Bar exam scoring could change, increased fees possible

If you’re finishing up law school later this year, and you’re one of those folks who do well on objective-style tests but come unglued when a blank bluebook is in front of you, you’re not going to be happy with a possible change in the way the Michigan bar examination is scored.

Under a policy change being pushed by the Michigan Board of Law Examiners, beginning with the February 2009 bar exam, there won’t be any more bragging about passing solely because you had a hot score on the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE).

The examiners have decided that the graders they hire should read everyone’s essays, not just the ones of those who didn’t score 150 or better on the MBE.

The board explains:

“In order to assure consistency in the level of difficulty of Michigan bar examination essay questions from one examination to another, and thereby to more accurately assess whether applicants have attained the level of competence in the law necessary for the protection of the public, the Board of Law Examiners has determined to scale the essay examination scores to the scoring of the Multistate Bar Examination. To do this, the Board has determined that it is necessary to eliminate the practice of not grading the essay answers of applicants obtaining a threshold score on the MBE.”

This is not set in stone. The policy change, according to Timothy Raubinger, the Assistant Secretary of the State Board of Law Examiners, is “contingent” on the Michigan Supreme Court adopting a proposed change to Rule 6 of the Rules for the Board of Law Examiners. The proposed change would bump the exam fee to $340 from the current $300. A re-examination would cost $240.

The staff comment to the proposal states that the “proposed increase in fees would allow for the implementation of the change in policy regarding grading Michigan bar examinations that is reflected in the attached notice.”

Translation: there’s going to be more stuff to read and somebody has to pay for it.

As with all proposed rule amendments, “[t]he Court welcomes the views of all.” And, says the MSC, “[p]ublication of this proposal does not mean that the Court will issue an order on the subject, nor does it imply probable adoption of the proposal in its present form.”

But if you like to plan ahead, consider this boldface statement from the court:

“Please note that if this matter proceeds in the ordinary course by publication followed by consideration at a public hearing to be held later this year, and if the Court adopts this proposal, the fee increase would be effective for applicants taking the February 2009 bar examination.”

The comment period is open until Aug. 31.

Follow the link above for information about how submit a comment to the court. And don’t forget to click the comment link below if you’re in the mood to sound off.

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