Bar Exam

Number of February MBE test-takers has rebounded from pre-pandemic era, but how are national mean scores?

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The number of aspiring attorneys taking the Multistate Bar Examination in February increased 1.4% over a year earlier as numbers inch past pre-pandemic levels.

According an April 2 press release by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, 19,496 examinees took the exam this year. The February 2020 exam, which happened just weeks before the pandemic was declared, had 19,122 test-takers. That number decreased to 16,759 in 2021 and 16,504 in 2022. The rebound began in 2023, with 19,228 people taking the February MBE.

While the February 2021 test was administered in person and remotely, depending on the jurisdiction, tests have been conducted in person since 2022.

“We are moving back toward pre-COVID numbers in terms of both the mean and the examinee count,” said Rosemary Reshetar, the NCBE’s assessment and research director, in the press release.

The national mean scaled score of 131.8 is up 0.6 points compared to a year earlier; however, it is still lower than its February 2020 level of 132.6, according to the Madison, Wisconsin-based group.

Chart showing national mean scores from 2020 to 2024Infographic by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

Of the February 2024 examinees, 72% were likely repeat test-takers, and 28% were likely taking the exam for the first time, according to the press release. That is similar to the breakdown in February 2023. Both sets of test-takers had performance increases over a year earlier, but the the greatest increase came from first-time test-takers, according to the NCBE.

Chart showing the demographics of the MBE test takersInfographic by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

Jurisdictions will start releasing bar pass rates this week. With the slight increase in MBE scores, “we will likely see an increase in pass rates compared to last February,” Reshetar added.

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