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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

Bar results drop to lowest in 10 years

After being on the upswing, the pass rate for the July bar exam tumbled to its near-lowest point in 10 years.

The State Bar of California Committee of Bar Examiners announced Nov. 21 that 48.6 percent of those who took the test this summer passed. That’s a 7-point drop from July 2013 and the lowest since July 2004, when 48.2 percent of applicants passed. The passage rate for the July exam had been steadily rising since 2011.

According to preliminary test data, of the 8,504 applicants who took the exam in July, 73.1 percent were first-time takers. Of those 6,220 applicants, 61 percent passed. The success rate for repeat test-takers was 14 percent.

As expected, the applicants who had the most success on the July test were those who had attended California law schools approved by the American Bar Association. Sixty-nine percent of first-time test-takers and 23 percent of repeat test-takers from ABA-accredited schools in California passed the test. Those numbers for out-of-state ABA-accredited schools were 60 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

The three-day General Bar Exam is given two times a year – in February and July – and consists of the multiple-choice Multistate Bar Examination, six essay questions and two performance tests. They are designed to measure the applicant’s ability to apply general knowledge to practical tasks. Passing the exam is not the only requirement for admission – prospective lawyers must not be delinquent on family or child support payments and must receive a positive moral character determination and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination.

More detailed statistics showing how test-takers at individual law schools fared are expected to be released in January and will be available on the admissions page of the State Bar’s website.

In addition to the bar exam results, the Committee of Bar Examiners also announced that 31.4 percent – 131 of 417 lawyers – who took the Attorneys’ Examination in July passed it. Of those, 13 were disciplined lawyers who took the exam as a condition of reinstatement; one disciplined lawyer passed.

The Attorneys’ Examination consists of the essay and performance test sections of the General Bar Exam and is open to attorneys from other jurisdictions who have been admitted to the active practice of law for at least four years.