Make us feel better about the bar exam
February 24, 2011 7:51 PM   Subscribe

My husband just finished taking the Tennessee bar exam and just found out that they changed the way they grade it - and it's in opposition to his test taking strategy. Help us down off the ledge!

In the past, the essay questions were pass/fail so the strategy was to spend the time on the questions you knew you could pass - even if you left a couple blank. So that's what he did. He answered 10 (pretty well he thinks), left one completely blank, and might've left a few thoughts on the other one (he was on his laptop and can't remember if he deleted what he had for that one). So, I know there is nothing he can do about it now. But that doesn't stop the freaking out that is happening at my house right now.

We can't find find a lot of details in the grading but what we do find says that the test taker has to score 135 points in both the multiple choice and the essay portion. The multiple choice is out of 200 so I guess the essay is too? And then there is scaling too. But by my calculations, if he only answered 10 then he needed to get an average of 81 on each one to pass. Does that sound impossible?

To sum up, I'd like to know if anyone has any more details about the scoring (a lot of stuff is out of date online) and if anyone has any words of reassurance that might possibly make my husband feel better?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total)
So he answered 10/12 questions, which were his 10 best. He half answered another, and he left the last blank? That's not going to kill has chances at passing. Anything's possible, but I can't imagine this possibly poor strategy having a serious adverse effect.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:30 PM on February 24, 2011

These answers should be intentionally left blank, because there's no advice we can give that will affect anything. He has taken the exam already. He can't change the way he took it. If he takes it again, he'll change his strategy.
posted by John Cohen at 8:32 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, don't worry about it now--it's done, and you'll know how you did in April or so. I'm admitted in two states, and I didn't feel overly confident about either exam.

Also, keep in mind that he needed to get 135. 200 / 12 = 16.6 points per question. If your husband did well on those 10 he answered, he could be well on his way to passing. Also, it's not clear whether the requirement really is at least 135 points on the essays and the multiple choice, or whether it's 270 points total.

I'm sure he did fine. Also, I'm sure there are other people who took the test with the same strategy, and by the sound of it, hubby did well on 10 of 12. There are people who took the test who did OK on 7 of 12.

Relax. It's all good.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:34 PM on February 24, 2011

I don't know that his strategy was bad - by focusing on the essays he could answer easily he was maximizing the points he received for them. If you're going for points it's always smart to skip the questions that don't jump out at you.
posted by yarly at 8:51 PM on February 24, 2011

True story: when I took the Massachusetts bar, I was talking with a friend from my firm who had been staffed on a trial until literally two weeks before the exam (we were both laterals, so we were practicing in the office before the exam). She had only those last two weeks to study (though she was admitted in IL or something). She thought she knew the multistate well enough as could be expected, and she was just going to apply multistate principles to any relevant Massachusetts question. I think there were 5 essays. She was not confident, per se, but she was hopeful in the five minutes before the start of our essay day--and, the good news was, of course, Massachusetts doesn't test on secured transactions or commercial paper, so she skipped those (awful) topics entirely. I didn't have the heart to tell her that yes, Massachusetts DOES test those topics.

And what was the very first question? A COMBINED secured transactions / commercial paper question (with partnerships!). Total disaster--I don't think she could have gotten any points from that one at all--and what a total confidence killer to have the first question be something you don't know at all, on a test you are already totally winging with multistate law.

She passed.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:05 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Go have a drink, smoke a bowl, have crazy distracting sex, something, anything to calm y'all down. There is NOTHING you can do at this point. Except chill the fuck out. So do that.
posted by mollymayhem at 9:14 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

I don't know the Tennessee bar, but on the Minnesota bar they had 10-12 essays but only 6 (I think) were actually graded; the others were experimental questions for future test crafting. It's entirely possible they weren't even graded. I remember one of my essays was an admin law question and I knew nothing about it. I put down a bunch of BS and can't imagine that I got much better than 0. Frankly? He was probably better off spending the time maximizing the scores on the good questions.
posted by norm at 10:44 PM on February 24, 2011

1) Go get pissed. It's what you should be doing anyway.

2) Don't sweat it. The passage rate in Tennessee is in the 73-90% range. I doubt the scoring change is going to affect that.
posted by valkyryn at 3:11 AM on February 25, 2011

if the change was only announced in january, then the likelihood of it being applied to this week's bar exam is slim to none. i'd go look into that. the bar examiners are evil, but not THAT evil... bar prep programs are generally about 8 weeks long, and there's no way they would have to change their strategy so close to an exam.
posted by timory at 6:49 AM on February 25, 2011

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