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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

Pass rate dips slightly for February bar exam

By Amy Yarbrough
Staff Writer

Forty-one percent of those who took the February General Bar Examination passed, representing a slight dip from last year but still on the better end of exam results in recent years, according to data released last month by the Committee of Bar Examiners.

In all, 4,419 people took the exam, 1,810 of whom passed. Preliminary analysis shows that 31 percent of those who took the exam were first-time test-takers, and they had a 52-percent success rate overall. The pass rate for the 3,048 test-takers repeating the examination was 36 percent.

Applicants who attended California law schools accredited by the American Bar Association fared the best on the exam, with 60 percent of first-time test-takers passing and a 50-percent pass rate among those repeating it. For graduates of out-of-state ABA accredited schools, those figures were 49 percent and 39 percent respectively.

Successful applicants who have satisfied other requirements for admission – which include receiving a positive moral character assessment and passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination – can take the Attorneys’ Oath individually or participate in larger swearing-in ceremonies occurring in June.

California’s written bar examination dates back to 1919 and for many years consisted of solely essay questions. Given twice a year in February and July, the three-day bar exam now includes a multiple-choice Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), six essay questions and two performance tests that are aimed at measuring how aspiring attorneys apply their legal knowledge to practical tasks.

Historically, a smaller number of applicants take the February exam, and their pass rate is lower than for those who took it in July. Although fewer test-takers passed the February bar exam this year – compared with 42.2 who passed in February 2012 and 42.3 in February 2011 – the passage rate for the February exam has hovered at 40 percent or below since 1999.

In addition to the bar exam results, the Committee of Bar Examiners announced that 230 lawyers who took the Attorneys’ Examination in February passed, or 50 percent. Twenty of them were disciplined lawyers who took the test as a condition of reinstatement. Three of the disciplined lawyers passed. The attorney exam consists of the essay and performance test sections of the General Bar Exam and is open to lawyers who are licensed and have been in good standing in other jurisdictions for at least four years.