Implementing the Next Generation of the Bar Exam, 2021–2026

Building a competent, ethical, and diverse legal profession.

NCBE is developing the next generation of the bar exam, guided by the results of a comprehensive, empirical three-year study and consistent with testing industry professional standards. Implementation will be conducted in a collaborative manner, informed by input from and participation by stakeholders. This timeline provides a high-level overview of the process that will bring the new exam from concept to reality.

Click directly on the task numbers in the timeline graphic for a description of the task.

A detailed description of this graphic can be found in the table below

Implementing the Next Generation of the Bar Exam, 2021–2026

Building a competent, ethical, and diverse legal profession.

NCBE is developing the next generation of the bar exam, guided by the results of a comprehensive, empirical three-year study and consistent with testing industry professional standards. Implementation will be conducted in a collaborative manner, informed by input from and participation by stakeholders. This timeline provides a high-level overview of the process that will bring the new exam from concept to reality.

A detailed description of this graphic can be found in the table below

Timeline Legend

Task # Time frame Description
1 2021–2026 Ensure validity, reliability, and fairness in test development, delivery, and scoring
2 2021–2026 Conduct analyses to ensure fairness for diverse populations of candidates and accessibility for candidates with disabilities
3 2021–2026 Develop IT systems to support all exam-related processes
4 Q2 2021–Q1 2022 Determine scope of knowledge and skills to be assessed and publish draft test content specifications
5 Q3 2021–Q2 2022 Determine forum for in-person computer delivery
6 Q3 2021–Q2 2022 Develop and evaluate prototypes of new item types and item sets
7 Q3 2021–Q1 2023 Develop scoring and grading processes
8 Q1 2022–Q4 2023 Conduct pilot testing of prototype items
9 Q2 2022–Q4 2023 Publish sample items as pilot testing is completed
10 Q2 2023–Q4 2023 Develop test administration policies and procedures
11 Q4 2023 Publish test administration policies
12 Q4 2023–Q4 2026 Publish study aids as available
13 Q1 2024–Q3 2024 Field test prototype of exam
14 Q1 2024–Q1 2026 Assist jurisdictions with rule amendments and other changes to transition to the new exam
15 Q3 2024–Q4 2024 Prepare and publish final test content specifications that include final exam design
16 Q1 2025 Standard setting exercise to assist jurisdictions in setting passing scores
17 2026 Target for administration of new exam

Glossary of Terms

Item Set. A collection of test questions (items) based on a single scenario or stimulus such that the items pertaining to that scenario are developed and presented as a unit. Item sets can be developed so that all items within a set are of the same format or of different formats.

Develop and evaluate prototypes. Process for reviewing, critiquing, and revising early drafts of new item formats before and after pilot testing. Process for reviewing, critiquing, and revising early drafts of new item formats and related test materials as warranted (e.g., scoring rubrics). The purpose is to determine whether the item format should proceed to next stage of development and pilot testing.

Pilot Testing.  A small-scale administration of early drafts of new item formats under semi-realistic conditions to small groups of law students and/or recently licensed practicing lawyers.

Field Testing. A large-scale administration of finalized new items under realistic conditions to a large and representative sample of students or recently licensed lawyers for the purpose of determining the operational feasibility of the items and format and to obtain estimates of item performance statistics.