When I was studying for the exam I remember seeing the 90-minute exams discussed in the commercial study guides I bought, and wondered how rigorous they could be. I imagined they were nothing more than a glorified essay, but I suspect they're actually quite different because, after all, they're measuring "performance" in a real-world scenario. I don't really know though because I never looked closely at one.
I've read some of the commentary about the new format and it appears the State Bar is determined to keep California at the top of the difficulty scale, so they're going to have to do something to keep the "bar" for admission as high as it currently is. If I was really interested in the new format, I would dive into the MPT issue by doing some of them. But as busy as I am with the work I currently have, I'm not really that interested.
I read in the latest edition of the California Bar eJournal that one of the motivating factors for the change was cost. The new format will save the State Bar about $1.1 million dollars annually. I can't imagine though that this was the primary reason for the change (but I could be wrong!)
Another reason given was that they wanted to put California in line with the other state's bar exams. Someone commented that this would reduce the "rigorous" nature of the exam, and the reply was that it is not intended to be an endurance test, but simply a minimum competency test for knowledge of the law. I suppose this is valid, and I'm sure the reason some of the people have failed was that they were burned out by the third day.
Some of my peers have already been talking about how they are going to needle people who pass the "easy two-day" bar exam, while "real lawyers" had to pass the "horrible, no good, very rotten" three-day exam. But knowing these people as I do, all of this will be done with a sense of humor.
Personally, I don't think it would make a difference which version of the exam I was taking. But with all of the conspiracy theories surrounding the exam, I know I would be distracted by the thought of all the ways the State Bar could make the new format even more difficult.
It's all theoretical though until July 2017. We should begin to get a picture of the new testing requirements during the preparation period leading up to July 2017, and then everyone will be curious to see the Released Answers. And, of course, the pass rate.