The California State Bar has released the results from the July 2016 bar exam. The overall pass rate was 43%, the lowest in 32 years. For California ABA-accredited law schools, the pass rate fell 6.2 percentage points from 2015, to 62%, down 21 percentage points from 2008.
ABA Journal, Some States See Increase in State Bar Pass Rates, While Others Witness Declines:
As the July 2016 bar results are released, it appears that nationally, there’s a slight uptick with scores, says Erica Moeser, president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners. “The big picture item is that we have looked for scores to continue to drop, and they didn’t,” she told the ABA Journal.
Scores did drop in California from 46.6 percent in July 2015 to 43 percent in July 2016. That’s attributable to a passing percentage reduction among first-time test takers who graduated from California law schools with ABA accreditation, Moeser says. “That is the largest group of test-takers, and their performance dropped from 68 percent on the July 2015 bar exam to 62 percent this July,” she said.
New York, which like California has been known for having a hard bar exam, saw a 4 percent pass rate increase for July 2016. That’s likely due to New York adopting the Uniform Bar Exam this year, say many law school professors. ...
Some thought that this year’s slight increase in the Multistate Bar Exam’s national mean score—from 139.9 to 140.3—might bring better bar passage rates for July 2016 test takers. For the most part, that didn’t happen, Derek Muller, a Pepperdine University law professor who writes at Excess of Democracy, noted in a Sept. 20 post.
The Recorder, California Bar Exam Pass-Rate Reaches New Low:
Gayle Murphy, senior executive for admissions at the state bar, through a bar spokeswoman attributed the dropping rate to fluctuations rooted in "the skills, abilities and preparations of the applicants who take a particular administration."
Others, however, say the lower pass rates in recent years are likely due to top-notch college graduates—many already saddled with enormous student debt—choosing other career paths in a relatively improved job market. "That's the problem: law schools are graduating students that are passing the bar at lower rates," said Derek Muller, an associate professor at Pepperdine University School of Law. That may not change any time soon, Muller said, given that growth in the number of students taking the Law School Admission Test is holding steady.