April 11, 2008
What is the Average MPRE Score and What Percentage Passes? ... And Where Does Your Score Fall?
[The MPRE is required in most jurisdictions before admission to the bar, and each state mandates its own passing score, usually between 79 and 86, out of a scaled 150 possible. Jeff posted last year on some useful observations on the exam process, and also mused on the numerical realities of it -- with helpful comments by Bill Henderson of IU. Following up on that, we have a guest-post from John McSweeny, Ph.D., a psych professor in the med school of the University of Toledo with expertise in stats. By night, he is also a UT law student and a recent taker (and passer) of the MPRE. Jeff reports that John's findings as reported below are in line with how Bill Henderson later explained it last year to Jeff on a cocktail napkin [how all great teaching is done]. I thought our readers and MPRE takers would want to see these numbers and John's observations. -- Alan Childress]
background in statistics and psychometric methods, I was curious about MPRE scores and what they meant, including where certain scores fell in the distribution of scores from all
of the candidates who took the test. Accordingly, I contacted the American
College Testing program (ACT), which developed the test, but they wouldn't tell
me anything beyond what was on the website, i.e., that the range was 50 to 150
and the mean [average] was 100. Of course, this irritated
me to no end and launched me on a quest to find out the information I
[UPDATE: Two follow-up posts here and here discuss the curve and numbers with more detail, link to state-by-state minimum scores (including news on NY and California), and note an article written by the head of number crunching for the NCBE about the exam. Plus more from John to follow in this post...]
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Your refer to referencing "a table" when calculating what percentage of people did better than you. Where can one find this table?
Posted by: arielle Anderson | Dec 9, 2008 12:12:07 PM
The "table" I was referring to is in most basic statistics books. It concerns the area under different points in the standard normal distribution.
Posted by: John McSweeny | Jan 8, 2009 7:41:04 PM
I don't understand.. when i plug in my score of 126 into the formula, I get Z = 1.40..? how do I convert that into a percentage like you did with [.676 = 75%] ??
Posted by: Matt | Apr 11, 2010 8:25:32 AM
I took my ethics class in law school seriously. I took studying for the MPRE seriously. But, folks, out in the real world most attorney ethics rules are ignored, especially when it comes to billing. No one cares; and if you try to report it, not only will the bad guys get away with it, but you can kiss your career goodbye.
Posted by: Tom Smiley | Apr 12, 2010 9:15:32 AM
use this site to move from z score to percentile:
Posted by: mpre taker | Apr 15, 2010 8:33:51 AM
I passed the MPRE confortably on the first try, but I sympathize with those who have had difficulty. The big secret to the MPRE is not that it is easy, but rather that they don't expect you to get too many questions correct.
Part of the problem is that many of the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct are broad and vague. Many of them could be read to prohibit conduct that is both necessary and beneficial to the efficient and accurate delivery of legal services.
For example, the rules on confidentiality (1.6 and 1.9(c)) purport to prohibit "revealing" any information that somehow related to a current or prior representation, even if that information is generally known. There is no exemption for information that is generally known or readily ascertainable to attorneys or relevant subject matter experts. They only allow "using" but not "revealing" such information. By contrast, employment agreements and other non-disclosure provisions in business and technical fields typically include these broader exemptions, as such non-proprietary information is considered the employee's stock in the trade.
In theory, any attorney who specializes in a given type of case violates the literal language of this rule. An attorney who has defended multiple DUI cases would cite the same technical information regarding field sobriety tests and breathylizers from case to case. If a case results in a published decision, the attorney would need to cite it, thereby revealing it, in future cases dealing with similar fact patterns or legal issues, just as any other attorney would.
Similarly a patent attorney needs to be able to access generally known information about the subject matter, information he may have used in prior cases not adverse to the current one. Most patent applications and all issued patents from the attorney's prior work are published and become part of the "prior art" in the field. Any competent subject-matter expert is expected to be able to find and cite to these materials. If the confidentiality rules were consistently enforced as literally written, it would be hard for clients to find attorneys with knowledge and experience in the relevant subject matter.
Some attorneys at CLE events and some professors also tell "war stories" about publicly known aspects of prior cases to help teach new lawyers. These experiences can be valuable training, yet unfortunately are technically violations of these broad rules as currently written.
In some ongoing cases, there may be very good reasons not to reveal certain generally known information, but those situations could better be dealt with in other rules specifically designed for those purposes, instead of including non-confidential, public domain information in a confidentiality rule as they currently do.
This is just one example of how the current rules are overly broad, and thus make it difficult for practitioners to figure out what to do in practice, and for MPRE test takers to figure out which answer the test makers desired. Perhaps eventually the ABA will clean up some of the rules, so they are more narrowly tailored to prevent the specific harm that prompted them, while not prohibiting potentially legitimate, beneficial conduct. For starters, they could clean up these confidentiality rules as I discussed here to exempt information that is generally known or readily ascertainable by prudent attorneys and subject-matter experts.
Posted by: Should You Be A Lawyer Website | Sep 10, 2010 10:40:31 PM
Have these score results changed significantly since the advent of all of the bar exam preparatory courses that are still on the market? I am talking namely about barpassers, beatthebar, BarBri, Attack Sheets, and Kaplan. It seems that recently its become easier to pass at least the CBX because in great part to these mnemonic tools. It would be an interesting study to find out what, if any, correlation exists between general trends in test scores and these mnemonic tools.
Posted by: Elizabeth Waverly | Dec 28, 2010 3:29:59 PM
"Have these score results changed significantly since the advent of all of the bar exam preparatory courses that are still on the market? I am talking namely about barpassers, beatthebar, BarBri, Attack Sheets, and Kaplan. It seems that recently its become easier to pass at least the CBX because in great part to these mnemonic tools. It would be an interesting study to find out what, if any, correlation exists between general trends in test scores and these mnemonic tools."
Yes, good question Elizabeth. I would be curious to find out the answer of this question too!
Posted by: Michael Westerland | Dec 30, 2010 9:09:43 AM
Dear Psych PhD.
When one comes o this posting looking to find an "average" score for this exam, we, as "law students," are [typically] neither aware nor concerned with learning about the nature of statistical distribution, at least insofar as concerns most technical jargon (e.g., standard deviation, "z score," t-tails, analysis of variances, etc.).
Please, just a layperson's estimate... AVERAGE SCORE????
I promise not to hold your reputation to such a response.
Thanks a bunch
Posted by: R.Courte | Sep 7, 2011 8:36:58 PM
In laypwersons' terms: Average MPRE score = 100, 25th percentile = 85, 75th percentile = 115.
(Note: These are approximations but close enough for practical use).
A. John McSweeny, J.D., Ph.D. (Now a Lawyer too)
Posted by: John McSweeny | Jan 3, 2012 10:55:37 AM
O.K. Percentiles are great. But how many questions do you have to get right in order to avoid being in the bottom quartile? I understand that it varies with each administration of the test, but there has to be a predictable range. So does anybody have a range of correct answers one needs to have in order to safely get a scaled score of 85? Do we need 25 correct answers out of 50? 35? 45? 55?...
Posted by: Joe Dokes | Mar 17, 2012 3:19:10 PM
So all these words and not a real answer?
How many actually have to be answered correctly to pass?
Posted by: John | Aug 7, 2012 9:42:28 AM
I can dig all the nifty math, but Mr. McSweeny and I would still like to know approximately what raw score is needed to achieve a scaled score of 85.
Posted by: W. McCabe | Nov 2, 2012 1:43:51 PM