Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Bloomberg, Is the Bar Exam Broken? Or Are Law Students Dumber?:
Law schools and the bar exam's creators agree: The plunge in test scores that hit several states this year is alarming, and it's probably the other side's fault. ...
[S]ome deans and legal experts are floating tentative theories about the historically bad results. Derek Muller, a law professor at Pepperdine University, says he has tested and rejected every explanation not tied to the test itself. Muller compared LSAT scores with bar exam scores and found that this year’s law grads should have done only slightly worse than last year. He also rejected the idea that a glitch in Examsoft, the software used to upload the July test, could have made the difference, because states that did not use Examsoft, such as Arizona and Virginia, still saw their pass rates dip. “By process of elimination, I’m running out of alternative explanations and looking more to the NCBE as a possibility,” he says.
Muller says the NCBE could have bungled scoring by grading the tests more harshly than in past years. The scoring specifics are complex, but basically the NCBE grades each test-taker on a scale that's determined by comparing their performance on certain questions with those of past test takers. Muller readily admits he doesn't have data to test the theory, but he says it’s possible the NCBE used particularly tough questions to scale this year’s results.