Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Muller: Bar Exam Scores Dip to Their Lowest Level in 10 Years

Derek Muller (Pepperdine), Bar Exam Scores Dip to Their Lowest Level in 10 Years:


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Correct, Mark. But there is no reason to believe that those factors are more present in the lower testing group. At best, we can say that these factors are unrelated to testable intelligence, and therefore equally present in both groups. In which case, the lower testing group is the same in every respect except just slightly less intelligent on paper. Still a bad thing.

Posted by: JM | Oct 16, 2014 10:04:02 AM

Tests are great for determining a group's nominal knowledge. But no test comprehensively can predict each individual's proper application of that knowledge in an ethical manner and to the consumer's benefit. In other words, an ethical person with average intellect--but superior grit and relationship skills--will overcome the smartest person in the (court)room who tests well, but doesn't relate well and lacks true grit.

Posted by: Mark P. Yablon | Oct 16, 2014 8:44:30 AM

Examsoft definitely had an impact on MBE scores. Many examinees in many jurisdictions were up half the night attempting to upload essay responses. They went into the MBE exhausted, stressed, and worried that their essays did not upload.

Posted by: katherine kelly | Oct 16, 2014 6:51:16 AM


Examsoft should play no role with MBE scores. MBE is still inputted via bubbling/scantrons and a computer is not used for it, whatsoever.

Posted by: Disney Store, Esq. | Oct 15, 2014 12:34:57 PM

OR they can maybe "dumb down" the MBE and magically raise the average scores and pass rates? If more test takers fail and LSAT scorers below 151 on average fail the bar exam at higher rates then this could have a negative financial effect on the test providers/administrators as law schools have to admit that they are recruiting large numbers of students who can't think all that clearly as manifested by their failure. I know I would not want to be represented by a lawyer who passed the bar only after four tries or passed one that had been reduced in its rigor. The survival of some law schools and the preservation of the jobs of law professors should not be achieved "on the backs" of people in need of legal services or through admitting students who are almost guaranteed to fail.

Posted by: David | Oct 15, 2014 11:31:28 AM

I meant to say that law professors have largely ignored the issue and implications of schools reducing admission standards and admitting folks that stand little chance of passing the bar exam, so that schools could fill seats for selfish budgetary reasons *$*...

Posted by: Anon | Oct 15, 2014 10:15:22 AM

This could be explained by the widespread malfunction of ExamSoft. I realize that the information was eventually received, but there as tremendous disruption to the sleep and anxiety levels of test takers. It will be interesting to see what next year's number looks like (and if any jurisdictions move to a different platform)

Posted by: Chris | Oct 15, 2014 10:06:39 AM

Schools selfishly enrolled more students this last fall that are, from a numeric credential perspective, at high risk of never passing their bar exams, than at any time in the past (many schools' median LSATs are below 150). Will the schools take responsibility for their selfish actions for financial gain? Social justice? Legal exposure? Funny that few law professors in general (who are overwhelmingly liberal) are largely silent on this glaring issue...

Posted by: Anon | Oct 15, 2014 10:01:01 AM

@Andy Patterson,

It may not be statistically significantly overall, but it is clear from the chart that it is the largest year-to-year change in at least one decade. And I believe the classes matriculating in the fall of 2013 - the most recent bar-taking cohort - were the first year to have lower average GPAs and LSATs, so we can infer that the bar passage rates will continue to fall for at least the next three years.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Oct 15, 2014 9:17:35 AM

Wait until the Bar Examiners get a load of the class of 2017. There will be thousands of test takers who scored in >140 on the LSAT. I bet that they will drag the mean into the 120’s. It will be a scandal.

It is funny how the exams that the gatekeepers invent (LSAT, BAR) are the measures that show decline and leave them so exposed.

Posted by: JM | Oct 15, 2014 8:59:41 AM

Is a drop from 144 to 141.5 statistically significant? Raw numbers don't tell us very much.

Posted by: Andy Patterson | Oct 15, 2014 7:51:28 AM