Pass rate for February bar exam hits a high note
By Amy Yarbrough
The number of test-takers who passed the bar exam this
spring reached a high.
According to the State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners, 2,073,
or 45.3 percent, of those who took the February 2014 General Bar Examination
passed, the highest rate for the February bar exam in 17 years. In February
1997, there was a 48.8 percent pass rate.
The highest ever rate for a February exam was in 1992, when
50.9 percent passed. Until 1988, the exam was given in the spring and fall
instead of February and July. The pass rate for the July exam is typically
Of the 4,578 applicants who passed the bar exam, 32.6
percent were taking the test for the first time. The pass rate for those 1,492
first-time test-takers was 55 percent. Applicants repeating the exam didn’t
fare quite as well. The pass rate for the 3,086 repeat test-takers was 41
As is typical, most of the applicants who passed the bar exam had
graduated from California law schools approved by the American Bar Association. Sixty-nine percent of first-time test
takers from California ABA accredited schools passed as did 56 percent of
repeat test-takers from those schools. The pass rates for out-of-state ABA
schools were 44 and 40 percent for first-timers and repeaters respectively.
The third-highest category was students who attended schools
accredited by California but not the ABA. Forty-two percent of first-time
test-takers and 24 percent of repeat takers passed.
More detailed statistics, including the pass rates for
individual schools, will be made available in the coming weeks on the admissions page of the State Bar
Given twice a year, the three-day bar exam consists of three
sections: the multiple-choice Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), six essay
questions and two performance tests aimed at assessing an applicant’s ability
to apply general legal knowledge to practical tasks. The mean scaled MBE score
in California was 1421 compared to a national average of 1380.
In addition to the bar exam results, the committee also
announced last month that 275 or 53.9 percent of the 510 lawyers who took the
Attorney’s Examination passed. Twenty of those were disciplined lawyers who
took the examination as a condition of reinstatement. Only one of those
disciplined lawyers passed.
Provided they meet other requirements for admission,
including receiving a positive moral character determination, applicants who
passed the bar exam may take the Attorney’s Oath individually or participate in
admissions ceremonies held throughout the state in June. Also, starting this
year, new lawyers will take a civility oath,
rule 9.4 of the California Rules of Court, agreeing to conduct themselves with
dignity, courtesy and integrity.