Bar exam review commission opens meetings to public

A 14-member study commission appointed to review the Indiana Bar Exam in light of the ongoing decline in passage rates will hold a series of 10 monthly meetings, all open to the public, at the Indiana Statehouse beginning next week.

The Study Commission on the Future of the Indiana Bar Examination was created by the Indiana Supreme Court in December 2018 to make recommendations about potential changes to the exam’s format or content. Changes the study commission is to consider include cutting the passing score, altering the number of subjects tested on the essay portion and revising the scoring method.

All meetings will begin at 1:30 p.m. EST. The schedule and locations are as follows:

• Feb. 20, Room 319

• March 14, Court of Appeals Courtroom

• April 16, Supreme Court Courtroom

• May 15, Room 319

• June 11, Supreme Court Courtroom

• July 11, Room 319

• August 21, Room 319

• Sept. 11, Room 319

• Oct. 10, Court of Appeals Courtroom

• Nov. 13, Room 319

Already the study commission, chaired by retired Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard, has met in January. Members discussed how the bar exam is graded and how many subjects Indiana includes on its test compared to other states. However, vice chair of the commission and Indiana Court of Appeals Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik highlighted the concern over the passage rate, saying many lawyers repeatedly discuss with her the number of takers failing to pass.   

Passage rates have been falling with 66 percent of all takers passing the July 2017 bar exam and 52 percent successfully completing the February 2017 exam. Comparatively, 79 percent and 70 percent of all takers passed the July and February 2007 exams.

A task force formed by the Indianapolis and Marion County bar associations linked declining scores to the exam’s format and its scoring by National Conference of Bar Examiners. The group recommended Indiana reduce the weight of the multiple choice Multistate Bar Exam questions from 50 percent to 35 percent.

The commission will make a report to the Indiana Supreme Court by December 2019. More information about the commission is available here.

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