TaxProf Blog

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

Monday, July 31, 2017

Anderson, Faigman Debate: Should California Lower Its Bar Exam Cut Score?

Air TalkFollowing up on my previous posts (links below):  AirTalk, Discussing Impact on Law Students, Legal Profession If CA Supreme Court Lowers State Bar ‘Cut Score’:

California’s ‘cut score,’ the grade required to pass the exam, is higher than all other states except one: Delaware. But a debate has been raging in legal circles across the Golden State about whether California’s cut score for the bar was realistic. Now, the state’s high court is taking action.

The California Supreme Court has amended the state's ‘Rules of Court’ to say that the supreme court, not a State Bar of California board, will be the body to decide what a passing score is. This follows a 2016 that saw just 62 percent of test-takers from American Bar Association accredited schools pass the test. Under New York State’s cut score, 87 percent would have passed.

The discrepancy has alarmed some in the legal profession. In February, deans from 20 ABA-accredited schools wrote the Supreme Court of California and requested that it lower the cut score. ... 

Should California lower the cut score of its bar exam? How would this impact the legal profession?


  • David Faigman, Chancellor and Dean of the UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco
  • Robert Anderson, associate professor of law at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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So if CA's weighted 144 MBE pass rate and 62% first-time taker pass rate is this existential threat that it is portrayed as, then why is no one complaining about DE's 145 weighted MBE pass rate and 69% first-time pass rate? At least be consistent with this newfound horror that one link in the legal education pipeline still has a bit of rigor left in it.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jul 31, 2017 12:05:12 PM

Presumably people are not thrilled with Delaware either, but it's a state with less than 1/40 the population of California.

Los Angeles alone as 4x the population of Delaware.

Posted by: Delaware | Aug 1, 2017 8:50:28 AM