This article originally appeared in The Bar Examiner print edition, Spring 2021 (Vol. 90, No. 1), pp. 7–9.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt day-to-day life, jurisdictions throughout the country continue to grapple with safely administering the bar exam to ensure that candidates can take the exam and have the opportunity to become licensed to practice law.

July 2020 Exam Recap

In the early days of the pandemic, recognizing the need to assist jurisdictions with options to safely administer the July 2020 bar exam, NCBE announced on April 3 that it would make exam materials available for two fall administrations in addition to the July 2020 administration: September 9–10 and September 30–October 1. 

As the pandemic worsened and restrictions for indoor gatherings increased throughout the country, NCBE then announced on June 1 that it would provide a limited set of questions (MBE, MEE, MPT) to jurisdictions for an emergency remote testing option on October 5–6 for local admission.

In sum, 32 jurisdictions administered in-person exams in July or on alternate dates, and 7 of those jurisdictions decided to administer two in-person exams. Twenty-five jurisdictions decided to administer remote exams (20 administered NCBE’s remote testing option in October, and 5 administered remote exams on alternate dates using locally drafted questions). Four jurisdictions administered both in-person and remote exams. Three jurisdictions canceled the exam until 2021.

February 2021 Exam Announcement

On October 19, to provide flexibility to jurisdictions and candidates during the continuing challenges posed by the pandemic, NCBE announced that it would make a full set of bar exam materials available for a remote administration in February 2021, to be held on the same dates as the in-person administration of the exam. NCBE would equate the MBE, calculate scaled scores for the written components, and provide UBE and MBE score transfer services for both the in-person and the remote administrations.

On the day of the announcement, jurisdictions began declaring their decisions to administer the February exam remotely, with a total of 33 jurisdictions deciding to do so using NCBE materials (2 jurisdictions would administer the exam remotely using their own test materials).

The following show an overview of jurisdiction decisions about in-­person versus remote administration of the February 2021 exam.

A Timeline of Jurisdiction Decisions to Administer the February 2021 Exam Remotely

This timeline shows jurisdiction decisions to administer the February 2021 exam remotely. In October 2020, the jurisdictions of Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee made the decision to administer the February 2021 exam remotely; in November 2020, the jurisdictions of California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont made the same decision. In December 2020, the jurisdictions of Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and the Virgin Islands made the decision to administer the exam remotely; and in January 2021, Texas made the same decision.

February 2021 Bar Exam Status by Jurisdiction

Note: The numbers account for all 56 jurisdictions, including those that did not use NCBE materials for their 2021 exams. (Note that Delaware does not administer a February exam. Palau usually does not administer a February exam but held its exam in February 2021 due to the cancellation of its July 2020 exam. Texas also administered a make-up exam on March 16–17, 2021, for those applicants who were unable to take the exam in February due to severe weather events.)

This map shows all 56 jurisdictions (including those that did not use NCBE materials for their 2021 exams) and their February 2021 bar exam status. Jurisdictions shown in green administered a bar exam on February 23 and 24, 2021; all jurisdictions are shown in green except Delaware and Louisiana. Footnotes indicate that Delaware (shown in light gray, meaning “February exam is not administered”) does not traditionally administer the February exam, while Louisiana (shown in dark gray, meaning “Custom date(s)”) administered the bar exam on February 9, 2021. Diagonal lines on the map indicate remotely administered exams; Louisiana and all states shown in green except Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, and Puerto Rico have diagonal lines and administered their exams remotely. A further footnote indicates that Puerto Rico traditionally administers the bar exam in March.

For tabular format of this information, visit the NCBE website at https://www.ncbex.org/ncbe-covid-19-updates/feb-2021-bar-exam-jurisdiction-information/status-table/

IN-PERSON EXAM

20 jurisdictions decided to administer in-person exams

20 jurisdictions decided to administer in-person exams

REMOTE EXAM

35 jurisdictions decided to administer remote exams

35 jurisdictions decided to administer remote exams

Comparison of Jurisdiction In-Person vs. Remote Bar Exam Decisions from July 2020 to February 2021

Note: “July 2020” may refer to an alternate or additional September or October 2020 exam administered due to the pandemic.

 

In-Person July 2020 and February 2021 Remote July 2020 and February 2021 In-Person July 2020; Remote February 2021 Both In-Person and Remote July 2020; Remote February 2021
Alabama
Alaska
Arkansas
Hawaii
Kansas
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
New Mexico
Oklahoma
South Carolina
South Dakota
Virginia
West Virginia
Wyoming
Northern Mariana Islands
Puerto Rico
California
Connecticut
District of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Illinois
Indiana
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
Ohio
Pennsylvania
Tennessee
Vermont
Virgin Islands

Colorado
Iowa
Maine
Nebraska
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
Utah
Washington
Wisconsin

Arizona
Idaho
Oregon
Texas

Delaware: July 2020 exam canceled; does not administer a February exam.
Guam and Palau: July 2020 exam canceled; in-person exam February 2021.
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