Earlier this year I sued the State Bar of California for incorrectly stating that their “First Year Law Students Exam” consists of two sections — a multiple choice and a written section — that were graded equally. In fact, the scaling methodology used to attempt to normalize the scores against previous sittings of the exam effectively made the written worth 37% more than the multiple-choice on the exam I sat for in June 2016.
Today I’ve reached a settlement agreement with the State Bar to re-write their grading policy to more accurately describe how the exam is actually graded. The updated policy description will disclose to all preparing for the exam that:
Through a process known as “equating”, the multiple-choice raw scores will be converted to a scale with a theoretical maximum of 400 points. Because there are multiple forms of the examination, this process adjusts for the possible differences between forms and administrations of the examination in the average difficulty of the particular version of the examination that the applicant takes.
. . .
The raw essay scores will be converted, or “scaled” to a distribution that has the same mean and standard deviation of multiple-choice scale scores.
Although the process of normalizing to a mean and standard deviation is far from standard (math described here) and every mathematician I’ve spoken with has told me the accepted practice for grade scaling is to take the highest score earned, create a formula that makes it the highest score possible, and scale all other scores in line with that formula, the State Bar is free to use whatever formula they want so long as they don’t mislead exam takers.
Anyway, I’m pleased with the outcome and hope that future law students benefit from knowing that they better hit the sample essays much harder than the practice MCQ’s! If you’re currently preparing, I also made a detailed post of study tips.