MBE Scores Are At An All Time Low — Are You Less Likely To Pass The Bar Exam?

The February 2017 bar exam results confirmed a troubling trend: MBE scores are dropping across the board, with this February’s MBE results hitting an all-time low. For students who have previously failed the bar exam, these results may seem especially discouraging as bar exam pass rates are trending downwards and students who have failed the bar exam are more likely to fail again.

But why are more students failing the bar exam? It is no secret that bar exam pass rates usually mimic law school performance — students tend to pass the bar exam in GPA order (e.g., those in the top 10% of the class are far more likely to pass than those in the bottom 10%). Law schools are finally catching on to this fact and recognizing not all of their students share the exact same learning style. However, law schools stop short of actually remedying the problem and simply farm out these issues to commercial bar review courses who all have one-size-fits-all mentalities.

Further, with less students applying to law school and with many law schools being tuition dependent, schools are accepting students with lower LSAT scores. And there is a correlation between LSAT performance and MBE performance. “If you have a low LSAT score, you are more likely to have a low MBE score when you emerge from law school and take the bar exam,” says Erica Moeser, president and CEO of the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

While there are many reasons that can be attributed to the drop in MBE scores it does not make the bar candidate who was unsuccessful feel any better. So, if you did fail the bar exam, the first step to passing the next exam is admitting that what you did to study the last time did not work for you. Repeating the same program and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity!

Keep in mind that the drop in MBE scores does not necessarily mean you are less likely to pass the exam. They are merely a reflection on how the bar exam has changed, yet bar review courses have not.

First time bar review courses give you the law you need to know, but they do not train you to pass. Passing the bar exam is not just about memorizing law; you must also employ test-taking strategies that will maximize your bar exam score.

The determinative factor on the MBE is not simply whether you memorized the correct rules; it is how good you are at narrowing the answer choices to two possibilities and choosing the best answer between them. You will rarely see an MBE question where the correct answer jumps out at you — the correct answer often is the “least wrong” answer.  This is why no one ever feels fully confident after taking the MBE.  And it is why so many students have been failing the MBE — they do not know how to apply the law they learned to individual MBE questions.

We also cannot forget that the bar exam is an exam of points and another major component of the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE). The MEE consists of 6 essays each of which you will have 30 minutes to complete.  Each essay will have 3-4 rules for a total of about 25 rules. Chances are, no matter how much law you memorized, you will not know each and every rule that is tested on the MEE.  The key to passing the MEE is not whether or not you know all the rules; it is strategically memorizing those rules that are most likely to appear on the exam and knowing how to score points even when you cannot not remember a rule.

So when deciding how to prepare for the next exam, do not simply repeat what you did the last time.  Build on what your learned in your first course by learning how to apply the law you memorized to the MBE and MEE in order to score more points. Consider taking a course specifically designed for retaker students and using experienced tutors to teach you the test-taking strategies that your first course did not show you.

To help you, we will give you a free, individualized score report consultation. Just email your score report to [email protected] and we will get back to you shortly to review your scores with you and give you guidance.

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