Monday, August 28, 2006

Anyone Want to Buy My Old Test Prep Stuff?

Actually I am not sure if I still have any of it. Although, now I am wishing I did after reading this little article over at

Let me preface this by saying I think all multiple choice tests are bad. Never liked them when I did well on them. Hated them when I did poorly on them. I do not think they are a good measure of what a person has learned.

For those who have suffered through the three days of the bar exam in California (or Delaware or New York) there is a day of unbelieveable suffering. That would be the day where the morning and afternoon sessions are all multiple choice in what the sadistic bar examiners refer to as the Multistate Bar Exam. Essentially these are questions based on a made up set of laws (which they quaintly refer to as "fundamental legal principles" in their literature) and the bar taker has to choose the best possible answer (even if the right answer is not there).

For years, or at least since I entered Law School in 1997, the gold standard for preparing for the MBE was to take the PMBR course, which would give you access to their books of practice questions. After taking one of their courses, you would sit for days on end in some hidden away place testing yourself with the practice questions in the hopes that on the day of the exam you would be able to complete a this section and move on into a lucrative career defending either the downtrodden and oppressed or corporations and their money.

However, now it seems that the MBE is afraid PMBR is getting to good at preparing students for the bar exam and filed suit, alleging that PMBR's practice questions were violating the MBE's copyright because of their similarity to the real questions. A federal judge in Pennsylvania agreed with them, stating that "By exposing its students to questions likely to appear on the MBE, [the defendants] undermined the integrity of the bar examination, possibly causing the admission of unqualified applicants. That the victims of this harm are impossible to identify and the injury impossible to quantify underscores the need to deter would-be copyright infringers[.]"

Now, I am not crying for PMBR's loss in profits or damages which they have to pay (which are substantial). What I want to know is, how can you test "fundamental legal principals" in a country which has fifty-one separate jurisdictions, some of which disagree on how they view laws.

If you are going to make a "national" objective test, it seems inherently unfair to base it on something as unquantifiable as "fundamental legal principles", even more so since that is not really what law schools do these days. They teach you how to think like a lawyer. Some state schools focus on the jurisdiction where they are liable to place their graduates into the work force. At the school I went to, a private one, they tended to go to federal issues and common law rules, which different jurisidictions go different ways on.

If only they could get rid of the MBE altogether. But that, alas, is a pipe dream. End of rant.

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