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On the day before Thanksgiving, more than two thousand aspiring lawyers were told they had failed the New York State bar examinations held in July. But last Friday, the State Board of Law Examiners sent overnight letters to 189 of those disappointed candidates � informing them that they had, in fact, passed the bar. A computer software glitch was blamed for the error, which is not without precedent. In 1980, when the board first used computers in scoring, approximately 60 candidates were misinformed one way or the other. This time, rescinding letters went only to applicants first told they had failed. According to Nancy Carpenter, executive director of the board, “The problem arose because we had to adjust our scoring program. This was the first examination where we used the MPT (multi-state performance test), and the weighting of the examination changed.” The MPT, which tested July’s 9,194 applicants on practical law application skills, accounted for 10 percent of a candidate’s final grade points. Essays and a multiple-choice test on broad legal principle accounted for the balance. The pass mark was 660 points. Applicants scoring 10 points above or below the mark had their test results re-read, which is standard procedure. The two resulting scores were supposed to have been averaged, and the total score re-computed. But a software problem prevented proper mathematical averaging of the two grade readings, according to a written statement from the board. “To remedy this error, the board has determined, for this examination only, that it will pass all applicants who achieved a passing score on either the initial grading or the re-grading,” the board stated. Carpenter said she realized the error when an applicant contacted her last Tuesday to dispute the results of his score. “I manually computed all his scores � and he was right,” said Carpenter, adding, “We went back to square one and re-calculated and re-calculated … It was not a good week.” A revised list of successful applicants has been posted on the board’s Web site. Carpenter said the board uses custom software that “we bought years ago,” but which is “constantly updated.” Although test runs of the system were conducted before scoring the July examination results, “ That doesn’t cut it when you’re dealing with some 10,000 applicants,” Carpenter said. With 189 overnight letters landing over the weekend, she said, “We’ll really be hit with the phone calls [this] week. Everyone who has still failed is going to wonder, Was it me or the computer?” The revised pass rate figure boosts the overall pass rate of 70.4 percent to 72.5 percent. See revised results

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