SC Justices Propose BAR EXAMS CHANGES: Test CONTENT, PASS/FAIL Format

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The annual Philippine Bar Examinations for aspiring law students entering the legal profession has become something of a ritual in its execution, on the part of the administrators on the Supreme Court, the examiners, the test-takers, and their families, that there seems to be a formalized method of doing things. One element of this Bar Exam ritual is the publishing of the exam passers, presented as a list of names and score percentage with the top-notch test-takers listed first. It tended to be a source of pride for the schools that the passers hailed from, but a Supreme Court justice believes it to be superfluous.

CNN Philippines reports that Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, who is chairman of the Philippine Bar Exams for 2020, is of the opinion that the time has come to redefine what it means to make the bar in the country. This is manifest in his idea to do away with the score-sorted list of passers and simply classify test-takers as “Pass/Fail.” This means the scores will no longer be listed; as long as a Bar Examinee sees his name in the list, he is a qualified lawyer and his score ranking is rendered irrelevant.

Leonen says in his speech during the Legal Education Summit at the Manila Hotel on Wednesday, July 31, that he wants passing the Bar to be a qualification, not an achievement, exam. “It is not an exam to find out the most brilliant of lawyers,” says Leonen. “It is only an exam to add into our ranks those lawyers that deserve to practice.” The Associate Justice did not care to give his reason for this proposal, saying the Legal Education Summit was not the right place to justify such a reform. He does say that the 2020 Bar Exams will be “reasonable” enough for examinees.

That will take a while since the 2019 Bar Exams have yet to be held this November. But the 2019 chairman, Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, is also promising to streamline the exam’s test questions. She means to remove questions involving “unfair trivia” as well as “misleading” law problems, preferring answers that are considered “standard acceptable” by the whole law school academic community. Perlas-Bernabe notes that Bar Examinees now tend to approach the test as being unpredictable to begin with. “The bar exams should not be made intentionally difficult for extraneous reasons,” she says on her own LES speech according to ABS-CBN News. “Institutional measures should be set to ensure that the Bar remains true to its purpose as the licensure exam for the legal profession.”

The 2019 Bar Examinations are set on the University of Santo Tomas this coming November.

Image courtesy of GMA News

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