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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

Bar exam pass rate dips to 32-year low

By Amy Yarbrough
Staff Writer

Bar exam results July 2016

In what marked the lowest success rate for a comparable administration of the test in more than 30 years, just 43 percent of applicants passed the bar exam given in July.

In all, 3,332 of the 7,737 people who took the July exam passed, according to the State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners. That 43 percent pass rate is the lowest since 1984, when 41.8 percent of test takers passed in what was then a fall exam.

Nearly 67 percent of those who took the bar exam were first-time test takers. Of those, the pass rate was 56 percent overall. Among the rest – the 2,573 applicants who were repeating the exam – the pass rate was 17 percent.

As expected, applicants from California law schools accredited by the American Bar Association fared the best on the exam with a pass rate of 62 percent for first-time test takers and 23 percent for those repeating the test. The pass rates for out-of-state ABA accredited schools were 60 percent and 20 percent respectively. California accredited schools’ rates were significantly lower: 21 and 9 percent.

Given twice a year in February and July, the three-day bar exam consists of a multiple-choice Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), six essay questions and two performance tests.

The 3,322 applicants who passed the July exam will become members of the State Bar if they satisfy other requirements for practicing law including a background test and moral character examination. They may take the Attorney’s Oath individually or participate in admissions ceremonies, which will take place in the state throughout the month.

In addition to the bar exam results, the Committee of Bar Examiners announced that 149 of 410 lawyers, 36.3 percent, who took the Attorney’s Examination passed. The Attorney’s exam consists of the essay and performance test portions of the bar exam and is open to out-of-state lawyers who have been admitted to the practice of law and in good standing for at least four years.