Wednesday, May 29, 2002
Pass Rate for February Bar Exam Drops Again, to 33.4 Percent
By NAZANIN AGANGE, Staff Writer
A trend of slipping pass rates for the February State Bar Examination has continued, with results for this year’s test showing the lowest overall pass rate in at least 12 years, a State Bar official said yesterday.
Of the 4,070 applicants who took the general test, only 1,361—33.4 percent—passed. Compared to the February 2001 results, this year’s test marks nearly a four percent drop.
February pass rates are consistently lower than those on the July exam, a fact usually attributed to the larger percentage of February test-takers who have already failed at least once. But the February rates have been dropping since 48 percent passed in 1997.
Senior Executive of State Bar Admissions Jerome Braun said he cannot explain the decline.
“The test has not changed in these five years, the people who grade the tests are trained in the same way—many are still grading now—what’s changed is the people taking the test,” he said. “I conclude that, as a group, this group was not as well qualified as past groups. What I can’t tell you is why.”
Braun speculated that further analysis, including correlation of pass rates with law school attended and number of past test failures, would lead to a better assessment of the decline. The State Bar expects to have a thorough breakdown within a few weeks.
There is also a correlation between the mean multiple choice section score of the test and the declining pass rate, Braun observed. The Multistate Bar Examination score is weighted heavily in the bar exam score, Braun said. As the mean score drops, which is a noticeable drift nation-wide, exam pass rates have dropped, he said.
The pass rate for the attorney bar exam, which consists of the essay and performance sections (two of the three parts) of the general exam, also saw a decline. This year’s 56.3 percent pass rate for 355 applicants is down from 62.1 percent last year in February.
First-time test-takers fared better than repeaters, as they commonly do, passing the test at a rate of 47.9 percent overall.
Among those sitting for the test the first time, the pass rate was 52.4 percent for graduates of California law schools approved by the American Bar Association, 27 percent for those from schools accredited by the Committee of Bar Examiners but not approved by the ABA, and 6.7 percent for those from unaccredited law schools.
Repeaters had an overall pass rate of 26.5 percent. That includes 35 percent of those who went to California ABA-approved schools, 16.2 percent for those who went to committee-approved schools, and 8.4 percent of those who went to unaccredited schools.
Those who successfully passed the exam qualify to practice law in California, if they meet all other requirements.
Swearing-in ceremonies will be held throughout the state in June. Local ceremonies will be held next Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.
The oath to practice in federal courts may be taken at the same ceremony.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company