Major Changes in the Bar Examination: Impact on bar exam review and coaching – Part 3

This is the last installment of this series written by my good friend Professor Manny Riguera, review director of Jurists Bar Review Center. Click here to view Part 1 of this series, and click here to view Part 2. Want to become well prepared for this year’s bar exams ? Visit Jurists Bar Review Center, the pioneer review center in coaching and mock bar exams. Hurdle the 2011 bar exam. Be well prepared for the major changes. There are so many changes now in the bar exam, wish there was some kind of if you fail to compensate you for the burden and pain of failing hehehehe

MCQ more challenging and difficult than traditional problem-type question

The consensus among the law professors who attended the seminar was that the MCQ would be more difficult than the old problem-type question.  The basis for this opinion was that in an MCQ question, either the examinee “knows the answer or he doesn’t.”    In a problem-type question, the examinee even if he gives a wrong conclusion can get substantial credit for his legal reasoning and argument.  Compare this with a MCQ where a wrong answer will get no credit whatsoever.  As Supreme Court spokesperson Atty. Midas Marquez said: “In an essay-type exam, it may be difficult for an examiner to determine if the examinee really knows his codal provisions. In a multiple choice exam, there are no ifs and buts.  Either you know it or not.”[1] And guesswork will be of little help to the examinee as the odds of picking the correct answer are 25%, far below the passing percentage of 75%.

The consensus was proved when I administered MCQ exams to my law students.  The results (percentage wise) were considerably lower than results in the standard problem-type question.   This was also confirmed by other law professors whom I talked with.

Added importance of coaching & training

The new format involving MCQs means that the importance of coaching and training has assumed greater proportions.   In the United States, the more important part of the review is not the study portion but the practice and coaching sessions.  As stated by one American law professor, you cannot hope to pass the MBE by simply studying your notes and outlines in the same manner that you cannot hope to finish a marathon by simply reading books about running.  You have to do practice and training sessions.  An essential part of the MBE review is for the reviewee to answer practice MBE questions over and over again.  A reviewee who foolhardily relies on study alone, eschewing or paying only slight attention to practice and training may find himself falling apart when confronted by a daunting 200-300 MCQs exam.   He is like a person who prepares for a marathon by simply reading books on how to run and who collapses after the first 5 kilometers.

Answering mock MCQ exams will improve a reviewee’s test-taking ability or his “testmanship.”    As you may have gleaned from some of the sample MCQs, they can be quite tricky.    The examiners have artfully drafted the questions such that an examinee can be easily fooled by the close answer choices.   There is an art and technique for reading and answering MCQs.  This is acquired not from mere theoretical studies but from answering practice exams under the guidance and tutelage of experienced bar exam coaches.   Furthermore, time-simulated practice MCQs will test a reviewee’s ability to work under grinding time pressure and the ability of his body and mind to stand the pressure and rigors of a 3-hour or 4-hour MCQ exam.   Practice MCQs will enable an examinee to time and phase himself so that he can answer on average an MCQ in one minute and 48 seconds or less.

In this regard, Jurists Bar Review Center is in the best position to undertake training and coaching for the new bar-exam format.   Jurists already has a proven practice-exam and coaching program in place since 2005 and which has been readily adopted and fine-tuned to the new MCQ format.    In fact Jurists had anticipated the eventual shift to an MCQ format and had collected and is continuing to collect a bank of MCQs for use in the practice exams and coaching.


The need for coaching has been further underscored in the essay-portion of the exam.   The essay portion will test the examinee’s “lawyering skills,” particularly his skill in writing in English, sorting out the relevant facts, identifying the issue or issues, organizing his thoughts, constructing his arguments, and persuading his reader to his point of view.[2] The emphasis here is not on theoretical knowledge but on legal writing and reasoning.  The Jurists coaching staff has considerable experience in coaching examinees on how to read a bar exam question, spot the issues, and present the answer in a logical and persuasive manner.  This experience will prove in good stead to the coaching staff as they train examinees on how to answer the essay portion of the bar exam.    Good legal writing and reasoning is something which is not acquired from mere reading and studying but from actually writing out essays to practice questions under timed conditions and then discussing the answers with an experienced coach in order to pinpoint weaknesses and remedy flaws.

In fine, the 2011 Bar Exam is a new “enemy” about which the bar examinee knows little about.   A competent coaching and training program involving practice exams and training under competent bar exam coaches will do much to conquer the new adversary.

Click here to learn more about Jurists Bar Review Center

[1] PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER, “New Format for Bar Exams,” 7 April 2010.

[2] Abad 6.

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