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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

Bar exam numbers dip again in February

By Psyche Pascual
Staff Writer

February’s bar exam pass rate slid again for the second year, ending an upward swing that reached its peak in 2014.

bar exam results graphicAccording to the State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners, 1,700 of the 4,758 people who took the general bar exam in February passed, or 35.7 percent. The results mark one of the lowest pass rates since February 2009, when only 33.5 percent passed the exam. Only two years ago, February bar exam results peaked with a pass rate of 45.3 percent.

As expected, those who took the test for the first time scored better than those who had to take the test again. An estimated 29.3 percent of those who took the most recent exam in February were first-time test takers, and their pass rate was 45 percent, while only 32 percent of the 3,363 repeating the test passed.

Applicants who attended California law schools accredited by the American Bar Association did best on the exam, with 48 percent of first-time test takers and 46 percent of repeat test takers passing. Applicants from out-of-state ABA accredited schools were also among the most successful – 45 percent of those first-time test takers passed, as did 32 percent of repeat takers.

Given twice a year – the test is also administered in July – the bar exam consists of three sections: a multiple-choice Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), six essay questions and two performance tests intended to assess applicants’ ability to apply general legal knowledge to practical tasks. California’s mean scaled MBE score was 1385 compared to a national average of 1350.

In addition to the bar exam results, the Committee of Bar Examiners announced that 195 or 43.1 percent of the 452 lawyers who took the Attorneys’ Examination passed. The test consists of the essay questions and the performance test sections of the general bar exam and is open to lawyers who have been in good standing in other U.S. jurisdictions for at least four years. Twenty-five disciplined lawyers also took the Attorneys’ Examination as a condition of their reinstatement, and two of them passed.

As long as they are able to meet the other requirements of admission, such as having a positive moral character determination, applicants who passed the bar exam can take the attorney’s oath individually or participate in admissions ceremonies held throughout the state in June.

More detailed statistics, including pass rates for individual schools, will be available in about four weeks and published on the admissions section of the State Bar’s website.