Just 23 jurisdictions administered an in-person bar exam in July, but their average score on the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) increased 5 points.
The mean scaled score for the July 2020 MBE is 146.1, compared to 141.1 in July 2019. That’s the largest year-over-year gain in recent history. July’s average MBE score was 146.1, while the averages between 2015 and 2019 ranged from a low of 139.5 to 141.7.
The July 2020 MBE was given in 23 jurisdictions and had 5,678 test-takers. In comparison, there were 45,334 examinees in 54 jurisdictions in July 2019. 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 cohort. A higher percentage of first-time exam takers looks to be one factor in July’s average MBE score, as first-time takers tend to pass at higher rates than those who have already taken the exam and failed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a variety of challenges for the 2020’s law graduates, but it appears that the first wave of new J.D.s to sit for the bar exam did well.
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 this month.
Nearly all of the large jurisdictions—including New York, California, Illinois and Florida—are planning to administer online bar exams in October. A handful of others, including Texas, will administer in-person exams in September. Thus, the July MBE average represents fewer than 14% of test takers.
Among the 23 jurisdictions that gave the exam in July, nine are planning to give a second exam in September or October.
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