Posted Sep 21, 2016 03:01 pm CDT
Bar exam pass rates have fallen in at least seven out of 13 states that have so far reported July results.
A higher average score was cited in August for this year’s Multistate Bar Exam in July. The news signaled a possible end to the decline in bar passage rates. But the most recent figures, reported by Law.com (sub. req.), suggest the optimism may have been unwarranted.
In Iowa, the bar pass rate fell to 71 percent, from 86 percent on last year’s exam. In Indiana, the bar pass rate fell to 61 percent, from 74 percent. In a larger jurisdiction—Florida—the decline was slight, with the passage rate dropping to 68.2 percent, from 68.9 percent last year.
Other jurisdictions reporting a decline in test scores are Washington state, Missouri, North Dakota and Oregon, according to Law.com.
Bar exam pass rates increased slightly in Idaho, Kansas and West Virginia, and remained the same in Oklahoma. North Carolina and Arkansas released bar exam results but did not provide overall passage rates.
Law.com spoke with Pepperdine law professor Derek Muller about the disconnect between the higher MBE scores and the continued decline in bar pass rates in the states reporting the results so far. Muller blogs at Excess of Democracy.
One possibility, Muller says, is that strong students who were destined to pass the bar exam studied even harder, raising the average MBE score but not raising bar pass rates overall. Another possibility, he said, “is that we’re just seeing unlucky jurisdictions and the scores will go way up in California and New York.”
ABAJournal.com: “Out of 12 Indiana Tech Law grads sitting for state bar, 1 reportedly passed”
ABA Journal: “What do falling bar-passage rates mean for legal education–and the future of the profession?”