Two-Day CA Bar Examination Starting July, 2017

The Committee of Bar Examiners, which oversees admissions and law school regulation, has been studying the change for years as a way to save money and improve efficiency. The Committee held a public forum on the proposal in 2013 at which time it recommended a change in March, 2015.

The current test for new law graduates includes six one-hour essay questions and two three-hour Performance tests. Starting in July, 2017, the test will be trimmed to five one-hour essay questions and one 90-minute Performance test. There will be no change to the Multistate Bar Examination, a 200-question multiple choice test given over the course of one day.

Experts hired by the Committee concluded that going to a two-day format would improve test quality while maintaining existing pass/fail standards.

"The savings in administrative costs will delay the need to raise bar exam fees in the future," said Admissions Director Gayle Murphy. "It may also result in shorter grading times for staff," she said.

Murphy said the Committee heard from some objectors who expressed concern that a shorter exam is less rigorous. However, the experts said those fears are unfounded. "The test is meant to measure competency and not stamina," the experts said.

Trustee Michael Colantuono pointed out that containing bar exam costs will help "address a barrier of access to the profession" and "keep the doors open to our profession as wide open as we can."

On the suggestion of Trustees Gwen Moore and Miriam Krinsky, the Board called for a status report after the new exam has been administered for two years to determine whether there were any problems or disparities.

The proposal is subject to consideration by the CA Supreme Court, which has plenary authority over bar admissions, but has delegated the responsibility for administering the test to the Committee of Bar Examiners.

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