How to pass the Philippine Bar exams

More than 27 years ago Madame Justice Ameurfina Melencio-Hererra, Chairperson of the Committee on Bar Examinations submitted a report to the Philippine Supreme Court her observations on the 1980 bar exams.

Her pointed remarks on how the examinees answered the 1980 bar exams could serve as a lesson for those who are aspiring to make it to the Philippine bar.

The actual report is seven pages long. I have summarized the report in order to drive home the point. In order to hurdle the Philippine bar exams, examinees must have a mastery of what I call as the four “L’s.” in taking the bar exams, Language, Logic, Law and Layout. Here are the comments of Justice Herrera (In quotation) with regards to these four areas.


A.) LANGUAGE – How should you express your answer?

1.) “Only in a few instances was there a command of the English language.”
2.) ” . . . Require additional courses even in law school proper in the fields of English composition and grammar for those who are deficient in their ability to express and convey their ideas.”
3.) “Very many examinees, to put it mildly, “murder” the English language. Some are worse than high school undergraduates.”
4.) “Many candidates did not use the proper tenses. Bar candidates should be advised to be more careful with their tenses and try to aim at clarity in their answer.”
5.) “ . . . That is not to say that everyone who received higher grades demonstrated no language difficulties. It may in fact be justifiably said that a commendable command of language is the fortune of but a few of the examinees.”
6.) “The reason for this high mortality rate, may be attributed to several factors among them in the opinion of the undersigned, may be due mainly to the following: . . . Inadequate command of the English language”
7.) “With a relatively few notable exceptions, I observed a deficiency in the examinees’ ability to express properly and concisely their answer to the questions.”

B.) LOGIC – How should you present your answers?

1.) “They fail to analyze and understand the question thoroughly, where oftentimes the answer is found or suggested in it.”
2.) “They base their answer not on the specific import or meaning of the question but on the association they believe the question has with a vague knowledge of the legal provision that instantly comes into their minds. The result is an answer given without reflection that obviously misses the point or fails to obtain full credit.”
3.) “Many examinees also need, aside from the English language, a refresher course in logic. They give inconsistent or conflicting positions in one answer and do not know how to analyze problems.”

C.) LAW – What you should write about ?

1.) “Knowledge of the fundamental legal principles was lacking in many instances.”
2.) “The elevation of the standards of legal education and instruction, i.e., a more intensive preparation in the legal fundamentals necessary for the assumption of office as a member of the Bar.”
3.) “Many candidates were familiar with cases decided by the Supreme Court and some even mentioned their titles. Unfortunately, however, a good number did not know the fundamental legal principles enunciated in such decisions. “
4.) “The reason for this high mortality rate, may be attributed to several factors among them in the opinion of the undersigned, may be due mainly to the following: . . . Substandard collegiate or academic training, resulting in the insufficient knowledge of the law and its application. . . . “

D.) LAYOUT – How you should write it ?

1.) “Handwritings of some are difficult to read or “decipher”. Apparently, the examinees concerned do not make any sincere or serious effort to make them readable.”
2.) “The ink used spreads or the ball pen is too fine or light and blue. Both make correction of the papers an ordeal to the examiner who has to change his correction speed to very slow.”
3.) “Many examinees do not follow instructions. Few give a “Yes” or “No”, making the examiner guess just what they mean in their vague discussion. Others copy the question first before answering. Still others write on every other line, thereby unduly spreading their answers over several pages and making correction difficult, or they write on both sides of the page.”
4.) “Many examinees do not review their answers. Many answers have been found lacking not only several words but important ones as well which spell the difference between correct and wrong answers.”
5.) “A number of candidates could not write legibly. I found it hard to read their answers and much time was wasted in deciphering what they wanted to say. Bar candidates should be advised to write legibly.”
6.) “Some candidates do not follow the numbers correlatively in answering the questions. They jump over some numbers and do not indicate where the answer may be found thus making the correction more difficult, confusing and time consuming.”
7.) “Some candidates have resorted to what they called “alternative answer” by discussing both sides of the problem and arriving at opposing conclusions. Considering that most problems in the bar have to sides the appraisal and grading of those “alternative answer become more difficult. In my view this should be avoided.”
8.) “ . . . It may not be amiss to state in this connection, that there are also hundreds of them whose penmanship is almost illegible. . . . “

(So what’s wrong with these answers ? – Take note these are actual answers of some examinees)

“. . . . . Quoted hereunder are question to which the examinees concerned gave their answer as follows:”

Question No. 6(b) – “An accused was found guilty of double murder and was meted out two sentences of reclusion perpetua. How would the accused serve the sentences?”

