Bar and Medical Exam Delays Keep Graduates in Limbo

September 8, 2020 by Christen Aldrich

Filed under COVID-19 for Employers, COVID-19 for the Workforce

Last modified September 9, 2020

According to this article in The New York Times, many of the bar and medical exams were postponed and testing sites shut down in the spring as the coronavirus spread across the country, forcing recent graduates to delay the start of their careers. Some tests moved online — often with scheduling problems and even computer glitches. Other states continued to offer them in person, raising concern about the possible spread of the virus at testing centers.

The chaos and confusion are helping fuel efforts in some states to eliminate the bar and other licensing exams, which are seen by some critics as unnecessary and antiquated, while administrators defend them as a needed protection for the public. The New York State Bar Association said the move to an online exam in October was the best way to balance the needs of recent graduates with the “integrity of the profession.”

Medical students have confronted similar uncertainty because of delays in their licensing exams, which are needed before they can become residents at hospitals. The United States Medical Licensing Examination temporarily suspended its exams in late March after the private company administering them, Prometric, shut down in-person testing sites.

Some medical students said they learned of the postponements from Prometric less than 48 hours before their tests. The licensing organization later said it was “disappointed” with Prometric’s failure to communicate with students.

“I was trying to study for the most important exam of my life not knowing if or when it was going to happen,” said Sirpi Nackeeran, 26, a third-year medical student at the University of Miami. “There’s only so many study materials, and you want to time it perfectly.”

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