The education system is currently in a rapid state of flux. COVID-19 has served as a catalyst for massive changes to schools and universities – for better or worse. In the midst of reopening decisions, students are forced to make big decisions about standardized testing. With each type of test having a different policy, they may or may not be able to even take it. And the ones that are still scheduled… will it even happen?
While it’s certainly not the most pressing issue in the world around us, I thought it’d be interesting to discuss the status of standardized testing because really, it serves as a metaphor for the response to COVID-19 in the United States: inconsistency.
As a law student myself, I’m not out of the woods yet. I’ve got two tests left to go: the Bar Exam and the Patent Bar.
The Bar Exam (generally)
The Bar is the most gruesome test of our careers, passing means we can practice law in that state, but failing means we’ve got to wait 6 months before we can try again. It’s also a curved exam, which means only so many of you will pass. The Bar is a brutal experience.
Each state has their own Bar Exam, but many states have adopted the Universal Bar Exam (UBE) in recent years, which standardizes the experience. Though many states have individual requirements and state-specific portions.
To take the Bar, you apply as a candidate. The application process lasts about a year and a half. During this time, you take an exam on professional responsibility, get hammered with character and fitness evaluations, and shell out thousands of dollars. To put it simply, it’s a big deal.
States are all over the place on what to do with the July Bar. While some states have offered diploma privilege – an exception where having a law degree is enough to be admitted to the Bar, bypassing the exam entirely. Other states have pushed back the Bar to September/October. From these, some have gone fully online and those that are still trying for an in-person exam, haven’t announced the testing center.
All in all, I’m glad I’m not taking the Bar this year. What is the most stressful time in a law students life is amplified by uncertainty to the highest degree. Watching classmates deal with this is devastating. Their careers are on the line. Most have large amounts of debt and no savings, so the thought of not being able to work at a law firm for months is understandably stressful with the current job market.
The Patent Bar
The Patent Bar is an exam for any person looking to work alongside the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This includes patent attorneys. To qualify for the Patent Bar, you need a bachelor’s degree in engineering/science. Since I do, I qualify for it now. I can take it whenever I want. My only restriction is that once I sign up, I have three months to go to a testing center and take the exam.
There is no generally accepted time to take the Patent Bar. Some students take it while in law school, others once they graduate. Personally, I want to make sure I’m in a good spot for job hunts next summer, so it was something I wanted to do this summer.
The material covers the 29 chapter joy that is the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) – which you get on the test. Though when you realize that you have to answer 100 questions in 6 hours, you realize that you don’t have much time to look through the MPEP.
I’ve been hesitant to start studying because if it’s about memorization, I want to be able to take the test as soon as I’m ready. With testing centers pretty much closed, it doesn’t seem smart to start going through the weeds.
Last weekend, thinking I was smart, I made a set of flashcards on the table of contents. It’s several hundred cards of sections and subsections because I thought it would familiarize me with the manual. I use it a bit for work too, so it seemed practical. After three years of not being updated, the MPEP was updated THE DAY AFTER I made the cards. So now I have to go through all of my cards to make sure the chapters and sub-chapters still match. Just my luck.
Everything is such a mess. I can’t possibly predict what standardized testing will look for me or any other student. I’m thankful I’m not a student that requires a test this summer. To all of my fellow students out there, has this year affected your studies? Tell me your stories and we can all stress together. I promise you’re not the only one panicking.