Vermont Bar Exam To Be Administered Remotely In October

The Vermont Bar Exam was originally scheduled for July 28 and 29.  Given the pandemic, the Supreme Court previously rescheduled the exam for September 9 & 10.  The goal was to hold the exam in-person.  Today, amid continuing concerns related to the pandemic, the Court announced that the Vermont bar exam will be administered remotely on October 5 & 6.  For more on the remote exam, see the update at the end of this post.

The Court’s order is part of today’s update to the Administrative Order 49, the order declaring a Judicial Emergency.  Per the order:

  • the remote exam will be created by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE).  This is not new, as the NCBE already creates the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE).
  • the exam will be shorter than usual.
  • applicants may opt out of the remote administration and either (1) receive a full refund; or (2) be registered for the February 21 administration of the Uniform Bar Exam.
  • the Board of Bar Examiners may enter into agreements regarding score portability with other jurisdictions.  This is analogous to the current practice in which scores on the Uniform Bar Exam are portable.  For example, Vermont’s “cut score” on the UBE is 270.  An applicant is eligible for admission to the Vermont bar no matter the UBE jurisdiction in which the applicant scores a 270 or better.

The pandemic has forced state Supreme Courts and bar administrators to make difficult decisions with respect to exam.  As this chart shows, the response varies by jurisdiction.  Similarly, after causing a premature end to their final semester, the pandemic continues to exact an emotional and financial toll from recent graduates whose job offers are conditioned upon passing the bar exam.

For questions specific to the bar exam, please contact Andy Strauss. Andy is Vermont’s Licensing Counsel.

Meanwhile, if you or someone you know needs assistance coping with delays associated with pandemic, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. In the meantime, here is a list of resources available to anyone who needs help with behavioral health issues.

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UPDATE: 4:06 PM – I should’ve included this in the original post.  Here is what the NCBE’s website has about the remote exam:

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.

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