General

Why will implementation of the NextGen bar exam take 4–5 years?

Consistent with best practices in licensure test development, NCBE is taking multiple steps to ensure that the NextGen bar exam fairly assesses candidate preparation to practice, meets the needs of licensing authorities, and gives candidates and law schools sufficient time to prepare for the transition. The implementation process began in early February 2021. Major steps of the implementation include:

    • developing content specifications identifying scope of coverage;
    • drafting new types of questions for integrated testing of knowledge and skills;
    • ensuring accessibility for candidates with disabilities;
    • field-testing new item formats and new exam content;
    • conducting analyses and review to ensure fairness for diverse populations of candidates;
    • evaluating options for in-person computer delivery of the exam;
    • establishing scoring processes and psychometric methods for equating/scaling scores;
    • developing test administration policies and procedures;
    • assisting jurisdictions to prepare and supporting them in activities such as setting passing score requirements and amending rules to align with changes to the exam; and
    • providing study materials and sample test questions to help candidates prepare.

Will all jurisdictions switch to the NextGen bar exam at the same time, or will there be a phased rollout?

The NextGen rollout will be phased, starting in July 2026 and continuing for several administrations. During the rollout period, both the current exam and the NextGen exam will be administered, although not both in the same jurisdiction.

Will the NextGen bar exam cost more?

As a nonprofit organization, NCBE is committed to keeping the cost of the bar exam affordable for all.

What is the length of the NextGen bar exam?

The NextGen bar exam will be nine hours long, administered over 1.5 days (six hours on day 1 and three hours on day 2). The exam will be given in three-hour segments, with a break for lunch between the two segments on day one.

Why will the MPRE remain a separate standalone exam?

Stakeholders recognize the importance of professional responsibility (it was ranked as the most important knowledge area on the 2019 practice analysis) and value its separate assessment as a core piece of ensuring public protection and trust in the integrity of the legal profession. Because of its importance, professional responsibility will serve as the context for assessing some Foundational Skills (e.g., legal analysis, client counseling and advising) on the NextGen bar exam; in this case, candidates would be provided with the applicable rules or other legal resources so as avoid duplicating the MPRE’s assessment of knowledge and application of the model rules of professional responsibility.

Structure and Format

When will prototypes of NextGen questions be available?

Prototypes will be released to the public, including the jurisdictions, law schools, bar prep providers, and candidates, once they are vetted through our pilot test and field test phases. As test development continues beyond these phases, we will make study aids available as soon as possible.

Will the number of questions from each type of item (e.g., multiple-choice, short answer, constructed response) be consistent from one administration to another for the NextGen exam?

NCBE’s psychometricians anticipate a great deal of item format consistency across administrations of the NextGen bar exam to lend consistency to the measurement of knowledge and skills over time. Information of this nature will be provided in the final Test Content Specifications that will be published well in advance of the first administration of the NextGen exam.

Will the NextGen exam be offered in modules or components for use by jurisdictions that wish to administer jurisdiction-drafted components?

NCBE has concluded that an integrated design for the bar exam will best assess the core competencies needed to enter practice. The integrated exam will be developed to measure in a holistic manner both Foundational Concepts & Principles and Foundational Skills. Most of the new test items will be presented in the context of shared scenarios and materials that apply to sets of items rather than to individual questions. Like the current Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the NextGen bar exam may be used by individual jurisdictions as the basis for scaling of their own bar exam components.

Frequency, Delivery Mode, and Timing

Will the NextGen bar exam still be administered twice per year?

Yes, the NextGen bar exam will still be administered twice per year, in February and July.

Why isn’t remote testing being recommended?

Based on the current technology available, the Task Force determined that in-person administration of the bar exam is the best way to ensure uniform testing conditions for all candidates. The bar exam has been offered remotely only as an emergency option during the COVID-19 pandemic, when some jurisdictions could not safely administer the exam in person.

What will be done to help ensure fairness with the move of the NextGen bar exam to computer-based delivery (accessibility issues, required equipment and technology, etc.)?

NCBE will consider and address accessibility issues when determining delivery options to ensure fairness for all candidates. NCBE’s commitment to fairness and accessibility is one of the reasons the Task Force determined that in-person administration of a computer-based exam is recommended, as accessibility issues can be more readily addressed in an in-person administration environment. Moreover, NCBE has always been committed, and will remain committed, to providing nonstandard test materials to ensure accessibility for candidates with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended.

