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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

Numbers dip in February bar exam pass rate

By Amy Yarbrough
Staff writer

Despite an impressive peak last year, the pass rate for the February bar exam was the lowest it’s been in the last five years.

According to the State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners, 1,882 of the 4,763 people who took the general bar exam in February passed it, or 39.5 percent. The results mark the lowest pass rate since February 2010 –37.1 percent – and are a big dip from last year’s pass rate of 48.6 percent.

Of those who took the February exam, 32 percent were first-time test takers. The pass rate for those applicants was 47 percent, while 36 percent of the 3,220 repeating the test passed.

As expected, applicants who attended California law schools accredited by the American Bar Association fared the best on the exam, with 54 percent of first-time test takers and 47 percent of repeat test takers passing. Applicants from out-of-state ABA accredited schools were also among the most successful – 41 percent of those first-time test takers passed, as did 38 percent of repeat takers.

The third highest category was for California accredited schools. Thirty percent of first-time test takers and 17 percent of repeat test takers passed.

Given twice a year – the test is also administered in July – the bar exam consists of three sections: a multiple-choice Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), six essay questions and two performance tests intended to assess applicants’ ability to apply general legal knowledge to practical tasks. California’s mean scaled MBE score was 1398 compared to a national average of 1362.

In addition to the bar exam results, the Committee of Bar Examiners announced that 216 or 41 percent of the 469 lawyers who took the Attorneys’ Examination passed. The test consists of the essay questions and the performance test sections of the general bar exam and is open to lawyers who have been in good standing in other U.S. jurisdictions for at least four years. Twenty-nine disciplined lawyers also took the Attorneys’ Examination as a condition of their reinstatement, but none of them passed.

As long as they are able to meet the other requirements of admission, such as having a positive moral character determination, applicants who passed the bar exam can take the attorney’s oath individually or participate in admissions ceremonies held throughout the state in June.

More detailed statistics, including pass rates for individual schools, will be available in about four to six weeks and published on the admissions page of the State Bar’s website.