The liaison justice for the Board of Law Examiners (BLE) says that the BLE needs to do better explaining the testing and scoring of the exam to applicants. And that applicants need to do better on the exam portion of the bar exam. Justice Brian Zahra, a former BLE board member and essay exam grader, spoke to the State Bar Board of Commissioners about the exam at the Nov. 16 meeting of the Board of Commissioners last Friday. The State Bar had asked for an explanation of the dramatic drop in the passage rate in 2012 due to the proliferation of questions about the exam from the legal and law school community. Justice Zahra's comments made clear that the BLE's decisions about the exam are not dictated by the Supreme Court but that the Court is paying attention to the exam.
The most probable explanation for the drop in the passage rate was the BLE's decision to stop scaling the essay portion of the exam. Scaling the essay scores to the multistate score is typically done to ensure that, for the total group of candidates taking the bar exam on a given test date, the mean, or average, and the standard deviation of the essay scores are the same as the mean and the standard deviation of the MBE scores on the MBE scale.
Justice Zahra's appearance before the Board of Commissioners is unlikely to be the end of the conversation about the bar exam results. The deans of Michigan's law schools have asked the Supreme Court for a meeting on the subject of the exam.