This month the State Bar of California released the results of the July 2019 California Bar Exam, and announced that 3,886 people (50.1 percent of applicants) passed the General Bar Exam, a rebound to the 2017 pass rate.
The State Bar also released two reports on the results: the first, an analysis by the State Bar’s psychometrician, the Research Solutions Group (RSG), concluded that “[t]he results of the … analyses indicated that the premature release of the content had no statistically significant impact on the results of the July 2019 examination.”
In light of the special circumstances for the administration of this bar exam, the State Bar engaged a second firm, ACS Ventures, national experts in assessment and psychometric analysis, to review the analysis performed by RSG.
Their report confirmed that the methods and procedures for scoring, scaling, and equating the bar exam were consistent with industry expectations and historical practice and confirmed the validity of the methods used in the initial psychometric analysis. ACS Ventures’ report concluded that “the empirical evidence suggests that the early release of topics did not have a material impact on performance on the July 2019 California Bar Exam.”
The July 2019 pass rate rebound in California mirrors a national upward trend in scores:
• Florida and New Jersey each reported pass rate increases of 7 percentage points.
• Texas reported a pass rate increase of 4.6 percentage points.
• The National Conference of Bar Examiners reported that the pass rate for the Multistate Bar Examination increased 1.6 percentage points nationwide, marking the largest annual increase in over 10 years.
• According to data from the Law School Admission Council, national LSAT data for likely July 2019 test takers from ABA law schools also showed a signifcant increase from the prior year, particularly at the high end of score range.
“Congratulations to the thousands of applicants who passed the July 2019 California Bar Exam,” said State Bar Board Chair Alan Steinbrecher. “The State Bar is committed to ensuring integrity and fairness in the admissions process. The State Bar did not take lightly the decision to release the essay and performance test topics to all test takers, and thus we are relieved by the findings of the psychometricians that statistical analysis demonstrated that the integrity of the examination was not impacted, that performance was as predicted based on historical data, and the passing rate was not affected.”
Statistics from the July 2019 General Bar Exam
• The mean scaled Multistate Bar Examination score on the July 2019 Bar Exam was 1428, compared with the national average of 1411.
• 7,764 applicants completed the exam.
• 4,938 (63.6 percent) were first-time applicants.
• The pass rate for first-time applicants was 64.0 percent overall.
• 2,826 were repeat applicants.
• The pass rate for repeat applicants was 26.0 percent overall.
Pass rate (rounded to whole numbers) by law school type:
The General Bar Exam is administered in February and July each year.
The exam consists of three sections: a multiple-choice Multistate Bar Examination, five essay questions, and one performance test that is designed to assess an applicant’s ability to apply legal knowledge to practical tasks. The written portion of the exam (essays and performance test) and the multiple choice portion are weighted equally.
The Attorneys’ Examination consists of the essay and performance test sections of the General Bar Exam and is open to attorneys who have been admitted to the active practice of law and are in good standing for at least four years in another U.S. jurisdiction. Of the 442 attorneys who completed the Attorneys’ Examination, 226 (51.1 percent) passed.
If those who passed satisfy all other requirements for admission, they will be eligible to be licensed by the State Bar to practice law in California. Successful applicants who satisfy all other requirements for admission may take the Attorney’s Oath individually or participate in admissions ceremonies held throughout the state in December 2019.
After applicants have taken the Attorney Oath and submitted their oath card to the State Bar, they are eligible to practice law in California. Approximately two weeks after forwarding the oath card to the State Bar, their names will appear on the State Bar roll of licensed attorneys accessible on the State Bar website.
The State Bar of California’s mission is to protect the public and includes the primary functions of licensing, regulation and discipline of attorneys; the advancement of the ethical and competent practice of law; and support of efforts for greater access to, and inclusion in, the legal system.
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