Thursday, September 16, 2021

Ominous, says a Bar Exam Article

Hat tip to Professor Chris Newman (University of Idaho School of Law):

The NCBE has released information about the median MBE score on this summer's July 2021 bar exam (140.4) and it is down significantly from the July 2020 median MBE score (146.1) and down a bit from the previous national cohort taking the July 2019 bar exam (141.1). Sloan, K, "Ominous early signs emerge for July 2021 bar exam pass rates," Reuters (Sep. 15, 2021).

As a closer look, the NCBE posted a graph depicting the median MBE scores for the past several years:

July 202 MBE Mean Score Increases

Because it is likely that so many bar takers either just barely fail or just barely pass bar exams, small differences in scores can result in dramatic differences in pass rates, with Reuters reporting that of the 9 states reporting July 2021 bar exam results, only 1 state had an increase in bar passage.  Reuters.  The article suggests, quoting in part Professor Derek Mueller, that widespread technical difficulties, pandemic fatigue, and perhaps a loss of learning effectiveness with the significant transition to online learning may be contributors.  Reuters.

One fact stands out to me.  Small changes in median MBE scores ought not be indicative of attorney competency issues because, to be repetitive, they are only small differences.  But, because most bar exam cut scores center around the median MBE score (and because most bar exams scale the written scores to the MBE scores), small differences can lead to big impacts.

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