Stylized graphic of computer monitor with a white gavel and block on a split orange and blue background September 30, 2022—Webcast

On September 30, 2022, NCBE hosted two live webcasts on the content of the NextGen bar exam. Beth Donahue, NCBE Senior Assessment Design Specialist, and Professor Jon Lee of University of Oklahoma College of Law—who is also a member of the NextGen Content Scope Committee—­presented from test operations and academic perspective, respectively, on the development and exam format of the NextGen bar exam.

Donahue began with outlining five overarching objectives of the development of the new exam:

  • Testing less breadth and depth across subject areas, requiring less memorization
  • Greater emphasis on lawyering skills
  • Keeping fairness and accessibility at the forefront of the development process
  • Maintaining portability of exam scores
  • Keeping the exam at an affordable price
Portrait Photo of Beth Donahue

Beth Donahue

Then, Donahue gave an overview of the Content Scope Outlines and the process that led to them, including the diverse makeup of the Content Scope Committee. The Outlines include the eight Foundational Concepts and Principles and seven Foundational Skills that encompass the scope of the exam’s content, and are available for viewing at­register/. Another critical component of the committee’s work was to define exam tasks that correspond to the practice analysis conducted in a previous phase of development to best reflect the work newly licensed lawyers do.

Portrait Photo of Jon Lee

Jon Lee (Photo credit: University of Oklahoma photography)

Switching to the academic perspective, a theme of Lee’s presentation was the new exam’s shift to integrated assessments with more realistic prompts, which better reflect how lawyers work: scenarios may raise one or more legal questions that require knowledge of more than one area of law and ability in more than one lawyering skill. Lee also spoke to how legal education can continue to evolve with a focus on teaching foundational skill development and conceptual understanding. He was also able to give a sneak peek of prototyping, including how an integrated assessment may play out in practice with prompts raising multiple questions that can test various legal skills and areas of knowledge within a single scenario accompanied by set of resources provided to examinees as part of the exam.

Donahue then returned to speak to the pilot testing process, which will most likely run through the end of 2023. This process involves everything from considering optimal question combinations and method of providing examinees with legal resources within the context of the exam to developing grading rubrics and standard-setting exercises for jurisdictions’ pass scores.

NCBE Chief Strategy and Operations Officer Marilyn J. Wellington joined the two presenters for a robust Q&A session with attendees, covering a broad array of topics, including whether the current and NextGen exams will be administered concurrently, score portability, and maintenance of the current twice-a-year examination schedule, among others.

Over 700 members of the legal community, including law school faculty and staff, bar examiners, and bar prep professionals, attended the morning and afternoon sessions combined. A recording of the webcast can be viewed at­demand-webcast-content-of-the-nextgen-bar-exam/.

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