Bar Exam

National mean MBE score rises slightly, along with number of test-takers

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The national mean scaled score for the Multistate Bar Exam for July 2023 is 140.5, up 0.2 points from a year earlier, according to the National Conference of Board Examiners. In addition, more people took the exam: There were 45,968 test-takers nationally, up 2.8% from July 2022, according to a news release.

For July 2023, the jurisdictions with the top overall bar exam pass rates are Utah, with 92%; Iowa, with 86%; and Montana, with 82%, according to the Madison, Wisconsin-based NCBE. The lowest overall passage rates were in California, with 51.5%; Alabama, with 54%; and Michigan, with 55%.

Florida’s overall bar passage rate jumped to 61%, up 10 percentage points from a year ago, and its first-time pass rate rose to 71.6%, up 7 percentage points from July 2022, according to the Florida Board of Bar Examiners. However, first-time passage rates at five of the state’s law schools—Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law, Florida Coastal School of Law, St. Thomas University College of Law, Florida A&M University College of Law and Cooley Law School—were below 60%, according to the board.

To be in compliance with the American Bar Association’s Standard 316, law schools need their graduating class to have a bar passage rate of at least 75% within a two years of graduation. Each state sets of own passing scores.

New York, with the largest cohort of 9,779 candidates, matched both of last year’s passage rates— 66% overall and 85% for first-time test takers, according to the New York State Board of Law Examiners.

In California, 51.5% of its 7,555 applicants passed the bar in July, a slight drop from a year earlier when 52.4% passed, according to the State Bar of California. The pass rate for the 5,083 first-time test takers, however, rose, reaching 64.8%, compared to 62% a year earlier, according to a release. The state of California is currently considering alternatives to the bar exam.

For jurisdictions considering the NextGen Bar exam, results were mixed.

Earlier this month, the National Conference of Board Examiners announced Oregon, Maryland and Missouri will be the first to administer the NextGen bar exam, starting in July 2026, with Wyoming following the next year. Connecticut has committed to the new test but has not finalized its first administration date.

Two of those jurisdictions saw bar passage rates rise. Missouri’s overall passage rate jumped to 81% and its first-time rate hit 88%, compared to 71% and 80%, respectively, in 2022, according to the state’s Office of the Board of Law Examiners. Wyoming soared to an 80% overall passage rate and an 85% rate for first-time test takers, compared to 55% and 61%, respectively, in July 2022, according to the NCBE.

Oregon, which this month approved an additional bar exam alternative called the Supervised Practice Portfolio Examination for next year, saw rates fall. The overall passage rate dropped to 69% with 75% of first-time applicants passing, compared with 74% and 78% a year earlier, according to the Oregon State Bar.

In Maryland, the overall passage rate fell by 10 percentage points from 2022 to 59% in July 2023, while first-time passage slid 7 percentage points from 2022 to 71%, according to the NCBE.

Connecticut saw its overall pass rate fall to 56% from 63% last year and its first-time rate drop to 67% from 71% in 2023, according to the NCBE.

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