Monday, May 16, 2011
State Bar Reports Higher Pass Rate for February Bar Exam
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Just over 42 percent of the 4,364 applicants who took the February California bar examination passed it, the Committee of Bar Examiners reported Friday, the highest rate for the winter exam in years.
The committee’s preliminary analysis showed a pass rate of 42.3 percent this year, after rates that hovered between 33 and 40 percent between 2002 and last year.
More than 32 percent of those who took the exam were doing so for the first time, and 55 percent of them achieved a passing score. That figure is up from 50 percent last year and 47 percent the year before, but down from 53 percent in 2007 and 2008.
The first-timer pass rate was 64 percent for applicants who attended ABA-approved law schools in California and 58 percent for applicants from ABA-approved schools outside the state. Both figures are higher than last year, when they were respectively 60 and 51 percent.
The committee separately accredits some non-ABA California law schools, and 27 percent of the first-time applicants from those institutions passed. That figure is down from 29 percent last year.
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 last year.
For the 2,949 applicants repeating the bar exam in February, the passing rates were 36 percent overall, 50 percent for applicants from California ABA-approved law schools, 42 percent for applicants from ABA schools outside of California and 19 percent for applicants from California-accredited-only schools.
The state-accredited rate increased by one percent, while pass rates for repeaters in the other groups were up significantly.
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 1413, compared with a national average of 1386, both figures being up about 20 points compared with last year.
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 401 lawyers took that exam in February and 172 of them passed.
Those included 20 lawyers who took the exam as a prerequisite to reinstatement following discipline. Only four of them 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 2011, Metropolitan News Company