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July Bar Exam Results Show Declining Pass Rates
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Summary: The unofficial July Bar Exams have been released, and there’s been a sharp decline in pass rates. So who’s to blame?

Bar Exam Scores Plummet to Lowest Point in Past Several Decades

Over the next few months, states are releasing the unofficial results from the July Bar exam. The website, Bar Exam Stats, has posted an infographic detailing the pass rates; and as of today, Iowa is in the lead for the highest pass percentage of 86% and Mississippi had the lowest pass percentage of 51.1%.


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A live graph of the 2015 July Bar exam results can be found on Bar Exam Stats.

Although thousands of test takers can now breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate, July’s bar exam rates have shown so far an overall trend of a decline in pass rates.

For instance, Maryland’s Board unofficially passed 827 of the 1,316 individuals who took the test. This pass rate of 63% is a decline from last year’s 72% according to The Daily Record.

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The New York Times reports that in Oklahoma and New Mexico, the bar passage rates fell 11% and 12%, respectively.

In New York, the state with the most lawyers, the State Bar revealed the worst pass rates in more than a decade. For the July 2015 test, there were 10,671 examinees, the lowest number of test takers since 2006, and of that number, only 61% passed. According to the Wall Street Journal, that’s the worst pass rate percentage in 35 years.

Bloomberg Business wrote in September that, “The average score on the multiple-choice portion of the July test fell 1.6 points from the previous year, reaching its lowest level since 1988, according to data provided to Bloomberg by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The mean score on this summer’s exam was 139.9, down from 141.5 in July 2014.”

Erica Moeser, the president of NCBE, told the publication she was not surprised. “We are in a period where we can expect to see some decline, until the market for going to law school improves.”

As JDJournal explored last month, law schools have lowered their admission standards. Fewer people are applying to law school. In order to keep up enrollment numbers, schools are admitting students with low LSAT scores they previously would have rejected. In 2014, schools saw the result of their action—bar pass rates were the lowest in decades.

“The decline in student quality continues to affect the results,” Derek Muller, a professor at Pepperdine University School of Law told Bloomberg.

Last year’s poor rates started a debate between law schools and the bar exam test maker. Law schools argued the test was harder, but the test makers fought back, blaming the poor student quality.

One silver lining to the July bar results is that test takers have the option to take the bar exam again, and often the repeaters improve the pass rate scores.







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