Sunday, January 25, 2009

How we muse and amuse the muse

- To provide a bar exam taker an aid to determine his/her preparation for an exam.
- Based on a philosophy that presumes the student can think and write, but needs to ensure that he has enough “instantaneous recall” of material needed to pass an exam.
- The required knowledge is obviously to be contained in the question bank of a quiz that can be given to a test-taker, with a computer choosing the questions by a random process.

- As to the “material needed,” they consist of knowledge built up from legal concepts, doctrines, and “rules” (mostly codal provisions, plus case law).
- A basic grounding of concepts and doctrines is essential, so the coverage of the “question bank” in these two areas must be comprehensive.
- As regards “rules,” it is a calculated gamble to decide what is “important enough” to be a good candidate for use in the real exam.
o An important test of whether to include a particular provision is whether it can be derived from concepts and doctrines. If so, it need not be included, since a smart student can deduce the provision.
o Another important test is empirical: have these provisions appeared in more than 3 previous bar exams. If so, then it is a “must.”
o Another test is judgmental: Would a bar examiner think of a question in this area? Example of such a question: Can a dog benefit from a trust set up by its deceased owner? Other examples are probably from recent events, such as questions on the right of stockholders to information on corporate activities (as in the GSIS-Meralco disputes).
- An “objective” type question (typically, multiple-choice) can usually test about 2-5 elements, particularly if it involves enumeration or distinctions.

- One practical approach is to build up a question bank where each question is categorized according to sub-subjects in a bar exam (for example, Property Law in Civil), type (concept, doctrine, rule), and degree of difficulty.
- A test-taker can take “bites” from the data base in the form of sub-quizzes on concepts only, doctrines only, rules only, or all-types of questions, or focused on sub-subjects until he can satisfy himself that he has the necessary mastery of the material.
- Samples of test questions are given in another post.
- As may be seen from the sample questions, the “feedback” or explanation of the answer key is, in the end, the key ingredient in determining whether the test-taker “understood” why he is right or wrong in answering a particular question.

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