Answer – “Both penalties must be served by the accused, and he was electrocuted and died then it washes out the remaining sentence to served by the accused.”

Question No. 11. – “Patrolman Cruz, acting under orders of the Municipal Mayor, Who wanted to put a stop to the frequent occurrence of robbery in Sitio Masukal, patrolled the place. At about midnight, seeing three persons acting suspiciously in front of an uninhabited house and entering the same, he arrested them without warrant and took them to the municipal building where they were detained in jail for about five hours before they where released.


Patrolman Cruz was accused of arbitrary detention. If you were the Judge, would you convict him of the crime charged?”

Answer“No. considering his possession as peace officer by the higher authority to patrol the place where robbery are frequent. The one responsible for this is the Municipal Mayor who order without warrant of arrest and the act of the patrolman are in good faith believing to be a robbery entering a house. So the proper party liable is the Municipal Mayor.”

“Most, if not all, who obtained failing grades have different unique ways of answering questions which only tends to show either because of poor scholastic training or lack of preparation not only in their collegiate or academic courses but may also be traceable to their primary and secondary education.

The majority of those who failed in the subject have also manifestly shown their poor command of the English language, such that certain examinees may probably know the law but they lack the ability to express themselves. The result is that, one will find it very difficult to understand what they really wanted to convey in their answer to the question propounded.
As an example, I hereby refer to the answer of another examinee to question No. 17. herein below quoted as follows:”

Question No. 17 – “AA” was the owner of a jeepney for hire. When his driver was hospitalized, he hired “BB” as driver on a temporary basis and entrusted to him the vehicle for transporting passengers from Quiapo to Baclaran with a compensation of P30.00 a day. “BB” never returned the vehicle and after search the vehicle was found in Tarnate, Cavite, about to be sold. “BB” was charged with Qualified Theft and was convicted .

Appealing the judgment of conviction, defense counsel contends that “BB” may have committed Estafa but not Qualified Theft on the theory that the position of the vehicle was obtained with the consent of “AA” the owner, and therefore, there was no illegal taking. Decide the case.”

“In answer thereto, the particular examinee gave the following answer:”

“The defense counsel of the accused contention in untenable assuming now that there is no illegal taking of the jeep from “AA”. The owner but “BB” a temporary driver hired by “AA” failure to return the jeep such vehicle as now ready to be sold by “BB” have an intent to gain is theft cases as an element.

This is not the actual conclusion of Justice Herrera, but for bar examinees, I believe this is a most fitting conclusion:

“Several examinees have made very unsatisfactory showing to such an extent that there is one who obtained a grade as low as 7% another obtained a grade of 11%; still some others obtained grades of 12%; 16%; 17%; 18%; 19%; 20%; 21%; 24%; 25%; 26%; 27%; 31%; 34%; etc.”

“Due to this very poor showing of a considerable number of examinees, in order to avoid unnecessary waste of time, money and energy and in order to give the students concerned advice to shift to other course before it is too late, it is suggested that before a law student is allowed to enroll in the College of Law proper, he should first pass an entrance examination, to be given under the supervision of the Supreme Court. More or less, the examination to be given should cover the following subjects: (1) Elementary Law; (2) Logic; (3) English and Composition, etc.

“. . . The examinees inhabiting the lowermost rungs of the grading scale manifested not alone an appalling lack of knowledge of the fundamental principles involved in the examination questions but also an inability to logically string their thoughts together compounded by an almost incredible deficiency in language skills. . . ”

Learning from the following comments may not be that hard as you think.

If you would like to receive a copy of the full report, comment on this post and indicate your intention to recieve the report, and I will email you a copy.

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6 Responses to How to pass the Philippine Bar exams

  1. Pingback: How to pass the Philippine Bar exams

  2. Pingback: OBSERVATION ON THE 1980 PHILIPPINE BAR EXAMINATIONS - Full report | - A higher calling

  3. adrian carvajal says:

    may i be given your grace to be sent the full report re: how to pas the philippine bar exams

  4. surfer says:

    Hmmm. Justice Herrera’s statement ” . . The examinees inhabiting the lowermost rungs of the grading scale manifested not alone…” doesn’t sound like correct english either.

  5. Jocelyn Valdez says:

    may i request to have the full report on how to pass the philippine bar exams. thks alot.

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