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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

Pass rate for February bar exam hits a high note

By Amy Yarbrough
Staff Writer

The number of test-takers who passed the bar exam this spring reached a high.

According to the State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners, 2,073, or 45.3 percent, of those who took the February 2014 General Bar Examination passed, the highest rate for the February bar exam in 17 years. In February 1997, there was a 48.8 percent pass rate.

Bar Exam results graphic
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The highest ever rate for a February exam was in 1992, when 50.9 percent passed. Until 1988, the exam was given in the spring and fall instead of February and July. The pass rate for the July exam is typically higher.

Of the 4,578 applicants who passed the bar exam, 32.6 percent were taking the test for the first time. The pass rate for those 1,492 first-time test-takers was 55 percent. Applicants repeating the exam didn’t fare quite as well. The pass rate for the 3,086 repeat test-takers was 41 percent overall.

As is typical, most of the applicants who passed the bar exam had graduated from California law schools approved by the American Bar Association. Sixty-nine percent of first-time test takers from California ABA accredited schools passed as did 56 percent of repeat test-takers from those schools. The pass rates for out-of-state ABA schools were 44 and 40 percent for first-timers and repeaters respectively.

The third-highest category was students who attended schools accredited by California but not the ABA. Forty-two percent of first-time test-takers and 24 percent of repeat takers passed.

More detailed statistics, including the pass rates for individual schools, will be made available in the coming weeks on the admissions page of the State Bar website.

Given twice a year, the three-day bar exam consists of three sections: the multiple-choice Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), six essay questions and two performance tests aimed at assessing an applicant’s ability to apply general legal knowledge to practical tasks. The mean scaled MBE score in California was 1421 compared to a national average of 1380.

In addition to the bar exam results, the committee also announced last month that 275 or 53.9 percent of the 510 lawyers who took the Attorney’s Examination passed. Twenty of those were disciplined lawyers who took the examination as a condition of reinstatement. Only one of those disciplined lawyers passed.

Provided they meet other requirements for admission, including receiving a positive moral character determination, applicants who passed the bar exam may take the Attorney’s Oath individually or participate in admissions ceremonies held throughout the state in June. Also, starting this year, new lawyers will take a civility oath, rule 9.4 of the California Rules of Court, agreeing to conduct themselves with dignity, courtesy and integrity.