Law Students

July Bar Exam Scores Are Better Than Ever
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Even though the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on this year’s bar exam and has put immense pressure on 2020’s law graduates, results show the crisis might have actually prompted students to do better on the test.

According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the average score on the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) has improved by five points this July, as compared to July 2019.

This July’s mean score was 146.1, which marks the largest year-over-year increase in recent history, as the averages between 2015 and 2019 ranged from 139 to 141.


Compared to 2019, when 45,334 examinees in 54 jurisdictions sat for the July bar exam, this year only 5,678 test-takers in 23 jurisdictions took the traditional in-person exam July 28 and 29, according to the NCBE news release. Also, first-time test-takers comprised about 75% of people taking the July 2020 bar exam, and that was about 6% higher than the July 2019 group.

New York, Florida, California, and other large jurisdictions have canceled the in-person July exam and are planning to administer the licensing test online in October. Other states, including Texas, are going forward with in-person exams this month. Meaning that this July’s MBE mean score represents only 14% of test-takers.

While some jurisdictions are still grading written portions of the test, the boost in the average MBE indicates that the pass rate among the July bar exam takers will go up.

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Individual jurisdictions are still grading the written portions of the bar exam, but the boost in the average MBE suggests that pass rates among the July takers will go up. Jurisdictions likely will begin releasing exam results later this month.

“It depends on a number of different factors, and this is obviously an unusual year in many ways, but yes, pass rates will most likely go up for this July’s examinees,” Judith Gundersen. National Conference of Bar Examiners president told

NCBE compared the July results to those who took the 2019 exam in the same 23 jurisdictions and the average MBE score was 3.5% higher in 2020 than the previous year for the same area.

A higher percentage of first-time exam takers seems to be one factor in July’s impressive average MBE score, as first-time takers tend to pass at higher rates than those who have already taken the exam and failed.  The percentage of examinees who were likely first-time test-takers in July 2020 (about 75%) was about 6% higher compared to the limited July 2019 group and about 10% higher than the full 2019 group, according to the National Conference.

The percentage of examinees in July 2020 who had likely taken the bar exam previously (about 14%) was about 7% lower compared to the limited July 2019 cohort and about 12% lower than the full 2019 group.



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