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Md. bar exam will be held online in October

The two-day Maryland bar exam originally scheduled for the end of July at the Baltimore Convention Center will be administered online Oct. 5 and 6 due to continuing concern about spreading the COVID-19 virus, the State Board of Law Examiners has reported.

Passing grades on the remote exam will qualify for admission to the Maryland bar but will not be transferable to the more than 30 states with which Maryland has reciprocity through its usual administration of the Uniform Bar Exam, SBLE stated. However, the SBLE added it has reached reciprocity agreements with the District of Columbia and Massachusetts and is seeking similar accords agreements with other states.

The online, remotely proctored exam will be half as long as the usual 12-hour test and be delivered by a technology vendor that the SBLE  said it will soon announce. The online exam will consist of fewer questions but cover the same subject areas as the usual exam.

The online test will be administered in four 90-minute sessions over the two days and consist of a Multistate Performance Test item, three Multistate Essay Exam items and 100 Multistate Bar Examination Questions prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which develops the uniform test, SBLE stated.

By contrast, the bar exam generally consists of two performance items, such as drafting a contract provision; six essays and 200 multistate questions.

Maryland’s top court approved the move to a remotely administered October test in an order issued last month at SBLE’s recommendation.

In May, the Court of Appeals had tentatively approved a plan to move the July test date to September and administer the exam to the approximately 1,100 applicants at several locations to enable social distancing rather than in the single convention center. But the pandemic’s resilience, the high number of examinees and the fact that 55% of the test takers would be traveling from out of state necessitated a remote solution, SBLE stated.

“While the SBLE may be able to provide adequately spaced seating for applicants to be socially distanced during the exam, the SBLE does not reasonably expect to be able to enforce adequate social distance between applicants during ingress/egress of buildings and rooms before and after exam sessions, or during permitted movement during the exam (e.g., to the restroom, etc.),” the board stated.

“The SBLE also cannot reasonably ensure adequate social distancing between applicants and proctors/staff during applicant check-in procedures and while distributing and collecting exam materials,” the board added. “The SBLE also could not provide equal supervision and monitoring to each applicant during in-person exam sessions because proctors and staff would be unable to circulate among the applicants without breaking social distancing guidelines. Finally, the number of testing locations that would be required to meet expected group gathering and social distancing guidelines would negatively impact the SBLE’s ability to ensure consistent testing conditions for all applicants and to ensure appropriate security protocols for test materials.”

The remote bar exam was the brainchild of the NCBE, which said it sought a way to help states license recent law school graduates amid the virus.

“NCBE understands the enormous challenges facing recent law graduates during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the uncertainty over whether they will be able to sit for the bar exam, which is why we have taken additional steps to facilitate licensure in 2020,” NCBE President Judith Gundersen said in a statement last month.

“NCBE continues to strongly advocate that a full-length, standard, in-person administration of the bar exam/UBE is best for a number of reasons, including psychometric issues, exam security, and the testing environment of candidates, who may not have access to comparable testing conditions or equipment,” Gundersen added. “We recognize, however, that these are extraordinary times.”


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