Often considered one of the most challenging state bar examinations in this country, the New York State Board of Bar Examiners is considering a revamp of its exam. The New York Law Journal reports that the state may very well change the format of the entire exam – in addition to the changes that are already scheduled for the February 2015 exam. Passing a states bar exam is required before any attorney may practice law in that state.
Currently, the New York exam is given twice a year on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July. The exam is divided into two sections. The first section, given on Tuesday, is very unique. This section asks the examinee to answer five essay questions and 50 multiple-choice questions concerning only the laws of the state of New York. On Wednesday the second section of the exam is administered. This section, called the Multistate Bar Exam or MBE, consists of 200 multiple-choice questions concerning six areas of the law and is uniformed among all but two states in the nation. The six areas tested are: Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law & Procedure, Evidence, Real Property and Torts.
During the summer of 2014, the New York State Board of Law Examiners announced several big changes to the subject areas tested on the exam. Although the format would remain the same, effective February 2015 exam, the NY portion of the exam would no longer test Federal Civil Procedure but would begin to test Administrative Law.
Further, like many other states, NY will now test Federal Civil Procedure on the MBE portion of the exam. As far as the MBE goes, this is one of the largest changes to the national portion of the exam in over 35 years. The MBE will remain the same length at 200 questions, but now there will be fewer questions in the six areas of law traditionally tested in order to make room for the new seventh area.
Even Greater Change to Come?
Earlier this month, Long Island Business News reported that the New York Court of Appeals is considering adopting the Uniform Bar Exam, or the UBE, currently administered in 14 states. If adopted, this would change the format of the NY exam entirely. Like the MBE portion of the current exam, the UBE is prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and then graded by each individual state.
The UBE exam consists of three parts. The first, the Multistate Essay Exam, entails the examinee writing multi-subject essays that test their legal reasoning skills. The second, the Multistate Performance Test, is a closed book writing assignment. And the last portion of the exam is the more traditional multi-choice MBE.
If adopted, New York State alone would continue to determine who could actually sit for the exam, the score an examinee must receive on the UBE in order to pass, and ultimately who will be admitted to the bar of New York.
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