ILOILO CITY, Philippines ? Starting next year, part of the bar examinations will be in multiple choice format, but this will not necessarily make the test easier, according to Chief Justice Renato Corona.
"Multiple choice questions could be difficult ? more rational, not necessarily easier," Corona told reporters at the launching of the Justice on Wheels Mobile Court program here on Wednesday.
Corona confirmed that the Supreme Court, which administers the annual exam, would adopt the changes in the format to be implemented next year under 2011 Bar Examination Committee chairman Associate Justice Roberto Abad.
"We are changing the format of the bar examinations because the present format we are following has been there for more than 100 years already and we feel it is not responsive to the way law should be taught today," Corona said.
The exam will be divided in two parts with the first part in multiple choice format with examinees choosing the best answer among four to five correct answers while the second part will be essay-type to test reasoning, writing and logic abilities.
Asked if the changes were meant to address the low passing rate in the examinations, Corona said this would not necessarily address the problem.
He said the low passing average in the bar exams could be attributed to many factors, including the preparedness of the examinees, handwriting of the bar-takers, reasoning ability and adeptness in expressing themselves in English.
The bar examinations, first held in the country in 1901 with 13 examinees, is among the most anticipated especially because of its traditionally low passing rate.
The exam top notchers usually land jobs in the top law firms in the country.
However, the continued dismal passing rate in the bar examinations has alarmed the Supreme Court and prompted calls for reforms in the country's law schools.
In 2008, the high court lowered the passing rate to 70 percent from 75 percent and the disqualification rate in three subjects (civil, labor and criminal law from 50 percent to 45 percent. This made it possible for 1,289 of the total 5,626 takers (22.91 percent) to hurdle the examinations.
Corona said the bar examinees could still find next year's examination easier because it would be focused and will have limited coverage.
[Previously], "we didn?t know where the examiners will get the questions but [next year] we will be limiting them to the most important subjects," he said.