In a significant development, Arizona has joined the growing list of states adopting the Next Gen bar exam, marking the first major overhaul in 25 years of the national exam utilized for bar admissions. However, the Grand Canyon State has chosen to implement the revamped examination with a one-year delay, with the inaugural administration scheduled for July 2027.
The Next Gen Bar Exam Overview
The Next Gen bar exam, conceived by the National Conference of Bar Examiners in 2021, seeks to revolutionize the testing process by placing a greater emphasis on legal skills while diminishing the reliance on the rote memorization of laws. Notably, it eliminates the three distinct components of the current exam: the 200-multiple-choice question Multistate Bar Exam, the Multistate Essay Exam, and the Multistate Performance Test.
Shorter and Streamlined
In addition to the substantive changes in content, the Next Gen exam boasts a streamlined format, reducing the testing duration from the current 12 hours to a more manageable nine hours. The move towards brevity aims to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in evaluating candidates.
Iowa Follows Suit with a 2027 Implementation
Following Arizona’s lead, the Iowa Supreme Court has also announced its intention to adopt the Next Gen bar exam, with implementation slated for July 2027. The decision stems from the belief that the delay will provide law schools with sufficient time to prepare students for the nuances of the revamped examination adequately. The fall 2027 entering classes will be the first cohort to undergo the Next Gen bar exam in states that adopt it in July 2027.
Nationwide Adoption and Future Changes
To date, Maryland, Missouri, and Oregon are the trailblazers set to introduce the Next Gen bar exam in July 2026, making it the examination choice for current first-year students. Like Arizona and Iowa, Wyoming plans to roll out the revamped exam in July 2027. Connecticut intends to make the switch but has not specified a timeline.
Silence from the Major States
Despite these widespread changes, some of the most populous states, including New York, California, Florida, and Texas, are yet to disclose their plans regarding the Next Gen bar exam. Florida officials have previously indicated that the state will not adopt the new exam in its initial rollout in July 2026, leaving nationwide adoption in flux.
As states continue to align with the Next Gen bar exam, the legal community anticipates further updates from major jurisdictions, ultimately shaping the future of legal education and bar admissions across the United States.