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California Bar Exam Pass Rates Drop to a Historic Low 26.8%
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The results of the February 2020 California Bar Exam are in, and to say they aren’t pretty would be an understatement. The state bar has hit a historic low with 1,128 people (26.8 percent of applicants) passing the General Bar Exam, fewer than 3 in 10 test-takers posted a passing score.

Just 26.8% of the 4,205 test takers who completed the exam passed, which mark the lowest pass rate recorded in California since 1951, the oldest statistics provided by the bar.

According to the press release published by the State Bar of California, the pass rate for first-time takers was 38 percent and for retakers was a drastically low 22 percent. 


Last February, the pass rate was 31.4 percent, the second-lowest pass rate in California since the February 1982 exam. 

Rather than using the total number of would-be lawyers who sat for the exam, the State Bar used the total number of those who completed the exam in their final calculation for the February 2020 passage rate. 

This year’s 26.8 percent pass rate represents a 4.6 percentage point decrease over last February’s results.

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Donna Hershkowitz, Interim Executive Director of the State Bar did not discuss the low pass rate, instead issued notes on the administration of the state bar during the pandemic, and the future of the exam, in general.

“We heartily congratulate the 1,128 applicants who passed the General Bar Exam and the 163 candidates who passed the Attorney’s Exam. We hope to welcome all of them to California’s legal profession very soon,” said Hershkowitz. 

“Meanwhile, we are moving forward on both near-term and long-term efforts that will affect the future of the bar exam’ she added.

On Monday, Hershkowitz said, the bar will submit to the California Supreme Court a plan for the next exam in September, which will be delivered online. Leaders also are studying the exam for possible changes in future content.

“For the long term, the State Bar has recently completed several studies that we hope will contribute meaningfully to the informed discussion around a future direction for the California bar exam.” 

Here are some statistics from this winter’s exam:

School TypeFirst-TimersRepeaters
California ABA42%30%
Out-of-State ABA45%22%
California Accredited (but not ABA)17%10%
Unaccredited: Fixed-Facility0%8%
Unaccredited: Correspondence14%11%
Unaccredited Distance Learning16%9%
All Others41%20%
All Applicants38%22%

The national average score on the multistate bar exam plummeted 1.4 points from the previous year. According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which develops the test, this is the lowest average February MBE score on record. 

The mean scaled MBE score on the February 2020 bar exam in California was 1357, down from 1370 last year.

Other states also released February 2020 bar passage rates. The pass rate was 40% in New York, 46% in Tennessee, 52.2% in Pennsylvania, 58% in Virginia and 60% in Florida.

The California state bar has released the names of the successful people who passed the February 2020 bar exam.



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