Sunday, September 6, 2020

MBE National Mean Up Significantly. Should it Be?

The NCBE released the national MBE mean score for the jurisdictions that administered a bar exam in July.  The mean was 146.1, which is a 5 point increase over last year's 141.1.  I was surprised at that large of an increase based on previous announcements by the NCBE.

Erica Moeser, previous president of the NCBE, stated in 2014 that the bar examinees were “less able” and that is why nationwide MBE mean scores plummeted.  She attributed the results to schools going deeper into the applicant pool because applications were down.  She referred to entering credentials as one of the indicators.  If she is correct, then this result doesn't make much sense.  There was a decrease in 2017 law school applicants, which presumably make up the majority of the 2020 July takers, with a LSAT score of 160 and above.  From 2014-2017, the number of high LSATs (160 and above) seem to decrease every year except for 2016.  The continued decline should have seen a coinciding decline in MBE scores from 2017-2020.  However, the July mean MBE score increased every year from 2018-2020.  The previous LSAT explanation doesn't seem to coincide with the results.

The result goes beyond not following their explanation.  146.1 is the highest July mean MBE score that I can find since before 2005.  The LSAT profiles do not follow that same pattern.  The 2017 entering class is not the most credential entering class in the 2000s.  I know my students worked hard this summer, and Mike Sim's recent quotes indicate students across the country worked hard.  The good news is this is evidence students can work hard to overcome lower entering credentials.  However, the NCBE should at least attempt to answer how their previous explanation is incompatible with the drastic (potentially historic) increase this year.

To the students who endured bar prep and the exam, great job.  Your effort and resilience is remarkable.  Effort and resilience is a great foundation to build a legal career on.

(Steven Foster)

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