Future Bar Exam in blue map pin standing upright on a roadwayWelcome to NCBE’s blog on all things related to the next generation of the bar exam! We will be using this space to keep stakeholders informed about our work to implement the recommendations of the Testing Task Force for the redesign of the bar exam.

Our April blog post described the first task that NCBE is undertaking as part of our multi-year plan for developing and launching the new bar exam, which is to develop test content specifications to delineate the scope of coverage of the Foundational Concepts & Principles and the Foundational Skills to be measured. We recently circulated an invitation for lawyers and legal educators to apply to serve on the Content Scope Committee to assist us with this work, and we are thrilled with the response to that invitation. There will be other activities in the months ahead for which we will turn to the bar admissions and legal education communities for assistance, and we will be sharing more about those activities as we finalize the work plan and timeline for the project as a whole.

Finalizing the project work plan and timeline may sound like a straightforward task, but there are numerous interrelated steps in developing a licensure exam in accord with best practices and the professional standards for testing. Careful planning is crucial to ensuring success, and NCBE’s Board of Trustees created the Implementation Steering Committee (ISC) to oversee the process. The ISC currently includes four workgroups: Test Development and Psychometrics; Test Delivery and Operations; Diversity, Fairness, and Inclusion; and Strategy, Coordination, and Outreach. Each of the four workgroups has specific areas of focus but will also be working in collaboration. To give readers a flavor of how we are approaching the project, we provide the following brief, high-level description of the roles of the four workgroups.

The Test Development and Psychometrics (DEV) workgroup is leading the process of developing the test content specifications. The DEV workgroup will also be working with lawyers and legal educators to craft prototypes of new item formats and items sets, which we’ll be writing more about in subsequent blog posts. As one might guess, the DEV workgroup will also be focused on equating, grading, scaling, standard setting, and all the other psychometric considerations for the new exam.

The Test Delivery and Operations (OPS) workgroup is responsible for planning test production and delivery, including delivery of the exam in accessible formats for candidates with disabilities, and production of sample test questions and study aids. Test administration issues, including but not limited to creating test day policies and instructions, maintaining test security to ensure integrity of scores, and providing score reporting and transfer services to jurisdictions and candidates, are also assigned to the OPS workgroup.

The Diversity, Fairness, and Inclusion (DFI) workgroup is focused on fairness and inclusion for historically underrepresented and disadvantaged groups across all implementation activities. The DFI workgroup will help to identify and eliminate potential bias as new item types and formats are developed, new skills are assessed, and knowledge and skills are assessed holistically in the new integrated test design. The DFI workgroup will also assist with evaluating accessibility and fairness for all groups based on universal design principles as we develop item prototypes.

Last, but not least, the Strategy, Coordination, and Outreach (SCO) workgroup is responsible for coordinating activities across the workgroups and tracking progress so that development of the new bar exam remains on schedule. The SCO workgroup is also the liaison to stakeholders and the public, serving to keep everyone updated as the project unfolds and conducting targeted outreach to stakeholders to obtain their input and/or participation at key points along the way.

Additionally, many NCBE staff are working with the ISC and as part of the workgroups to carry out the implementation plan for the new exam in a way that is comprehensive and systematic. We are excited to work collaboratively and transparently with stakeholders as we move through all the necessary steps to ensure a smooth transition to the new exam for all. Be sure to stayed tuned as we provide regular updates on our progress.

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