Bar Exam

It's not an April Fool's joke: Illinois bar exam gets harder; which states have hardest tests?


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Illinois has decided to make its bar exam more difficult beginning this summer by raising the minimum passing grade by four points. The minimum score will go up by another four points in July 2015.

Above the Law first heard of the development when it received a professor’s email to students warning of the change on April Fool’s Day. At first, the blog didn’t believe it. “But the joke is on me … and Illinois Bar takers,” the blog says. “The test is going to be graded with more rigor this year, in an attempt to make it harder.”

CBS Chicago also has a story. Erica Moeser, president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, told the broadcast station she’ll concede the higher minimum is a hurdle, “but it’s not as high a hurdle as one might otherwise suspect.”

In a different blog post, Above the Law calls attention to a list of the most difficult bar exams in the country by Pepperdine law professor Robert Anderson. The ranking of the most to least difficult bar exams in 2010-11 goes beyond state bar pass rates and takes into account the test takers’ LSAT scores (based on disclosures by ABA-accredited law schools). The 10 most difficult state bar exams, listed by Anderson on the Witnesseth blog, are:

1) California

2) Arkansas

3) Washington

4) Louisiana

5) Nevada

6) Virginia

7) Oregon

8) West Virginia

9) Vermont

10) Maryland

Illinois is 32nd on Anderson’s list. The least difficult state is South Dakota. Anderson omitted Alaska, Delaware and the District of Columbia bar exams from his list “because of too few observations.”

“It turns out that the choice of state makes a big difference,” Anderson writes at Witnesseth. “Some states have bars you could trip over if you’re not careful, and some are challenging even for the most elite test-takers.”

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