Following up on yesterday's post, More Bar Exam Carnage?: Bloomberg, Bar Exam Scores Drop to Their Lowest Point in Decades: Unprepared Students Can't Handle a Harder Test:
American law graduates are increasingly getting a taste of failure before they start their careers. Performance on the bar exam has continued to slip, early results show.
The average score on the multiple-choice portion of the July test fell 1.6 points from the previous year, reaching its lowest level since 1988, according to data provided to Bloomberg by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The mean score on this summer's exam was 139.9, down from 141.5 in July 2014.
"It was not unexpected," says Erica Moeser, the president of the NCBE, which creates the multiple choice part of the test. "We are in a period where we can expect to see some decline, until the market for going to law school improves."
Law schools have been admitting students with lower qualifications who "may encounter difficulty" when taking the bar, Moeser says.
About a dozen states have published their pass rates, and the numbers are even worse than last year, when graduates performed historically badly. Pass rates for students who took the test in July were down in most states that have reported results.
“The decline in student quality continues to affect the results,” says Derek Muller, a professor at Pepperdine University School of Law. As fewer people apply to law schools, the programs have started filling their campuses with students who aren’t as qualified as they used to be. That strategy produced a crisis in 2014, when scores on the multiple-choice portion of the test registered their largest year-over-year drop in four decades.
The poor showing a year ago prompted a debate between law school deans and the organization that creates the exam. Deans said the test was unfair and that a software glitch that made it harder to submit test results may have hurt some students. The NCBE's Moeser pointed her finger right back, charging that schools were letting in students who didn't have a good shot at passing the test.