Paul L. Caron

Saturday, November 13, 2021

California Bar Exam Pass Rate Falls As Bar Adjusts Scores Of 31% Of Examinees Impacted By ExamSoft Tech Issues

California Bar (2021)The California Bar has released the results of the July 2021 bar exam. The overall pass rate was 53.0%, down 7.8 percentage points from last year's exam. For California ABA-accredited law schools, the pass rate for first time test-takers was 81%, down 3.0 percentage points from 2020.

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Of the 7,930 applicants who took the exam in California, 7,742 took it remotely. The July exam was the third administered predominantly remotely.

This exam was affected nationwide by technological issues reported by vendor ExamSoft, in which some applicants encountered a “black screen” or “blue screen,” requiring them to restart their laptop to continue. ExamSoft reported afterward that these issues resulted from high-memory utilization between ExamMonitor (the video proctoring arm of its software) and the main software that generates digital images.

The State Bar of California investigated these issues among its examinees and determined that while 158 applicants—or 2 percent—appeared to have lost time or content, a total of 2,429 California test takers—31 percent—reported experiencing one or more related technical issues.

In its commitment to treat this group of examinees fairly, the State Bar took unprecedented measures. Staff worked with the State Bar’s psychometrician to develop a scoring adjustment for all those who encountered these technological issues.

In addition, the 1,298 applicants who were affected by those issues and who did not pass the exam will be able to request that their July 2021 exam fees be applied to the February 2022 or July 2022 exam, or fully refunded.

“The Board felt strongly that we needed to do everything possible to ensure fairness for this group of examinees,” said Ruben Duran, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “While a psychometrically sound scoring adjustment was made, it was clear that there’s no way to fully quantify what impacts these issues had on examinees. We decided that offering a credit or refund to those who were affected and were unsuccessful on this exam was the right thing to do.”

Applicants will receive instructions with their results letter on how to take advantage of these options.

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