Inside Louisville, Bar Exam Pass Rates Decreasing in Kentucky, Following National Trend:
Kentucky joined a number of other states with disappointing results from this summer’s bar exams, as only 65 percent of those taking the state exam passed in July. The total pass rate of 69.9 percent from all winter and summer exams in 2016 marked a low point for Kentucky in the past decade, falling over 10 percentage points from its previous high in 2011.
The fall in pass rates over the last five years among first-time bar exam takers in Kentucky was even larger, with this year’s rate at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law and University of Kentucky College of Law decreasing by nearly 20 and 15 percentage points from their previous high marks in 2011, respectively.
The pass rate for first-time takers of the Kentucky bar exam was 86.3 percent in 2011, but has fallen each year since and reached 74.3 percent in 2016. UK’s law school graduates taking this exam for the first time in 2016 passed at a rate of 79.3 percent, which was only a slight decrease from the previous year, but nearly 15 percentage points lower than its 94.8 pass rate in 2011. UofL’s Brandeis graduates taking the exam for the first time this year passed at a rate of 71.2 percent — which is below the state average and a drop of 13.6 percentage points from 2015 and 19.5 points since 2011.
Northern Kentucky University’s Chase College of Law has far fewer graduates who take the Kentucky bar exam — many choose to take the Ohio bar exam — but their first-time takers passed at a rate of 79.6 percent in 2016, which was the highest in the state and a slight increase from 2011.
While not every state has released final bar exam results from this summer, most that have released their results saw a similar decline in pass rates in 2016, continuing a downward trend in recent years. Indiana has had one of the steepest declines, as the overall pass rate from July was just 61 percent — well below its 74 percent pass rate last year. ...
These declining pass rates around the country have been accompanied by a drop in the mean Bar Exam Score, which is derived from a standard multiple choice section from exams in each state. The mean score of July exams slightly increased nationally to 140.3 in 2016, but is still the second-lowest recorded since 1988 and is over five points lower than what it was in 2008. ...
Some commentators have blamed the falling bar exam pass rates and scores around the country on law schools increasingly lowering their admissions standards, arguing that this is the inevitable outcome of pushing unprepared students into the field. ...
One statistic that has dramatically changed in recent years at both UofL and UK is the percentage of applicants who are offered admission to their law schools. In 2011, 31.2 percent of Brandeis applicants and 40.9 of UK law school applications were offered admission, but those numbers had both flipped upside down by last year. The acceptance rate leaped to 68.2 percent at Brandeis in 2015, with UK’s also increasing significantly to 60.2 percent.
Here are admission data for Kentucky, Louisville, and Northern Kentucky for the past six years from Law School Transparency: