Tuesday, May 22, 2012
State Bar Reports Slightly Lower Pass Rate for February Bar Exam
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Just over 42 percent of the 4,382 applicants who took the February California bar examination passed it, the Committee of Bar Examiners reported.
The committee’s preliminary analysis, issued late Friday, showed a pass rate of 42.2 percent this year. That is 0.1 percent less than last year, but higher than the number for any other February exam in the past decade.
February pass rates hovered between 33 and 40 percent between 2002 and 2010.
Thirty-three percent of those who took the exam in February this year were doing so for the first time, and 53 percent of them achieved a passing score, down slightly from 55 percent last year
The first-timer pass rate was 62 percent for applicants who attended ABA-approved law schools in California—down from 64 percent—and 48 percent for applicants from ABA-approved schools outside the state, down from 58 percent.
The committee separately accredits some non-ABA California law schools, and 34 percent of the first-time applicants from those institutions passed. That figure is up from 27 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 2010.
For the 2,937 applicants repeating the bar exam in February, the passing rates were 37 percent overall, 50 percent for applicants from California ABA-approved law schools, 39 percent for applicants from ABA schools outside of California and 25 percent for applicants from schools accredited only by the State Bar.
The non-California ABA repeater rate was down by three percent after having gone up last year, while the state-accredited rate increased by six percent.
The committee also gave pass rates for unaccredited schools, divided into three categories.
‘Fixed Facility’ Schools
No first-time taker from an unaccredited “fixed facility” school passed, but 11 percent of repeaters from those schools did. For correspondence schools, the rates were 46 percent for first-timers, but only 17 percent for repeaters; for “distance learning” schools, the numbers were 31 percent for first-timers and 17 percent for distance learners.
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 slightly 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 428 lawyers took that exam in February and 201 of them passed.
Those included 25 lawyers who took the exam as a prerequisite to reinstatement following discipline. Only six of them passed, a figure comparable to previous years.
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 2012, Metropolitan News Company