Thursday, September 17, 2015
Natalie Kitroeff at Bloomberg published earlier today an article with the first release of the median MBE scaled score for the July 2015 Bar Exam -- 139.9 -- a decline of 1.6 points from the July 2014 score of 141.5.
While this represents a continuation of the downward trend that started last year (when the median MBE fell a historic 2.8 points from 144.3 in July 2013), the result is nonetheless somewhat surprising.
The historic decline in the median MBE scaled score between 2013 and 2014 corresponded to a modest decline in the LSAT score profile of the entering classes between 2010 and 2011.
As I discussed in my December blog posting on changing compositions of the entering classes since 2010, however, the decline in LSAT score profile of the entering classes between 2011 and 2012 was much more pronounced than the decline between 2010 and 2011. Thus, one might have expected that the decline in the median MBE scaled score for 2015 would have been even larger than the decline between 2013 and 2014.
But instead, the decline was only 1.6 points, just slightly more than half of the 2.8 point decline of the previous year.
Why would a demonstrably greater decline in the LSAT profile of the entering class between 2011 and 2012 (compared with 2010-2011) yield a manifestly smaller decline in the median MBE scaled score between 2014 and 2015 (compared with 2013-2014)?
This likely will remain a mystery for a long time, but my guess is that the ExamSoft debacle resulted in an aberrationally large decline in the median MBE scaled score between 2013 and 2014, such that the corresponding decline between 2014 and 2015 seems disproportionately smaller than one would have been expected.
Over on Law School Cafe, Debby Merritt has a very good description of the different factors that likely have impacted bar passage performance in July 2015.
Derek Muller has collected bar passage results for the several states that have released at least some results so far and has posted them on his Excess of Democracy blog. Focusing only on overall bar passage rates, two states are "up," (North Dakota (6%) and Iowa (5%)), six are down between 1-5% (Missouri (-1%), Washington (-1%), Montana (-2%), Kansas (-3%), North Carolina (-4%), West Virginia (5%)), and four are down double-digits (Mississippi (-27%), New Mexico (-12%), Oklahoma (-11%), and Wisconsin (-10%). (Last year 21 states were down 6% or more on first-time bar passage and six of those were down 10% or more.)