Bar exams update, Nov. 20, 2010

November 25, 2010

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The following were among the matters taken up during the
dialogue between the Officers and Members of the Philippine
Association of Law Schools and Justice Roberto A. Abad, Chairman
of the 2011 Bar Examinations held in Tagbilaran, Bohol, on
November 20, 2010.

Random Selection of
Topic Items for the MCQs

There is a principle in statistical data-gathering called “random
sampling.” Take small random samples from a group (your
universe) and you will get a good picture of what makes up the
group. They did random sampling in the last elections.
Survey firms asked just 2,500 randomly chosen voters their
preferences and, based on the answers, those firms announced who
were leading among the candidates nationwide and by how much.
The survey claimed a possible error of only 3% from reality. And
they proved right in their claims.

Testing the students for what they learned is a form of
statistical sampling. When you have taught your students 1,000
principles in Evidence, you usually pick out 10 principles and use
these to test them. If a student gets 80% correct, you assume that he
has learned at least 80% of the 1,000 principles you taught him.
You are probably right, but the level of your accuracy is not
high because you took just a small sample, 10, and you did not do
random sampling, which would have improved the chances that you
are right.

How can we improve the chances of our getting fairly accurate
results in the bar exams? Let us assume that ideally bar candidates
should know 5,000 principles (our universe) in Remedial Law. We
will ask them 100 multiple choice questions, instead of just 10, to
increase the statistical chances that the result would be fairly
accurate. But, how do we choose the 100 questions or items from our
data bank at random, and avoid leaving the choice to the bias of the

We need to build up in our Data Bank the things that a
candidate ought to know in a particular bar subject. So we plan to
put about 2,000 topic items in a basket from which we can later draw
300 such items for construction into 200 MCQs. We have so far put
in our Data Bank our COVERAGE INDEX. This is the coverage of
the bar exams by subject as published in the Supreme Court website.
But the topics in our Coverage Index are still few and too
broad for writing into the needed MCQs. For example, the Coverage
Index in Remedial law has the following topic items:

I. General principles
A. Concept of remedial law

xxx xxx xxx

III. Civil Procedure

B. Motions
3. Motion to Dismiss
a. Grounds

Looking at the above, the topic item “Concept of remedial law”
appears to have the same importance as the topic item “Grounds for
motion to dismiss.” But there are 10 grounds for a motion to
dismiss, each one important enough for developing into an MCQ. If
we make a random selection from the various topic items in the
Coverage Index, the topic item “Concept of remedial law” has the
same one chance of being chosen as the topic item “grounds for a
motion to dismiss” when the latter item has greater possibilities for
being developed into good MCQs.

To remedy the disproportion, we are building up in our Data
Bank a COVERAGE ROLL, which is an expanded version of the
Coverage Index, to include smaller but significant sub-topic items.
For example, we can expand the single topic item “Civil procedure;
Motion to Dismiss; Grounds” by adding “improper venue” and
further down the line, “waiver of (improper venue).” Thus, we
create additional topic items covering each of the other 9 grounds for
motion to dismiss.

But we have another problem. Three topic items in Remedial
Law might appear in the Coverage Roll like this:

1. General principles; concept of remedial law

xxx xxx xxx

29. Jurisdiction of Courts; Supreme Court; petition
for review of CA decision

xxx xxx xxx

97. Civil procedure; motion to dismiss; grounds;
improper venue; waiver of

xxx xxx xxx

Does the knowledge of the three topic items above have the
same value for a beginning practitioner? The answer is of course no.
You might forget the correct significance of the term “remedial law”
but, if you go into practice, you must not forget the jurisdiction of
courts and the grounds for dismissal of any complaint you might file
in court.

Our solution is that the examiner or an expert in the covered
law subject shall give every topic item in the Coverage Roll a
numerical weight:

1 – For topic items the candidate should be
familiar with
2 – For topic items he needs to be proficient with
3 – For topic items that often generate disputes
regarding their applications.

A topic item with 1 value will be given 1 chance of being
drawn during the random selection for MCQs. Items with 2 or 3
values will be given 2 or 3 chances.

For this purpose, we shall build up in our Data Bank a RAFFLE
LIST. This is a reformated list of every topic item in the Coverage
Roll, numbered consecutively, and multiplied by value for the
purpose of random selection.

Thus --

1. General principles; concept of remedial law (1)

xxx xxx xxx

29. Jurisdiction of Courts; Supreme Court; petition
for review of CA decision (2)
30. Jurisdiction of Courts; Supreme Court; petition
for review of CA decision (2)

xxx xxx xxx

97. Civil procedure; motion to dismiss; grounds;
improper venue; waiver of (3)
98. Civil procedure; motion to dismiss; grounds;
improper venue; waiver of (3)
99. Civil procedure; motion to dismiss; grounds;
improper venue; waiver of (3)

The random selection of topic items shall span the length of the
coverage of each subject, taking into account the importance of each
of its subdivisions to beginning practitioners. For example, in civil
law, the questions should be fairly distributed among Persons,
Property, Obligations and Contracts, Wills and Successions, etc.,
according to the percentage weight of each subdivision.

