Supreme Court OKs digitalized Bar exams for November 2021
The Supreme Court held a mock digitalized Bar examinations on Sunday, January 31. The test was conducted in four venues: Baguio, Makati, Cebu, Davao.
Screenshot/SC PIO livestream

Supreme Court OKs digitalized Bar exams for November 2021

(Philstar.com) - February 15, 2021 - 6:50pm

MANILA, Philippines — Bar examinations this year will see major changes amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the Supreme Court approving a digitalized conduct of the exams in various areas across the country.

A bulletin from Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, Bar chairperson, said the exams will still be held on four Sundays of November, but will now take place in local testing sites.

Exams have previously only been held in a single location, such as the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, which hosted the Bar exams from 2011 to 2019.

Leonen said the high court's approval came after a pilot run of the Bar exams was carried out in end-January in Metro Manila, Baguio, Cebu and Davao, where 80 participants took two exams through a computer software in testing rooms.

"This proved that a more equitable and inclusive Bar examinations can be done, more so amid the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.

Applications for this year's exam would begin by May and would be done through an online system. Leonen said as well that applicants would no longer have to go to Manila to the Bar confidant's office, "except when required to clarify the authenticity" of documents.

Philippine Supreme Court Public Information Office on Twitter: "#Bar2020_21 UPDATE: Read Bar Bulletin No. 18 - On the Modality of the November 2021 Bar Examinations #BestBarEver2020_21 https://t.co/lydnOGo3xw" / Twitter

The 2020 edition of the exams, which draws thousands of law graduates annually, was called off in April of that year as a result of the health crisis, when much of the country was still in the hard lockdowns set to curb the virus' transmission.

For this year, those who would take it would be required to bring their own Wi-Fi-enabled laptops where software for the exams will be installed.

Leonen said examinees need not to buy the latest model of laptops or Macbooks as long as what they have meets the minimum system requirements. The laptops will be the only gadgets allowed at the exams.

"While the modality has been digitalized, the Bar examinations shall not be taken remotely," the Bar chairperson said. "Examinees will still walk into testing rooms and will be proctored while taking the exams."

The magistrate of the high court said too that Bar examinees would be assigned to testing centers closest to their residence or the school they graduated from, which would still depend on the final list of schools that would be selected as sites.

Health protocols would also be carried out such as physical distancing in testing rooms, as well as COVID-19 screenings, with Leonen saying the court would be looking into arrangements for RT-PCR tests in areas where it would be held.

And while the exams would now be digitalized, he said handwritten form of exams would still be allowed in exceptional cases where an examinee would be proven unable to take the exam through a computer due to a physical disability.

The Bar exams would also be graded by examiners digitally, which Leonen said would allow subject matter experts outside the capital region to be tapped in a bid to make the assessing of the exams "even more inclusive."

In 2019, some 7,685 Bar hopefuls took the exam, with 2,103 making it to the cut, or a passing rate of 27.36% that was higher than the 22.07% in the previous year. 

The court, through its then chairperson Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, said the passing mark was lowered to 74% from 75.

It remains unclear if this would be retained or be subjected to change, with Leonen taking the helm. — Christian Deiparine

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