No topnotchers for 2020/21 Bar exams; SC to recognize examinees with 'exemplary performance'

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
No topnotchers for 2020/21 Bar exams; SC to recognize examinees with 'exemplary performance'
The Supreme Court installed an LED wall at the front yard to flash the names of the successful examinees.
The STAR / Krizjohn Rosales, File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Marking a departure from tradition, the 2020/21 Bar examinations will not list topnotchers but will instead recognize examinees who recorded “exemplary performance” in the licensure test.

This is in consideration of the different circumstances that two batches of examinees went through amid a pandemic, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, 2020/21 Bar chairperson, said in his latest Bar Bulletin.

For the coming Bar examinations, the Supreme Court will recognize examinees who obtained a total weighted score of 85.00% or higher for their “exemplary performance in the Bar examinations.”

“The names of examinees who earned recognition for exemplary performance shall be made publicly available simultaneously with the list of passers, through the same media. Apart from this, no fanfare shall be devoted in releasing information on examinees who rendered exemplary performance,” Leonen added.

Aside from doing away from Top 10 bar topnotchers, the 2020/21 Bar examinations will also be the first to be held digitally and in at least 24 local testing centers across the country.

Considerations due to pandemic

The Bar exams in November will accommodate two batches of examinees, as the pandemic forced the SC to suspend its conduct in November 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leonen noted that those who intended to take the Bar in 2020 had more time to review or wait, while batch 2021 had to prepare for graduation during the pandemic and suffer delays too. “They have been put in a constrained environment, with only a brief window of time to prepare,” he added.

Modifications for the 2020/21 Bar examinations, however, have been adopted pro hac vice or for this set of test only.

Leonen said the changes “are designed to enable a more equitable approach to appraising and reporting on Bar Examination performance.”

“Similarly, the modifications were adopted to initiate reforms that address the debilities and inequities arising from traditional, competitive mechanisms, as well as the false tendency to associate Bar Examination performance with overall legal acumen and even future professional success,” he added.

Tiered grading

According to the bulletin, there will be 15 to 18 straightforward questions for each Bar subject. Each answer will be evaluated according to a tiered qualitative system, with five as the highest grade.

“The points earned by an examinee’s answer to each Bar subject’s questions shall be added to determine the examinee’s raw score for a given Bar subject. To compute an examinee’s overall score in the Bar Examinations, the scores obtained in each Bar subject shall be given a relative weight,” Leonen explained.

An examinee will have to earn at least 75% as total weighted score to pass. This score is the product of Bar subject’s relative weight and raw score as a percentage of the maximum possible score.

The SC will also issue a report on performance of law schools. They will be ranked according to passing rate of their first-time examinees, Leonen said.

A separate report will also be issued for law schools with examinees recognized for exemplary performance. “This report shall list and rank law schools from those with the most to the least number of examinees recognized for exemplary performance,” he added.

The SC is accepting applications for the 2020/21 Bar examinations until September 15.

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