Tennessee Revised bar exam grades with number

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Law school graduates will face changes in the Tennessee Bar Exam, some coming as early as February.

Up to now, candidates received pass/fail marks on the essay portion of the test. The Nashville Ledger reported that, beginning with the exam in February, candidates will receive a number score on that section.

Adele Anderson, executive director of the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners, said changes coming in 2012 will include the composition of the test and elimination of the essay regrading process.

"It's a big process to grade the bar exam for as many applicants as we have, so these kinds of changes are not taken lightly and they're not done on a whim," Anderson said. "It takes quite awhile to make a change like this, and it has to be for a convincing reason."

Anderson said she didn't know the last time the exam had been changed in Tennessee, but said it had remained the same since she arrived at the board in 1987.

The two-day exam is given twice a year. It includes the multiple-choice Multistate Bar Examination and 12 essay questions.

To pass the bar exam, candidates must score 135 points on both the multiple-choice portion and the essay part -- a total of at least 270 points.

Board members decided to begin grading the essay section because Tennessee was one of only a few states that did not provide a number grade.

"I don't think we were quite aware of how much in the minority we were," Anderson says. "We were at a meeting of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, and it became very obvious at that meeting."

The number grades will be forwarded to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which will scale them to the multistate exam.

To pass the Tennessee Bar, a candidate must earn a law degree, pass the bar exam and be of good character. Admission is by formal motion made by a sponsoring attorney during a session of the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Published: Thu, Jan 20, 2011

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