bar admission offices to devise solutions that will protect the health and safety of examinees and jurisdiction staff, as well as the integrity of the licensure process.
Each jurisdiction will make its own decision about whether it is able to administer the July bar exam, based on factors including ongoing office closures, state and local restrictions on gatherings, and test venue availability. NCBE stands ready to support jurisdictions in their decisions. Specifically, as a result of consultation with jurisdictions, NCBE is offering the following options to US jurisdictions that administer the MBE, the MEE, and the MPT, including all UBE jurisdictions.
NCBE’s Decision-Making Timeline
NCBE will make its decision about whether to deploy the MBE, the MEE, and the MPT for a July administration on or about Tuesday, May 5. NCBE’s decision will be based on whether there would be a sufficient number of jurisdictions and examinees to support equating of scores and all the scoring support and grader training associated with the exam.
By that time—roughly six weeks from now—each jurisdiction should be in a better position to determine whether administering a July exam is possible. While this is not the immediate answer some are seeking, it does provide a definite timeline for NCBE’s decision about whether to make our tests available for July. Our decision will depend on jurisdiction decisions about administration as well as the status on May 5 of federal, state, and local health orders for isolation/distancing.
Jurisdictions are at varying points on a decision about a July administration. Some have felt the impact of COVID-19 more severely than others. The goal is that by May 5 we will all know more and can have more confidence in our decision about whether there will be a July exam anywhere.
Given the uncertainty about whether a July exam can take place, it is prudent to plan now for an additional administration of the exam before the February 2021 exam.
NCBE will offer another set of bar exam materials—MBE, MEE, and MPT—for an administration in the fall. If there is in fact a July exam, the fall exam materials will be a different set of questions. Scores earned in UBE jurisdictions in the fall administration would constitute UBE scores. We are currently working closely with jurisdictions all across the country to find a fall date that works for the most examinees and jurisdictions.
Jurisdictions that cannot administer in July, or cannot administer at normal seating capacity, will have the fall administration date as an alternative or additional option. It would delay admission, but only by about two months, which examinees should find preferable to waiting until February 2021.
We will monitor the COVID-19 crisis in the weeks and months ahead and develop additional solutions if the situation changes.
We recognize that this is a very stressful time for law school graduates who want the opportunity to take the bar exam. To those graduates, we offer our support and the assurance that we are working hard to find solutions that permit them to sit for a bar exam and become licensed.
There are no simple answers and no great solutions in this situation. We are trying to provide some certainty in truly uncertain times, while maintaining the integrity of the bar admissions process for the benefit and protection of the public.