TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, April 13, 2017

ABA:  Are Record Low Multistate Bar Exam Scores The Result Of Declining Law School Admissions Standards?

MBEFollowing up on my previous post, Muller: February 2017 MBE Bar Scores Collapse To All-Time Record Low:  ABA Journal, Multistate Bar Exam Scores Drop to Lowest Point Ever; Is There a Link to Low-end LSAT Scores?:

The average score on the multistate bar exam in February 2017 dropped by another point, reaching the lowest level since the exam was first administered in 1972.

Erica Moeser, president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, confirms that the average score was 134.1, compared to an average score of 135 in February 2016.

The decline likely portends another drop in overall bar passage rates, according to the blog Excess of Democracy, which broke the news after finding the information in statistics released by the state of Pennsylvania. Above the Law and TaxProf Blog note the blog post. ...

Moeser attributed the February drop in MBE scores partly to differences in law school admission patterns. Law school applications are declining, she said, “without a consistent decline in terms of the number of students enrolled.”

Does that mean that exam scores are falling because of a decline in law school standards? “I wouldn’t say that,” Moeser said. “That would enrage the law schools. I do think we’re looking at different enrollment patterns, and we’re looking at decisions on who to admit.” ...

Moeser acknowledges a change the February 2017 test, but she says the NCBE is confident it “was of no consequence.” Previously, the test score was based on 190 questions; another 10 “pretest” questions were there to gauge whether to include them on future tests. The February 2017 test was based on 175 questions, and another 25 were pretest questions.

Derek Muller (Pepperdine), The Best Ways to Visualize the Impact of the Decline in Bar Passage Scores:

[T]he reason for the perilous drop in bar pass rates is because this is exactly the spot where the mean scores have begun to hit the cut scores in many jurisdictions. Here's a visualization of what looks like, with a couple of changes — a larger y-axis, historical data for the February bar back to 1976, and gridlines identifying the cut scores in several jurisdictions. 


Legal Education | Permalink


Wow, it's almost as if students doing poorly on the LSAT, a multiple-choice exam, is a good predictor of them bombing the MBE, a multiple-choice exam.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Apr 13, 2017 11:19:44 AM

Is water wet?

Posted by: terry malloy | Apr 13, 2017 11:22:37 AM

"I wouldn't say that [i.e., that the decline is due to admitting worse quality students]...that would enrage law schools"

Huh? Is it true though, and should one refrain from the answer because it might "enrage" law schools? Odd response.

Posted by: Anon | Apr 13, 2017 12:38:03 PM

I think the law schools should be enraged . . . and the worst offenders shut down!

Posted by: Old Ruster | Apr 13, 2017 6:19:23 PM

Can we all admit that at least SOME ABA accredited law schools are scams?

Posted by: Jojo | Apr 14, 2017 4:31:57 AM

This is not just law schools, but a general trend in all colleges. I teach at a state university and even though the undergrad students have somewhat high SATs they really are not "educated". Also they are interested in careers that will make good money with little work. On the graduate level you see that and more in that they really are only interested in a career that will bring them lots of money with little work. Many act as though just having the degree is a claim on easy street and they are due this wonderful job with no work on their part. As much as I try to interject real life it is not working for most.

Posted by: Old Guy | Apr 14, 2017 3:41:29 PM

"good money with little work"

Boomer justification for unpaid internships.

all young people have to look forward to is working to pay for your health care as the empire declines. that, and artificial intelligence/robotics doing to the white collar work what globalization and automation did to blue collar work.

buckle up. the ride is about to get bumpy.

Posted by: terry malloy | Apr 15, 2017 1:05:26 PM