Monday, May 17, 2010
State Bar Reports Slight Increase in February Bar Exam Pass Rate
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
Just over 37 percent of the 4,226 applicants who took the February California bar examination passed it, the Committee of Bar Examiners has reported, slightly up from a 33.5 percent pass rate last year.
There were 142 more test-takers than last year, according to a preliminary analysis released late Friday by the State Bar. This year’s pass rate is consistent with pass rates of 39.6 percent in 2008 and 36.8 percent in 2007.
The rate has hovered between 33 and 40 percent since 2002.
More than 34 percent of those who took the exam were doing so for the first time, and 50 percent of them achieved a passing score. That figure is up from 47 percent last year, but down from 53 percent in 2007 and 2008.
The first-timer pass rate was 60 percent for applicants who attended ABA-approved law schools in California and 51 percent for applicants from ABA-approved schools outside the state. Both figures are higher than last year, when they were respectively 53 and 45 percent, but slightly down from 2008.
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 ran between 35 and 40 percent between 2003 and 2008.
For the 2,782 applicants repeating the bar exam in February, the passing rates were 31 percent overall, 44 percent for applicants from California ABA-approved law schools, 34 percent for applicants from ABA schools outside of California and 18 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 1391, compared with a national average of 1366, 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 346 lawyers took that exam in February and 148 of them passed.
In 2009, 361 lawyers took the exam and 163 passed.
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 2010, Metropolitan News Company