Further, Examiners shall construct the selected topic items into
three kinds of MCQs:

1) Know-and-recall type (20%)
2) Understanding type (40%) and
3) Analysis-and-solution type (40%).

Use of MCQ’s from Law Schools

The MCQs contributed by law schools and other sources shall
be collected, printed out, and assigned to the Bar Chairman’s legal
staffs for attachment to the related topic item in the Raffle List.
Each contributed MCQ shall be attached as an end note of the
appropriate topic item in the Raffle List to which such MCQ belongs.

Thus --

8. Civil procedure; motion to dismiss; grounds;
improper venue; waiver of 3

Thus, when a topic item is selected at random and taken out of
the Raffle List, it will bring with it the contributed MCQs that come
under such topic item’s end notes for the examiner’s consideration.
Run-Through Test

Law schools desiring to take part on the July 3, 2011 Run-
Through test shall be required to submit the names of their incoming
4th year students, with his or her stated class standing and average
grade in the last semester, who wish to volunteer for the Run-
Through. Participating law schools should send no more than 20
names each not later than June 3, 2011. The Bar Chairman shall
communicate to each school the names of the students selected from
their school.

The chosen student-candidates shall be divided into four
groups of 50 students per group for a total of 400 students. One
group shall take the exam intended for the first Sunday while each of
the other three groups, the exams for the second, third, and fourth

The student-candidates in each group will be consecutively
numbered from 1 to 50 based on class standing. For the purpose of
computing the results of the examinations, it will be assumed that
the four identically numbered students from the four groups
represent but just one bar candidate.

The answer sheets in each examination shall be immediately
scanned for results by a scanning machine to determine:

(a) The grades of each candidate, represented by 4 students;
(b) The number and percentage of candidates who reach each
notch of the grade scale; and
(c) Such other data as may be needed to help the Court
establish the reasonable passing grade for MCQ exams.

The Essay Exams

One Readers’ Panel shall be constituted to grade the
memorandum essay and another to grade the opinion essay. Each
Panel shall have three or four Examiners, preferably but not
necessarily the examiners in the MCQ exams.

The candidate shall receive three things at the start of his
morning and afternoon essay exams: a) the Test Questions; b) a Draft
Pad; and c) an Answer Pad.

The cover sheet of the Test Questions shall contain the


You are presented with a hypothetical case plus
research materials (provisions of law and jurisprudence)
that you may want to use in your work.

Choose the side of the dispute that you want to uphold
and defend and prepare a trial memorandum in support of
your side.

Omit the case caption.

Do not write more than four arguments.

You have been given, apart from this Test Question, a

Draft Pad, and an Answer Pad.

Use the Draft Pad for making a draft of your
memorandum. This will permit you to freely edit and
rewrite your work. Editing and rewriting are essential to
sound legal writing.

The bells will be rung one hour before the end of the
exam to signal the need for you to begin transferring your
work to your Answer Pad.

You may, of course, prefer to skip the preparation of a
draft and write your essay directly on your Answer Pad.

That is allowed.

Quality of writing, not length is desired.

You are free to jot notes or place helpful markings like
underlines on the test questions and the enclosed materials.
Corrections even on your final essay on the Answer
Pad are allowed and will not result in any deduction.

When the bell rings a second time to signal the end of
the exam, your test questions, Draft Pad, and Essay Pad
will be collected whether you are finished or not. The time
pressure is a part of the exam.

You will not be graded for a technically right or
wrong answer but for the quality of your legal advocacy.

The test is intended to measure your skills in:

1) communicating in English -- 20%;
2) sorting out the conflicting claims and extracting
those facts that are relevant to the issue or issues in the case
-- 15%;

3) identifying the issue or issues presented -- 15%;
4) constructing your arguments and persuading your
reader to your point of view -- 50%

Students and their trainers should be free to adopt what they
think is the best approach to writing a memorandum or a legal
opinion. The following suggestions might, however, be helpful to

1) Read the problem and get a sense of what the issue or issues
2) Pick out the facts claimed by the parties that are relevant to
such issue or issues and drop those that are not;
3) Make a brief summary of the admitted facts and those that
are disputed;
4) State the issue or issues on which the resolution of the
dispute will depend;
5) Prepare the arguments that support your side; and
6) End with the relief you want, your prayer.

The Answer Pads shall contain 20 pages of lined short bond
papers. Its cover sheet shall be colored, using three color schemes
for alternate distribution to discourage any attempt to swap answers.

The Answer Pads shall have the size of a short bond paper. They
shall each have a Cover Sheet which shall contain the following:
a. On the topmost section of such cover sheet, where the
stapler wires bind the pages, the words:


For Your Final and Edited Essay.

b) On the next four perforated sections of the cover sheet or
the Examiners’ separate Score-Sheets shall appear: (1) the Examiner’s
identity code; (2) the pass [ ] or fail [ ] marks; (3) the ovals for
marking the grade; and (4) the warning:



c) On the lowest perforated section of the cover sheet, the
candidate’s name and bar code.
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