Bar Exam

Average score rises for law grads taking the multistate bar exam, a hopeful sign for bar pass rates

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The average score on the July multistate bar exam has increased 1.6 points, the largest year-over-year July increase since 2008, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

The average score was 141.1, compared with 139.5 in July 2018, according to a press release and a story by The July 2018 average score was the lowest in 34 years.

The average increase was highest for first-time test takers. Their average score increased by 2 points. The only group that did not see an increase consisted of repeat test takers who did not pass the bar exam on a previous attempt.

NCBE President Judith Gundersen told that bar pass rates depend on a lot of factors, but she expects more people to pass the July exam as a result of the better score on the MBE.

Fifty-four jurisdictions use the MBE. In 44 of those jurisdictions, the test accounts for 50% of the overall bar exam score. In the other 10 jurisdictions, it accounts for between 33% and 45% of the overall score.

The total number of test takers in July increased slightly to 45,334. Last July the total was 45,274, the lowest number since 2001.

The ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar adopted a tighter bar pass standard for accredited law schools in May. The new standard says at least 75% of a law school’s graduates who sit for a bar exam must pass within two years of graduation. Schools that aren’t meeting the standard get two years to come into compliance.

Among the law schools taking steps to meet the new standards is Western Michigan University’s Thomas M. Cooley Law School. The school recently announced plans to cut tuition by 21% in hopes of attracting a stronger pool of applicants.

Other law schools are raising admissions standards, restructuring curricula, dismissing more students who aren’t meeting their standards and offering special classes to at-risk students.

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