What will be done to help ensure that the NextGen bar exam fairly assesses all candidates regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity?

NCBE has always been committed to producing a bar exam that fairly assesses all candidates regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity. We will continue to perform test item review processes and psychometric analyses to ensure fairness. For a detailed description of how we ensure fairness in our exams, see the Diversity, Fairness, and Inclusion page of NCBE’s website at https://ncbex.org/about/diversity-fairness-and-inclusion/.

Why will the NextGen exam be a single-event exam taken at or near the point of licensure instead of a multi-event exam taken in “steps” with law students eligible to take the first step while enrolled in law school?

The NextGen exam will be given as a single-event summative assessment at or near the point of licensure. This timing is most consistent with the purpose of the bar exam in that it places measurement of the requisite competence as close in time to the award of a license as possible. Additionally, many stakeholders expressed concerns about the potential impact of a multi-event approach on law school curricula and on internship and summer employment opportunities, among other concerns. One of the primary reasons some favored a multi-event approach was to permit testing of legal doctrine closer in time to when students learn the content in law school. We concluded that the NextGen exam’s increased emphasis on assessing skills and more focused scope of coverage of doctrine, using item sets that better approximate the real-world practice of law, address the underlying reasons some stakeholders favored multi-event testing.

Scoring

Who will score the NextGen bar exam, and will jurisdictions still grade some portions of the exam?

The NextGen bar exam will include a mix of item formats. Multiple-choice items and other item types that can be machine-scored will be scored by NCBE, while the constructed-response questions will continue to be graded by bar examiners in the jurisdictions.

Will scores on the NextGen bar exam be portable?

The current portability of Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) scores is based not only on the use of the same discrete test components, which are uniformly administered and graded, but on an agreement by UBE jurisdictions to accept scores earned in other jurisdictions. The NextGen bar exam will produce portable scores for all jurisdictions that agree to accept the scores. Although jurisdictions may use the NextGen bar exam without agreeing to accept scores earned in other jurisdictions, we hope that jurisdictions will value the benefits of score portability for candidates and that scores will be portable across all jurisdictions.

Will the NextGen exam require the setting of new passing scores by jurisdictions, and how will NCBE assist jurisdictions in making passing score decisions?

The changes to the NextGen exam are substantial enough to necessitate adoption of a new score scale. That means jurisdictions will need to set new passing scores. NCBE will support jurisdictions in conducting a standard-setting study to provide a range of scores based on which jurisdictions would make the policy decisions related to setting their passing score requirements.

Content

When will the Content Scope Outlines identifying scope of coverage for the NextGen bar exam be available?

The preliminary Content Scope Outlines are available on our website. They are just the first step in preparing the Test Content Specifications—the “blueprint” for the new exam—which will be published in 2024. The Test Content Specifications will provide more details, such as the sources of law for the topics tested, the weighting or emphasis of the subjects/topics and skills, and sample test questions illustrating how the knowledge and skills may be tested in an integrated design. Additional annotations about what is covered within subjects/topics may also be added. Finally, the organization and structure of the Test Content Specifications may be different than the organization and structure of the Content Scope Outlines.

What type of legal reference materials or library will be included in the NextGen bar exam?

A closed universe of appropriate legal resources (e.g., statutes, cases, rules) will be provided to candidates on the NextGen bar exam for assessing Foundational Skills that are not being measured in the context of the eight Foundational Concepts & Principles, which applicants are expected to know. For example, we anticipate that an MPT-type library, where resources specific to the task candidates are asked to complete, may be provided. The intent is to make the exam more realistic and to reduce the amount of legal knowledge candidates must commit to memory for the exam, while emphasizing skills, such as interpreting and applying law. NCBE is exploring options for testing legal research.

How will skills like client counseling and advising or negotiation and dispute resolution be assessed on the NextGen bar exam?

Skills like Negotiation, Client Counseling, and other performance-type skills will be assessed using uniform text-based scenarios to which candidates will respond in writing or by choosing correct answers from multiple options. The test content specifications for the Foundational Skills to be assessed on the NextGen exam will provide guidance to candidates about the scope of assessment for each skill.