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Massachusetts Adopts New Bar Exam

July 26, 2016, 9:32 PM

Passing the bar in Massachusetts may soon carry a little more weight.

That’s because this week, Massachusetts adopted the Uniform Bar Exam, a standardized test that consists of multiple choice questions, essays, and skills assessments, now used in 24 states and the District of Columbia.

The move comes amid growing support for a national standardized bar exam: In February, the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates approved a resolution from the ABA Law Student Division that called for all jurisdictions to adopt the UBE as quickly as possible. The Division argued that the current exam structure needlessly burdens mobility throughout the country.

In New York, bar exam students take the UBE for the first time this month.

According to Erica Moeser, president of the NCBE, “The UBE is under study in a number of places.”

Oregon appears to be moving forward, though the State has not released a formal order at this time. In June, the Supreme Court of Texas ordered the creation of a task force on the Texas Bar Examination, which will consider, among other things, whether to adopt the UBE.

Examinees in Massachusetts will sit for the UBE beginning in July 2018, and it will include a Massachusetts-specific component to ensure that newly-licensed attorneys are familiar with key state laws and procedures. It is the ninth jurisdiction to adopt a local law component.

Maureen O’Rourke, dean of Boston University School of Law, said, “We hope that with the adoption of the UBE in Massachusetts and the ability to transfer scores to other UBE jurisdictions easily, our students will benefit from enhanced mobility and career opportunities.”

Law school deans, law professors, advocates, and more have echoed these sentiments since the National Conference of Bar Examiners first made headway with UBE adoption in 2010, when Missouri became the first state to adopt the UBE.

The NCBE develops the test questions, grades and scores the exam.

Each jurisdiction will continue to set its own pass rate and to independently weight various components. Each jurisdiction will also continue to determine additional requirements, such as character and fitness investigations and a professional responsibility examination. Individual jurisdictions also retain the power to determine how long a UBE score remains transferable.

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