INNOVATIVE BAR EXAM PROGRAMS AND INITIATIVES
WMU-Cooley Law School President and Dean James McGrath leads a Bar Exam Task Force to prepare students to pass the bar exam. The Task Force includes his Chief of Staff and members of the Academic Support and Bar Preparation Department, including Academic Resource Center (ARC) professors from both Michigan and Florida, which centralizes institutional bar preparation efforts within the academic department best suited to implement such programs. At WMU-Cooley, bar preparation now starts with the first day of orientation so the Task Force has a wide reach and touches many aspects of law student life.
The Task Force’s charge was to implement structured and coordinated programs immediately to ensure bar preparation efforts were consistent for all students and used effective, proven, evidence-based methods to help graduates to pass the bar exam. To meet goals, the Task Force developed a plan that includes short-term and long-term efforts to improve bar exam success by using the most effective learning strategies for long-term retention of their learning. The Task Force advocates for faculty to use our resources (such as AdaptiBar) in ways that promote long term learning and helps our students to become better self-regulated learners.
Coordinated Faculty Advising
Faculty advisors work to ensure graduates are prioritizing commercial bar course completion, and helping students evaluate whether their study schedules are realistic for success on the exam.
MBE Comprehensive Exams
Each year, students are tested on MBE subjects they previously studied to rekindle their memory of these subjects that typically account for half of their score on the bar exam. Comprehensive Exams make use of the distributed practice effect, often known as spacing, which leads to long term retention of learning. The ARC faculty sends out the exam scores with brief explanations and instructions that a student can follow-up on results.
Required Bar Exam Skills Courses
Upgraded Bar Exam Skills courses now include a bar exam skills course for the Michigan bar, Florida bar and the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). We also offer courses for graduates, including the Florida Bar Workshop, Bar Weekly, and an MPT Workshop.
Canvas Pages – The task force (with the ARC department) creates and updates pages on our learning management system, Canvas, including the “Preparing for the Bar Exam” and “Comprehensive MBEs” pages and the bar coaching pages, in addition to the separate pages for the Bar Skills classes.
Tracking/Statistics – ARC faculty work with administrators to track the progress of our students in their commercial bar prep courses and with communicating information to faculty for mentoring and advising purposes.
During the 2018-19 academic year, many faculty initiatives were developed among our campuses to better prepare students to pass the bar examination. School-wide, students were enrolled in an AdaptiBar program. Adaptibar is a commercial bar review company, that prepares students for the rigor of answering MBE multiple choice questions.
- AdaptiBar Program Enhancement - full-time ARC faculty in Florida and Michigan work directly with AdaptiBar representatives in myriad ways, including making sure that bar-exam administration dates are correct for our students and act as liaisons and troubleshooting agents for faculty using the site.
- AdaptiBar Program Integration - AdaptiBar drills and questions are made available to faculty teaching MBE tested classes for integration into the courses as a teaching tool, a form of formative assessment, and for practice on learning to answer difficult MBE style multiple-choice questions.
- AdaptiBar Scholarship for Retakers – the AdaptiBar post-graduation course is made available to graduates who retake a bar exam at a 50% discount, which is subsidized by the school. ARC faculty reach out to retakers to ensure they have access to the program.
In addition to the AdaptiBar scholarship and Florida Bar Workshop, Bar Weekly, and an MPT Workshop mentioned above, WMU-Cooley graduates who are retaking a bar exam are invited to participate in all programs available to current students, including workshops, practice exams, and individual counseling.
The Bar Exam Task Force monitors these innovations to assess their results and modify as necessary to optimize our improvement efforts.