Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, May 19, 2008


Page 1


February State Bar Pass Rate Again Under 40 Percent


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Slightly under 40 percent of the 4,533 applicants who took the February California bar examination passed it, the Committee of Bar Examiners reported Friday.

The pass rate of 39. 6 percent was up from last year’s 36.8 percent according to a preliminary analysis by the committee. The rate has hovered between 33 and 40 percent since 2002.

One-third of those who took the exam were doing so for the first time, and 53 percent of them achieved a passing score, the same percentage as last year. The first-timer pass rate was 62 percent for applicants who attended ABA-approved law schools in California and 54 percent for applicants from ABA-approved schools outside the state.

The committee separately accredits some non-ABA California law schools, and 29 percent of the first-time applicants from those institutions passed.

The pass rate on the February bar exam is usually lower than that for the July exam, since many of those who fail the July exam repeat it in February. The number of people taking the February exam is also typically much smaller.

The pass rate on the February exam went into steady decline after 48 percent passed in 1997. It dropped to 33.4 percent, the lowest in over a decade, in 2002, and has run between 35 and 40 percent since.

For the 3,034 applicants repeating the bar exam in February, the passing rates were 33 percent overall, 43 percent for applicants from California ABA-approved law schools, 40 percent for applicants from ABA schools outside of California, and 15 percent for applicants from California-accredited-only schools.

The bar examination consists of a multiple-choice Multistate Bar Examination, six essay questions, and two performance tests that are designed to assess an applicant’s ability to apply general legal knowledge to practical tasks.

The MBE is a nationwide test, and the mean scaled MBE score for the California exam was higher than the national average for the February exam, as it typically is. The mean scaled MBE score in California was 1405, compared with a national average of 1377, both figures being slightly higher than last year’s.

California also administers an attorneys’ examination, which consists of the essay and performance test sections of the bar exam and is open to lawyers who have been admitted to the active practice of law in good standing for at least four years in another jurisdiction. The committee reported that 378 lawyers took that exam in February and 150 of them passed.

The full pass list will appear in a supplement to tomorrow’s MetNews and should now be available on the State Bar’s website at

Successful applicants who have satisfied other requirements for admission—those who have not been reported by local district attorneys for being in arrears with family or child support payments, who have received positive moral character determinations and who have received a passing score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination—may be sworn in individually or participate in admissions ceremonies held throughout the state during June.


Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company