SC approves digital Bar exams

The Supreme Court has approved what it called “digitalized, localized, and proctored” modality for the Bar Examinations, held over four Sundays of November this year.

In a Bar Bulletin 18 released on Monday, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, chairperson of the Court’s 2020/21 Bar Examinations, said the SC had issued a resolution dated February 8, 2021 approving the digital Bar exams following the success of the pilot/mock Bar examinations on January 31, 2021 in Metro Manila, Baguio, Cebu and Davao.

Leonen said a total 80 students divided in these four areas took two examinations through a computer software while being proctored in the testing rooms.

“This proved that a more equitable and inclusive Bar Examinations can be done, more so amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Leonen stressed.

The SC slated the Bar exams on November 7, 14, 21, and 28, 2021.

Leonen clarified that while the modality had been digitalized, the Bar exams would not be taken remotely.

“Examinees will still walk into testing rooms and will be proctored while taking the exams,” the magistrate said, adding that surveillance cameras would also be installed in all testing rooms.

“Examinees will be assigned in testing centers in a locality closest to their residence or the school they graduated from, or for any other consideration. This determination shall depend on the final list of schools that would qualify as local testing sites,” he said.

While the examinations shall be digitalized, Leonen admitted that the traditional mode of handwritten examinations would still be allowed, but only in very exceptional cases where it could be adequately proven that the examinee was suffering from a physical disability that would not permit the person to take the examinations through a computer.

“Proper hygiene protocols will be observed during the Bar Examinations, which will include COVID-19 testing and proper physical distancing inside the testing rooms,” he said.

The High Court will explore arrangements for a predominantly Saliva RT-PCR testing modality in each of the testing sites.

On the examination days, the computer hardware will be be thoroughly checked by Court personnel.

Examinees will also be asked to sign the Honor Code.

Leonen pointed out that the examiners will also grade the Bar examinations digitally.

“For questions and other clarifications, a hotline and dedicated email will be made available by the end of February. No other information other than those contained in Bar Bulletins is authorized. Those concerned should be compassionate enough not to create or spread false and unverified information,” he said.

The SC En Banc resolution also authorized the Office of the Bar Chairperson to commence with the procurement process and hiring of personnel needed.

“After the local testing sites are determined, the Court will then announce the guidelines for application to take the Bar Examinations and start accepting such applications by May,” Leonen said.

Applications will be done through an Online Application System and applicants need not go to Manila and visit the Office of the Bar Confidant, except when required to clarify the authenticity of the documents submitted, the magistrate said.

“Those who have completed all the requirements to take the Bar Examinations will have the opportunity to download and familiarize themselves with the computer software to be used,” he said.

For this year’s Bar examinations, examinees are required to bring their own WiFi-enabled laptops, which must have an integrated display screen, keyboard, and trackpad or pointer device, with sufficient internal battery power.

The laptops must run on Mac or Windows operating systems.

“These minimum system requirements cannot be waived or bypassed; otherwise, the software will not work correctly. Just the same, examinees are not required to buy the latest model, as long as their laptops comply with the minimum system requirements. No other digital device will be allowed inside the testing sites,” the SC said, in its bulletin.

“Additionally, although the computer software is designed to prohibit examinees from exiting the application and accessing other applications during the test proper, examinees are advised not to store any file in their laptops that has a reasonable connection with the substance and procedure of the examinations. Examinees are advised to start organizing their digital filing system so that they may offload their law-related files into an external disk or other devices before taking the Bar Examinations,” the high court pointed out.

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