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Multistate Bar Exam Scores Tick Up in February, Test Takers Down

April 13, 2021, 9:37 PM

Scores for the Multistate Bar Exam ticked up slightly in the February test that remained online in many states, but far fewer people took the exam compared with the previous winter.

The mean scaled score for the national MBE held about two months ago was 134, up about 1.4 percentage points from the February 2020 mean score of 132.6, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the group composes the test.

The MBE is a key portion of each state’s overall bar exams that are administered twice per year. Passing scores are determined state by state and are based on a combination of performance on the MBE, essay tests and other legal knowledge gauges, as well as state-specific portions of the test in many states.

It’s composed of 200 multiple choice questions. That number was cut in half during the October bar exams in response to the pandemic, but later restored to 200 questions.

The national mean scaled scores for the February tests have fluctuated back-and-forth over the last five years, according to the NCBE, from 132.6 to 134.1.

At the same time, the number of test takers has consistently dropped during that same five-year period, 2017-2021. Between 2020-202`1 alone, the number of February test takers fell from 19,122 to 16,759—a 12.4% drop.

The announcement came as several states recently said they could make their bar exams easier to pass, partly to address racial diversity problems and access-to-justice issues entrenched in the legal profession. Those states would be following California, which permanently lowered its “cut score” last summer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sam Skolnik in Washington at sskolnik@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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