Bar News - August 20, 2014
Court News: NH Bar Exam Bucks Trend With More Test-Takers
By: Dan Wise
The annual rite of passage for law school graduates – the bar exam – went off without incident in New Hampshire this year, after a widespread technical glitch traumatized test-takers in many other states. New Hampshire also countered a national trend of declining numbers, as 161 people sat for the exam on July 29 and 30, an increase of 21 percent over last year.
Gordon MacDonald, chair of the NH Board of Bar Examiners, attributes the growth to the Granite State becoming the 14th state to offer the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), an exam with no local questions whose scores can be used in any other UBE jurisdiction. The UBE consists of the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), a multiple choice test; the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), which asks students about a series of tasks a lawyer would encounter in representing a client; and the the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE), with six essay questions.
Those sitting for this year’s bar exam in New Hampshire dodged a bullet: Thousands of test-takers in other states apparently encountered a glitch. Many test-takers can use their laptops to write their answers if they download ExamSoft, a program that locks the user out of any files on their laptop. According to news reports, after the first day of the exam, test-takers in a number of states could not upload their answers, or it took hours to do so. In New Hampshire, because the test site at UNH School of Law had Wi-Fi, all test takers uploaded their exams with no problems.
Christopher Ray, a Suffolk University Law School graduate who took the exam in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, praised MacDonald and NH Supreme Court Justice Carol Ann Conboy in a tweet for their “classy” pre-exam pep talks given to test-takers in five separate rooms.
Ray said after successfully uploading his file after the first day, he heard about the ExamSoft disaster in other states. In an email, he wrote: “I remember frantically emailing around, confirming my uploads, etc., and feeling a genuine sense of outrage on behalf of all of the other test-takers, people at the utmost heights of anxiety, being told that a technical glitch might have just ruined their lives.”
Sherry Hieber, general counsel to the NH Office of Bar Admissions, said that while many candidates have switched to laptops in the past few years, there are still a few who use blue books to hand-write their answers. After the problems this year with ExamSoft, there’s a chance it’s a good bet that next year there might be a few more.