No topnotchers for 2021 Bar Exams, says Bar chair

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 27 2021 07:31 PM

MANILA — Don’t expect to see the top 10 passers of the 2021 Bar Exams when the results are announced next year.
That’s because the Supreme Court has done away with the traditional announcement of the top 10, according to the Bar Exams chair himself, SC Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
“No top Ten for the 2021 examinations. No competition. Instead a list of exemplary passers,” he tweeted Friday.

In a Bar bulletin released on the same day, the Supreme Court en banc approved on August 3 Leonen’s proposal to change the grading system in light of the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, recognizing that 2 batches of Bar Exams takers — those who were supposed to take last year’s exams and those scheduled this year — have “material disparities and divergent circumstances.”

“[T]he unique exigencies of the 2020/21 Bar Examinations may create or compound the inequalities for exacting distinctions for exemplary performance,” the SC en banc resolution said
Instead of declaring the top 10, the Supreme Court will instead recognize for “exemplary performance” Bar examinees who get an average grade of 85 percent or higher.
Law schools, however, will be ranked based on 2 levels: based on the percentage of passers and based on the number of examinees with exemplary performances.
The change in the Bar Exams grading system will only apply this year, the high court clarified, meant to “enable a more equitable approach to appraising and reporting on Bar Examination performance.” 
SC took note of the “extraordinary circumstances engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the anxiety and uncertainties suffered by examinees,” Leonen said in his instructions to the Bar examiners released also as part of the Bar bulletin on Friday.
Part of the instructions to Bar examiners is to only ask 15-18 straightforward questions with clear guidelines on how to grade an answer on a scale of 1 to 5, taking into account the correctness of the legal conclusion, the legal bases and the language or style an examinee adopts.
For example, an answer whose legal conclusion and legal bases may be correct but with flaws in the examinee’s ability to communicate will only get 4 points.
In contrast, even though the legal conclusion and legal bases may be wrong, an examinee still gets 1 point if there’s an attempt to aptly answer the question.
Aside from adjusting to the pandemic, the changes in the grading system will also address concerns about the fairness and objectivity of grading the answers.

The Bar Exams have been known to be tricky and unpredictable. Because the questions are mostly essay and open-ended, examiners have to pore through thousands of handwritten booklets in the past, although the exams this year will be computerized.
“The 2020/21 Bar Examinations will maintain fidelity to the basic nature of the Bar Examinations: They are qualifying licensure exams whose purpose is only to facilitate entry into the legal profession by those who possess and manifest the requisite minimum for inclusion in that profession,” Leonen told Bar examiners.
“The Bar Examinations measure individual knowledge. It is no race or competition. Neither will it predict who among the examinees will become the best qualified within their batch, the better lawyer, the more relevant practitioner, or the more compassionate individual," he explained.

"Those come after the examinees pass the examinations and contend with the challenges posed by their clients’ situations, considering the demands of social justice and their individual ethical choices."
The resulting scores in each of the 8 subjects will be tallied and given their respective weights, ranging from 20 percent for remedial law to 5 percent for legal ethics and practical exercises.

A Bar examinee needs to get a 75 percent grade in order to pass, although the Supreme Court has not ruled out the possibility of adjusting the passing grade.

Meanwhile, in an earlier bulletin released Thursday, Leonen clarified that the period for submitting applications for the Bar Exams is from July 15 to September 15 this year. 
The period is only for the submission of applications; the approval by the SC en banc could come later. 
Also deemed to have submitted their applications within the time period are those whose bar application fee payments are still subject to confirmation.


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Noting delays in the issuance by the Legal Education Board of LEBC numbers, Leonen said they submission of school registrar certifications with LEBC numbers shall not be mandatory for now. Instead, certificates of graduation from applicants’ law schools will be conditionally accepted, provided that the certifications with LEBC numbers be submitted by Jan. 31, 2022.
The Bar chair also reminded Bar applicants to only download the Examplify app, an exam delivery program, where sample exams will also be provided.
As to venue, Leonen informed Bar applicants in Metro Manila and Cebu that they will not be allowed to take the exams in their own schools since there are several testing centers in these areas.
Applicants are allowed to indicate 2 choices of their local testing sites through SC’s Bar PLUS (Personal Login Unified System).