New Bar Exam Gets Mixed Reviews in Preview
A new bar exam set to debut in July 2026 got lukewarm reception from legal educators last month.
The new exam, called the Next Gen Bar Exam, consists mostly of multiple-choice questions with a mix of integrated questions and longer writing tasks. But after a preview of the exam last month, some legal educators say the questions are too easy and worry that the new exam won’t be significantly different from the current bar, Reuters reports.
HOW THE NEW EXAM DIFFERS
The Next Gen preview included eight multiple choice questions and six “integrated” questions. Test takers are required to provide either multiple-choice answers or short written answers on legal issues. More than half of the new Gen Bar Exam consists of standalone multiple-choice questions, while the remaining portion includes a combination of integrated questions and longer writing tasks akin to the existing Multistate Performance Test format.
“This new exam is much more evolutionary than revolutionary,” Mike Sims, president of bar exam prep company Barbri, says.
Sims adds that the new exam is a mixture of the current bar, but “with a little bit of extra stuff added in.”
The National Conference of Bar Examiners started developing the new exam back in 2021 in response to criticism about the current exam’s failure to mirror the real-life practice of law. This fall’s incoming class of law students will be the inaugural group to take the Next Gen bar exam when they graduate.
RESPONSE TO THE PREVIEW
Joan Howarth, former dean of Michigan State University College of Law, says the sample questions released in the preview are a step forward in the right direction. The new test, Howarth says, is more practical and relies less on memorization.
“These new questions required me to stop and think much more deeply,” she says.
Other legal educators, however, voiced concern around whether or not the new test is drastically different enough from the current bar. Saint Louis University School of Law professor Marsha Griggs pointed out that the new test has about as many multiple-choice questions as the current one.
“It’s more of the same,” she says. “I think that’s the wrong direction to go.”
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