Monday, November 17, 2014

Decline In Bar Exam Scores Causes A Stir

We're seeing a national decline in bar exam scores, and it's causing a stir. The WSJ Law Blog reported that "[t]he overall passage rate for the Texas exam given in July, for example, was 11 percentage points lower than last year’s results. Idaho, Iowa, Oregon and Washington were among other states reporting sharp drops." And we'e already seen drops in other states.

In response to the lower scores, the president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners sent out a memo a memo addressed to law school deans across the country that defended the integrity of the group’s exam and raised concerns about the ability of the would-be lawyers who took it. "The NCBE is a national Wisconsin-based non-profit that prepares widely used standardized portions of the bar exam, including the Multistate Bar Examination, a multiple choice test that typically counts for half of a test-taker’s score."

The memo stated in part, “[w]hile we always take quality control of MBE scoring very seriously, we redoubled our efforts to satisfy ourselves that no error occurred in scoring the examination or in equating the test with its predecessors. The results are correct. . . All point to the fact that the group that sat in July 2014 was less able than the group that sat in July 2013.:

One dean at Brooklyn Law School fired back on Monday with a letter to the NCBE. The dean "said he found the assertions unconvincing and demanded a 'thorough investigation of the administration and scoring' of the July 2014 exam.'" The dean disagreed that the group that sat in July 2014 was less capable than the group that sat in July 2013 because "the median LSAT score for the 2013 and 2014 cohorts was 163 in both cases." But "the passage rate for Brooklyn Law School graduates who took the bar for the first time in July [2014] was nearly 10 percentage points lower than last year's rate."

With scores dropping all over the country, it is a good idea for the NCBE to look at the credentials of the students to determine if there was a significant drop in the capability of the takers. If not, the test should be called into question.

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