In February, a new group of law graduates sat for their respective state bar exams. The results have never been worse. Examiners report that bar exam scores on the Multistate Bar Exam have never been as low as they were for the February 2018 bar exam. They say the average MBE score dropped more than one point.
Even though each state has their own exam rules and scoring guidelines, most states use the Multistate Bar Exam or MBE. The Multistate Bar Exam is a multiple choice test that reveals the test taker’s knowledge of basic legal principles as well as their legal reasoning skills. There are 200 questions on the MBE. States rely on the MBE in order to make their bar exams easier and faster to administer.
States typically combine the MBE with other testing methods. People sitting for the bar exam typically must answer essay questions. There may also be an ethics portion of the test. Each state has their own formula to determine how much weight to give the MBE along with the other portions of the bar in order to determine whether to pass the applicant.
MBE officials say that February test takes did the worst on average of any group that has ever taken the exam. They say that the average score on the MBE for the February 2018 group was a 132.8. They say that last year’s average was a 134.1. The number of test takers was also down. Five percent fewer test takers sat for the exam in February 2018 than took the test in February 2017.
Officials say that even among first-time examinees, average MBE scores fell. They say that last year the average was a 135.3, and the first-time average went down to a 135. Among repeat test takers, the average fell by 1.7 points. Even with a low MBE score, an applicant can still pass the bar exam if they score well in the other test sections. However, the MBE is a major testing component in all of the states that use it.
The drop in MBE scores comes as accrediting agencies continue to debate how law schools should accept students. The American Bar Association says that law schools should only accept students who have a reasonable chance of success in school. They say that too many schools admit students who don’t have a good chance of becoming lawyers. They say that LSAT scores and grade point averages can shed light on an applicant’s aptitude. Others say that open admissions policies encourage diversity and help qualified students have the opportunity to succeed.