Law Students

February 2017 California Bar Exam Results–Almost 2/3 of Applicants Failed
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Source: Only 34.5% of California’s February 2017 bar exam applicants passed the test. 

With New York now administering the Uniform Bar Exam, it’s safe to say that California is the toughest bar to pass in the country. But is it too difficult? After the awful results from the February 2017 exam were released last week, the state is taking a hard look at itself and why so many test takers fail.

  
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On Friday, the California State Bar released its official test results, and only an abysmal 34.5% of test takers were able to pass the notoriously difficult exam. The passage rate for first-timers was slightly better, but it was still an unimpressive 39%. These rates were a decline from last year where the overall passage rate was 35.7 percent, and the first-time takers’ passage rate was 45 percent.

In California’s press release, Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, the Executive Director of the State Bar of California, acknowledged the decline and the Board stated it was conducting an investigation, which will begin May 15.

“I’d like to congratulate the applicants who passed the Bar Exam,” Parker said. “Regrettably the pass rate shows a continuing decline, a trend happening nationally. The State Bar is committed to a better understanding of the problem to determine how to address it.”

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The State Bar did not say exactly what type of research they will conduct regarding the test, which is currently set up in three parts: the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), six essay questions, and two performance tests. The MBE is administered in most states and based upon this test’s results, it is not the MBE that aspiring California lawyers are having trouble with. In California, the MBE mean was 1379, well above the national average of 1341.

This leaves the essay questions and the performance tests as possible culprits for California’s poor passage rate.



For the February 2017 California bar exam, 4,439 applicants took the test and 1,532 people passed the General Bar Exam. Twenty-six percent of the test takers (1,153) were first-time applicants, and 3,286 applicants were repeat test-takers. The passing rate for repeat examinees was 33%.

It is noted that these numbers do not include “attorneys admitted in other states who either chose or were required to take the General Bar Exam, attorneys admitted in foreign jurisdictions, law students in the Law Office / Judge’s Chambers Study Program, or law students who qualified to take the exam through four years of law study,” according to the press release.

California is one of the few states that allows non-ABA accredited law school graduates to take the test. First-timers from California ABA schools had a 45% passing rate while first timers from California non-ABA schools had an even worse rate of 18%. The full education chart from the State Bar is below:

For students who were fortunate enough to pass, their next step is to take the Attorney’s Oath starting on May 22 or participate in admissions ceremonies in June. After fulfilling all of the attorney requirements and fulfilling the Attorney’s Oath, their names will appear on California State Bar website.

What do you think of California’s 2017 February Bar Exam results? Let us know in the comments below.



 

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