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Supreme Court of the Philippines


B.M. No. 2265


Preliminary Statement

The Court has found merit in the proposed changes in the conduct of the bar examinations that the Chairperson of the 2011 Bar Examinations and Philippine Association of Law Schools recommended.

One recommendation concerns the description of the coverage of the annual bar examinations that in the past consisted merely of naming the laws that each subject covered. This description has been regarded as too general and provides no specific understanding of the entry-level legal knowledge required of beginning law practitioners.

A second recommendation addresses the predominantly essay-type of bar examinations that the Court conducts. Because of the enormous growth of laws, doctrines, principles, and precedents, it has been noted that such examinations are unable to hit a significant cross-section of the subject matter. Further, the huge number of candidates taking the examinations annually and the limited time available for correcting the answers make fair correction of purely essay-type examinations difficult to attain. Besides, the use of multiple choice questions, properly and carefully constructed, is a method of choice for qualifying professionals all over the world because of its proven reliability and facility of correction.

A third recommendation opts for maintaining the essay-type examinations but dedicating these to the assessment of the requisite communication skills, creativity, and fine intellect that bar candidates need for the practice of law.

Approved Changes

The Court has previously approved in principle the above recommended changes. It now resolves to approve the following rules that shall govern the future conduct of the bar examinations:

1. The coverage of the bar examinations shall be drawn up by topics and sub-topics rather than by just stating the covered laws. The test for including a topic or sub-topic in the coverage of the examinations is whether it covers laws, doctrines, principles and rulings that a new lawyer needs to know to begin a reasonably prudent and competent law practice.

The coverage shall be approved by the Chairperson of the Bar Examination in consultation with the academe, subject to annual review and re-approval by subsequent Chairpersons.

2. The bar examinations shall measure the candidate’s knowledge of the law and its applications through multiple-choice-questions (MCQs) that are to be so constructed as to specifically:

2.1. Measure the candidate’s knowledge of and ability to recall the laws, doctrines, and principles that every new lawyer needs in his practice;

2.2. Assess the candidate’s understanding of the meaning and significance of those same laws, doctrines, and principles as they apply to specific situations; and

2.3. Measure his ability to analyze legal problems, apply the correct law or principle to such problems, and provide solutions to them.

3. The results of the MCQ examinations shall, if feasible, be corrected electronically.

4. The results of the MCQ examinations in each bar subject shall be given the following weights:

Political Law -- 15%

Labor Law -- 10%

Civil Law -- 15%

Taxation -- 10%

Mercantile Law -- 15%

Criminal Law -- 10%

Remedial Law -- 20%

Legal Ethics/Forms -- 5%

5. Part of the bar examinations shall be of the essay-type, dedicated to measuring the candidate’s skills in writing in English, sorting out the relevant facts in a legal dispute, identifying the issue or issues involved, organizing his thoughts, constructing his arguments, and persuading his readers to his point of view. The essays will not be bar subject specific.

5.1. One such essay examination shall require the candidate to prepare a trial memorandum or a decision based on a documented legal dispute. (60% of essays)

5.2 Another essay shall require him to prepare a written opinion sought by a client concerning a potential legal dispute facing him. (40% of essays)

6. The essays shall not be graded for technically right or wrong answers, but for the quality of the candidate’s legal advocacy. The passing standard for correction shall be work expected of a beginning practitioner, not a seasoned lawyer.

7. The examiners in all eight bar subjects shall, apart from preparing the MCQs for their respective subjects, be divided into two panels of four members each. One panel will grade the memorandum or decision essay while the other will grade the legal opinion essay. Each member shall read and grade the examination answer of a bar candidate independently of the other members in his panel. The final grade of a candidate for each essay shall be the average of the grades given by the four members of the panel for that essay.

8. The results of the a) MCQ and b) essay-type examinations shall be given weights of 60% and 40%, respectively, in the computation of the candidate’s final grade.

9. For want of historical data needed for computing the passing grade in MCQ kind of examinations, the Chairperson of the 2011 Bar Examinations shall, with the assistance of experts in computing MCQ examination grades, recommend to the Court the appropriate conversion table or standard that it might adopt for arriving at a reasonable passing grade for MCQs in bar examinations.

10. In the interest of establishing needed data, the answers of all candidates in the essay-type examinations in the year 2011 shall be corrected irrespective of the results of their MCQ examinations, which are sooner known because they are electronically corrected. In future bar examinations, however, the Bar Chairperson shall recommend to the Court the disqualification of those whose grades in the MCQ are so low that it would serve no useful purpose to correct their answers in the essay-type examinations.

11. Using the data and experience obtained from the 2011 Bar Examinations, future Chairpersons of Bar Examination are directed to study the feasibility of:

11.1. Holding in the interest of convenience and economy bar examinations simultaneously in Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao; and

11.2. Allowing those who pass the MCQ examinations but fail the essay-type examinations to take removal examinations in the immediately following year.

12. All existing rules, regulations, and instructions that are inconsistent with the above are repealed.

This Bar Matter shall take effect immediately, and shall be published in two newspapers of general circulation in the Philippines.

January 18, 2011.


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