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July bar exam pass rate jumps to 55 percent

A total of 55.3 percent of people who took the General Bar Examination in July passed the grueling three-day test, making them eligible to join the State Bar of California, according to results released in November by the Committee of Bar Examiners.

In July, 74.2 percent who took the bar exam were first time test-takers and 68 percent of them passed. If the 4,834 people who passed the exam meet other admission requirements, they will be eligible to join the ranks of the State Bar, a group with a membership of more than 238,500.

The pass rate for the July bar exam has held fairly steady for the past decade at 50 to 62 percent. But there were some notable trends this year.

  • This year’s crop of successful test-takers marks an increase over the 54.3 percent who passed in July 2011.
  • There was a 3 percent jump in the number of people who took the bar this year compared with July 2011. In all, 8,737 took the test compared with 8,456 who took it the previous year.
  • It was also one of the largest groups of test-takers in recent history. The group of 8,737 people took the exam in 2012, placing them second under the all-time largest group of 8,908 in July 2006.
  • There were 5 percent fewer people repeating the exam in 2012, but the proportion that passed was about the same as the previous year. Of the 2,252 who took the exam again, 18 percent passed.

More detailed statistics for individual law schools are expected to be released in January and published on the State Bar’s website at http://dnn-admissions/

This year’s bar exam results prove once again that first-time test takers who attended an American Bar Association (ABA) -accredited law school in California and took the exam for the first time have the best chance of passing – 77 percent.

The committee also released results for the annual exam for attorneys. Among the group of 435 lawyers who took the Attorney’s Examination, 152 (34.9 percent) passed, just slightly under the same number who passed in July 2011. Of the 25 disciplined lawyers who took the attorneys’ exam as a condition of being reinstated to the bar, only one passed.

The attorneys’ exam is open to lawyers who have practiced for at least four in another state and who have a record of good standing.

Those who passed their exams are now eligible to take the attorney’s oath and participate in admission ceremonies in December, as long as they have met other requirements, such as receiving a positive moral character determination and passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE).