Bar Exam MBE Scores Hit An All Time Low

While Bar examiners in every state are attempting to navigate how to handle the July bar exam amid COVID-19, there’s now additional cause for concern over the just-released February exam scores.

The national average score on the Multistate Bar Exam—the 200-question multiple-choice portion of the test—fell 1.4 points from the previous year to land at 132.6, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which develops the test.

This score represents the lowest average February MBE score on record.

The February results are likely to throw cold water on hopes for a sustained bar exam turnaround. Pass rates plummeted between 2014 and 2018, but a 1.2-point gain on the February 2019 average MBE score fueled cautious optimism among educators that the worst was behind them. Those hopes accelerated after July 2019 bar takers posted a 1.6 point increase in the MBE average.

According to national conference president Judith Gundersen, it was likely repeat test-takers who were the primary drivers of the declining average MBE score, rather than those who were sitting for the exam for the first time.

“The February mean is always driven by repeat test-takers; this February, the decrease in the mean score among likely first-time takers was relatively small, while the decrease was larger for likely repeaters,” she said.

Those who have passed the exam once are far more likely to pass it in subsequent administrations than are those who have already failed and are trying again. You can read more about the numbers here.