Corrected Post on July Exam Results

September 16th, 2015 / By

[To replace my post from yesterday, which misreported Oklahoma’s pass rate]

States have started to release results from the July 2015 bar exam. So far the results I have seen are mixed:

Iowa’s first-time takers enjoyed a significant increase in the pass rate, from 82% in July 2014 to 91% in July 2015. (I draw all 2014 statistics in this post from NCBE data).

New Mexico’s first-timers, on the other hand, suffered a substantial decline in their pass rate: 88% passed in July 2014 while just 76% did in July 2015.

In Missouri, the pass rate for first-timers fell slightly, from 88% in July 2014 to 87% in July 2015.

Two other states have released statistics for all test-takers, without identifying first-timers. In one of those, Oklahoma, the pass rate fell substantially–from 79% to 68%. In the other, Washington state, the rate was relatively stable at 77% in July 2014 and 76% in 2015.

A few other states have released individual results, but have not yet published pass rates. It may be possible to calculate overall pass rates in those states, but I haven’t tried to do so; first-time pass rates provide a more reliable year-to-year measure, so it is worth waiting for those.


I suggest that bar results will continue to be mixed, due to three cross-cutting factors:

1. The July 2015 exam was not marred by the ExamSoft debacle. This factor will push 2015 passing rates up above 2014 ones.

2. The July 2015 MBE includes seven subjects rather than six. The more difficult exam will push passing rates down for 2015.

3. The qualifications of examinees, as measured by their entering LSAT scores, declined between the Class of 2014 and Class of 2015. This factor will also push passing rates down.

Overall, I expect pass rates to decline between July 2014 and July 2015; the second and third factors are strong ones. A contrary trend in a few states like Iowa, however, may underscore the effects of last year’s ExamSoft crisis. Once all results are available, more detailed analysis may show the relative influence of the three factors listed above.


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