Part of being informed about the bar exam’s role in keeping (out) professionals who want to put their $150k piece of paper to use is looking at the exam’s exit data. Folks took the exam — that much is unsurprising. What has caught people off-guard is the lowered passage rates we’ve seen this year in first-time exam takers.
Just over 78% of U.S. law school graduates who took the bar exam for the first time in 2022 passed the mandatory licensing test, the American Bar Association said Friday.
That’s down slightly from the 80% first-time pass rate in 2021 and represents a 6 percent decline from 2020’s first-time pass rate of 84%. The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated year-over-year comparisons because some states modified their exams in 2020 or gave the test online in 2020 and 2021.
Fret not — in times like these, it is best to maladapt an MLK quote: The grading arc of the bar bends toward complete understanding. Or something.
The new ABA figures also show that more than 91% of 2020 law graduates who took the bar exam passed within two years—a metric the organization calls the “ultimate bar pass rate.” That’s up slightly from the class of 2019.
There are some other interesting numbers at play in the outcomes:
The ABA said it plans to release additional data next month on bar pass rates broken down by race and gender. Those figures for the class of 2021 revealed a widening gap in pass rate by race. White test takers had a first-time pass rate of 85%, while Hispanic and Black test takers had pass rates of 72% and 61%, respectively.
The University of Alabama School of Law notched a 100% first-time pass rate in 2022. Harvard Law School was next with a 98% first-time pass rate, followed by Yale Law School and the University of Virginia School of Law at nearly 96%, according to the ABA data.
Shouts out to U. Alabama! Good luck to the next forsaken lot destined to bubble in answers.
U.S. Bar Exam Pass Rate Drops For First-Time Takers [Reuters]
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by tweet at @WritesForRent.
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