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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

July bar exam pass rate hits lowest point since 1980s

By Amy Yarbrough
Staff Writer

Bar exam results July 2015In a dip that hasn’t been seen since the 1980s, the State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners reported last month that 46.6 percent of test takers passed the July bar exam.

According to the committee, just 3,882 of the 8,323 applicants who took the bar exam passed, down from 48.6 percent of test takers who took last year’s July exam and 55.8 percent the year before. The last time the pass rate was lower for an equivalent exam was in 1986, when 44.4 percent of test takers passed.

Early statistical analysis shows that of the 5,838 applicants who took the exam for the first time, the pass rate was 60 percent overall. The passing rate for the 2,485 applicants repeating the test was 16 percent.

As is typical, the highest pass rates were among people who had attended California and out-of-state law schools accredited by the American Bar Association. The pass rate for first-time test takers from California ABA-accredited schools was 68 percent, while the rate for students from out-of-state schools was 59 percent. The pass rates for repeat test takers were 24 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

The lowest pass rates were for unaccredited distance learning schools, which saw 18 percent of students pass on the first try and 11 percent of repeat test takers pass.

Not included in the recently released results were attorneys admitted in other states who were either required or chose to take the bar exam, attorneys admitted in foreign jurisdictions, law students in the Law Office/Judge’s Chambers Study Program or those who were qualified to take the bar exam through four years of law study. The State Bar will make more detailed statistics, including passing rates for individual law schools, available on its website in the coming weeks.

Given twice a year in February and July, the bar exam is comprised of a multiple-choice Multistate Bar Exam, six essay questions and two performance tests.

In addition to the bar exam results, the Committee of Bar Examiners announced that 144 of the 413 lawyers – 34.9 percent – who took the Attorneys’ Examination passed. Only one of the 19 disciplined attorneys who took that exam as a condition of reinstatement passed. The exam is made up of the essay and performance sections of the general bar exam and is open to lawyers in good standing who have been admitted to the practice of law in another U.S. jurisdiction for at least four years.

Successful applicants who meet the other requirements of admission, including that they have received a positive moral character determination, are not behind on child support payments and passed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, may take the attorney’s oath individuals or participate in admissions ceremonies taking place throughout the state this month.