Statistics on the 2014 Bar Examinations
by Thads Bentulan
Mastery by unfair advantage
By knowing all his questions, as a professor, in political law, or criminal law, as the case may be, you are already assured of “mastering” in advance that particular topic. Since an examiner is going to prepare 50 questions, how many of his favorite “trick problems” as a law professor, do you think will be part of that 50? Maybe 20 problems out of 50? Remember, there is no way, that particulare professor will only give a basic problem. He will always give a “tricky” problem, one that looks so obvious on its face but is actually an “exception to the exception” problem.
That focus on those so called favorite topics alone and mastering them in advance is an unfair advantage of his former alma mater and frat members.
What about the provincial candidates who didn’t have him as professor? These unfortunate candidates will have just to pray for luck in having the “mastery” of any questions that will come out in the bar.
Considering that in Civil Law alone, an examiner could ask any of 5,000 possible questions, how could you expect the candidate to be an expert on those 5,000 topics? And that’s for Civil Law alone!
Thus, any advantage of knowing the favorite topics of the examiner is already an unfair advantage with extreme consequences. And that’s just one of the “not-so-obvious” reasons. There are so many but we will not discuss them here.
Distribution of topics
Maybe the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS) should be given a chance to suggest the distribution of topics, this could be percentage-wise, to avoid too much concentration on certain topics and neglect of other topics. For example, avoid overconcentration on the topics of obligations and contracts in Civil Law. However, there is a real problem here. How can you allocated topics with only 10, 15 or 20 questions?
The Chair of the Bar Committee should not select whimsical questions which serve the purpose of ego-tripping on the part of the examiners rather than to test the fundamental knowledge of the candidates; to avoid memory and enumeration type of questions; and, for example, avoid using names susceptible of confusion such as “Humpty” and “Dumpty.” These names might be cute but their similarity tends to create confusion than to avoid confusion.
Level of Expertise
Here are the two most important issues when it comes to formulating the bar problems. First, there must be a realistic time allotment for questions and to allow for analysis time. Maybe the examiner himself should write down in his own handwriting the correct answers to his own questions and time himself. Then add an extra time for analysis and composition of thoughts for an examinee.
And the most important issue of all, in the entire bar process: What level of expertise is being sought in a candidate to hurdle the bar exams?
The knowledge of a first year law practitioner? Or the knowledge accumulated over 20 years of experience by an expert practitioner or professor? In the case of the 2014, the problems were of the latter type.