Just 27.3 percent of would-be lawyers passed California’s February 2018 bar exam, an all-time low pass rate based on records stretching back to 1951, according to test data released Friday.
The dismal scores mirror a national trend for the winter sitting of the exam. The average score on February’s multistate bar exam, the 200 multiple-choice question portion of the test used in every state, fell 1.3 points from the previous year to 132.8, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners. That is the lowest average score in more than 10 years and marks the fourth straight year that the February average declined.
First-time test-takers of the February 2018 exam continued to do better than those repeating the exam with a 39 percent pass rate. Graduates of American Bar Association-approved law schools based in California did the best of any group, with 46 percent passing.
The historically low scores will fuel more debate over lowering California’s second-highest-in-the-nation pass score. After months of discussion and study, the California Supreme Court decided last year not to reduce the required passing, or cut, score.
The 1,282 test-takers who did pass the February 2018 exam will join the bar later this year if they meet a number of additional requirements, including receipt of a successful moral character determination.
A statement from the California bar on Friday did not acknowledge the record-setting low pass rate but instead touted a recently enacted “productive mindset intervention program.” The partnership with three universities, including Stanford, is aimed at improving test performance through online messages delivered prior to the exam. More than 1,700 applicants for the July 2018 bar exam have registered for the program, according to the bar.
“Through this program and ongoing study, we hope to better understand the downward trend of bar exam pass rates,” bar executive director Leah Wilson said in a prepared statement.
The February 2018 exam results are posted below: