Doing the ardous feat of completing the four Sundays of the Bar Examinations is one milestone away from becoming a lawyer. Each Sunday of November is one battle waged in a war against ogres of questions about the law and how the law is applied in real world or hypothetical scenarios. Yesterday evening is the end of the month-long sleepless nights and restless days and the beginning of the bar candidates’ hibernation mode.
(The author being showered with a beer by fellow Tau Kappan, Brod Ron Laron after the last subject of the last Sunday of the 2006 Bar Exams.)
However, not everybody is successful in finishing all the examinations of eight (8) subjects. In this year’s bar exams, statistics from the Supreme Court shows that out of the 7,146 qualified bar takers, only 6,608 pushed through, a difference of 538. How tough is this animal called Bar Exams?
Well, one way to describe it is that the waiting period of 15 minutes for the questionnaire to come for every subject is the longest time in the life of a law student. It is a mental torture. Only one’s writing media sit on the chair’s side table. All books and review materials are in front. The silence is also deafening and the ceiling seems to be collapsing.
Stories abound about what are happening while the examinations were going on. Some say that there were ladies who take out their brassiers and throw them away, maybe to make them feel more comfortable. There were also who Indian sits on the floor and hums something like chants for the Hindu gods. Others become pale and sick that they have to be rushed to the clinic or hospital.
Sometimes, only halfway through in one subject, somebody stands up and gives his examination booklet with all the answers, a few answered questions or none at all. The worse is when the tummy starts to act funny and belches out a foul smell that fills the room. It is also observed that around this timeline, a lot of boyfriend-girlfriend relationships break up which could lead to either giving more time to oneself to study or will drive one into a deep depression.
Members of other professions, especially those in the field of medicine, asked, “How is the Bar Exams different from the other professions?” Let me count, or should I say, state facts based on my personal knowledge and verifiable information these contrasts.
First, the name itself, “Bar Examinations” is obviously different from the “Board Examinations.” The “Bar” is the collective term for all lawyers. It is based on the bar or railing inside a courtroom that demarcates the area reserved for the viewing public and that for the lawyers and judges.
Second, it is administered by the Supreme Court of the Philippines, which under the Constitution is the sole authority on who and how to admit in the legal profession. It is one of the branches of government whose sphere of power is independent and separate from the others. Whereas, other professions are overseen and managed by the Professional Regulatory Commission, which is under the Office of the President.
Third, it is mostly, if not entirely, answered in essay form. There were a few years where multiple-choice questions were introduced and experimented. But the bulk of the job is to jot down in one’s own handwriting paragraphs after paragraphs the answer in a manner that is as concise and as neatly as possible. This tests not only one’s knowledge of the law but how to use legal concepts to arrive at a responsive and logical conclusion. The rules of grammar and word placement are more so important. The Licensure Examination for Teachers or LET, may it be for the one-day elementary education or the two-day secondary with respect to the subject being majored, is purely a blot-the-circle-of-the-best-answer with four or five choices.
Fourth, because it is an essay type exams, the answers are subjectively appreciated by the respective examiners. Two booklets containing virtually the same theory of the law or line of argument may result in different scores. Then think about the thousands of booklets. During the pre-week review, the law reviewers often remind the examinees to pray that the examiners are in a good mood when checking their answers. Domestic and professional problems may have a great effect in the appreciation of the candidates’ “ponencia.” For others, there is a disastrous consequence.
Lastly, but not the final one, it takes months for the result to be made public. The idea is that the checking of the answers need not be rushed. This is to give the examiners a lot of time to finish assigning scores to the works of anonymous examinees.
Prior to 2011, the Bar Exams is usually administered in September. Because of this, the “official theme song” of the bar candidates is Green Day’s, “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” This is a parody of their dream-like or zombie-like existence during this month and they need to get back to reality or their “normal” day-to-day living.
However, it was moved to November in 2011 only to be changed to October in 2012, 2013 and 2014. This year’s bar was moved again to November as an adjustment to the changes made by some universities of their academic year as part of the integration of the curriculum in the ASEAN region.
Irrespective of the month when the exams is conducted, the final result is announced and posted around the Holy Week period between March and April of the next year.
Ever wonder what is this year’s Bar Exams theme song? November Rain of Guns ‘N Roses?