California Bar Results Continue to Decline

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We may have a lot of sunny days here in California but, it may not feel very sunny for a majority of those who just took (and failed) the California bar exam. The State Bar of California released preliminary statistics for the February 2017 California Bar Exam via press release this weekend and the numbers do not look good.

Out of 4,439 applicants who completed the exam, only 1,532 of applicants passed the General Bar Exam. That is a pass rate of only 34.5 percent. Another way of looking at it is that 65.5 percent who completed the February 2017 California bar exam failed it. While we have seen results this low in the past, it appears to be part of a bigger trend, nationally, toward lower and lower pass rates.

The Executive Director of the State Bar of California. Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker said, “Regrettably the pass rate shows a continuing decline, a trend happening nationally.” She went on to say that “the State Bar is committed to a better understanding of the problem to determine how to address it.”

It appears the first steps to addressing the problem of declining bar pass rates will involve a “series of studies” the first of which is to begin on Monday, May 15th.

This initial phase of the study will focus on examining what the California bar examiners refer to as the “cut score.”

Here are some of the preliminary statistics from the February 2017 General Bar Exam:

  • 4,439 applicants completed the exam (it is unclear how many showed up and did not complete, would be interesting to have those numbers)
  • 1,153 (26.0 percent) were first-time applicants
  • The pass rate for first-time applicants was 39.0 percent
  • 3,286 applicants were repeat applicants
  • The pass rate for repeat applicants was 33.0 percent

Here are additional statistics broken out by school type. As usual, graduates of ABA law schools enjoyed the highest pass rates, with a distinctly higher pass rate enjoyed by graduates of California ABA law schools versus out-of-state ABA law schools (source: the State Bar of California).

School Type First-Timers Repeaters
California ABA 45% 46%
Out-of-State ABA 39% 34%
California Accredited (but not ABA) 18% 15%
Unaccredited: Fixed-Facility 25% 2%
Unaccredited: Correspondence 26% 11%
Unaccredited Distance Learning 18% 7%

So what does all of this mean? How does this affect those who are taking the July 2017 bar exam? Will the “cut score” go up? Will it change at all for the July 2017 bar round?

It is not yet clear whether the cut score or grading will change at all for the July 2017 bar exam. But, what is clear is that the State Bar is acknowledging publicly, for the first time that I know of, that there is a problem with the bar pass rates. Given the heat from many law school deans in the past few years about declining pass rates, the State Bar may also be feeling some pressure to address what some have call an abysmal pass rate.

There are a few things about this press release that I think are worth noting – and that is what we do not know, what the preliminary numbers fail to show:

Attorney Takers Not Yet Included in the Preliminary Statistic
These preliminary statistics do not appear to include those taking the Attorney’s Exam (note that the statistics only refer to those sitting for the General Exam). In recent years, attorney takers have had a very low pass rate in comparison to those taking the General Exam. So it will be interesting to see if attorney takers did worse on the February 2017 bar round (compared with prior bar rounds).

Those Who Did Not Complete the Exam are Not Counted as Part of Pass/Fail Rate?
The State Bar press release refers only to the number of applicants “who completed the exam.” We know from the press release that this number was 4,439 and that out of that number, only 1,532 of applicants passed.

What we do not know is how many applicants may have shown up but, failed to complete all three days. I am not suggesting that the State Bar is hiding anything. These preliminary statistics are that: preliminary. However, I am not certain the State Bar will ever release the number of those who did not complete the exam. Given that the pass rates appear to be based only upon applicants who completed the exam, the actual pass rate (taking into account those that did not stick it out the full three days) could actually be worse than 34.5%.

Incidentally, the State Bar’s press release still refers to the California bar exam as a three day exam, consisting of “six essay questions, and two performance tests.” I am assuming this is a mistake, but it is not exactly comforting that they are still referring to the three day exam.

I am not a believer in conspiracy theories surrounding the bar exam. But, the pass rates are declining, that is clear. This is, as the Director of the State Bar pointed out, part of a “national trend.” The pass rates for the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) are actually not much better than California’s bar pass rate. As of July 2017, twenty-seven states will have adopted the UBE for their state bar examination. With pass rates in the mid 40 percentile on the UBE, low pass rates are certainly not unique to California.

I do think it is a good thing that the State Bar has publicly announced that they are looking into the problem of declining pass rates. Whether this is about the test or about examinees being adequately prepared – is really the question, I think. Are people adequately prepared by their law schools? Are the entrance requirements to get into law schools – in an age of declining law school enrollment – perhaps lower? It has been known for some time that many California law schools (faced with low enrollment) are digging deeper into the applicant base, admitting students with lower LSAT scores and lower GPAs in order to make enrollment. If so, does this mean that law school admittees are less qualified (lower LSAT scores, for example)? And is the LSAT even the best way to determine whether someone should be admitted to law school? Some law schools have chosen to accept the GRE now in lieu of the LSAT for law school admissions.

Times are changing in California
What is clear is that times are definitely changing. The California bar exam (despite their press release still referring to the old, three-day exam) is now just two days. The performance test portion of the exam has been cut down from 6 hours of testing to only 90 minutes. These are significant changes. Still, I do not see anything from the bar examiners that suggest they will change the grading or the “cut score” in time for the July 2017 bar exam. But, time will tell.

In the meantime, what works in terms of passing the California bar exam is the same: becoming extremely adept at writing and taking MBEs. There are still five essays to write. So not much has changed there. But, the performance test (still worth two essays) is now only 90 minutes. Some might think this cut in time would make it easier. But, from the sample 90 minute performance test provided by the State Bar, it does not look easier. There is virtually the same amount of material to get through (in the old, 3-hour PT), but now far less time to do it in. This new 90 minute version will most definitely be easier for those who can think fast on their feet, which, quite frankly is a pretty good trait for a would be attorney.

What do you think about the low pass rates? What do you think about the new 2-day bar exam in California, do you think it will be easier or harder or the same?

I will address how I think examinees should prepare differently for the new, 2-day California bar exam in our upcoming, free “How to Pass the California Bar Exam Workshop” There is still space available in this workshop. Click here to sign up!

Lisa Duncanson
Founder/Program Director
Bar None Review and Bar Exam Cram Session

 

 

 

California Bar Exam: What to Expect on Day Three’s Essays

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Hello all,

Hopefully you are getting some rest (as I am writing this, it is about 1:00 am, before your MBE day). I want to congratulate you again on being done with day one of the California bar exam! Also, thank you again to all who wrote in about what was tested today. I really appreciate your taking the time during your break to write to me, thank you.

And, one more thing, thank you again for following my blog. We have had over 650,000 views now and I am truly humbled (and grateful) for the following here. And, I do answer questions, as much as I can, so if you have a question, please feel free to ask. You can either reply to any of the Bar Exam Tips Lists emails or, if you have yet to sign up for the Bar Exam Tips List (it is not too late, by the way) you can ask me a question in the “comments or questions” field – I do actually read all of your emails and I will do my best to respond to you as quickly as I can.

Okay, it is truly my hope that right now you are sleeping. If you are not sleeping, then I hope you are at least resting. Pulling an all-nighter studying is NOT what I would recommend.

For most of you (all who are taking the general bar exam) you will be taking the MBEs on day two. I mention this simply because some reading this blog are taking the exam over six days and some as attorney takers do not have to take the MBEs on day two.

If you are taking the MBEs on day two, then here are some recommendations:

1) You might want to consider simply completing five or ten MBEs in the am to shake of the dust so to speak. I would not recommend that you necessarily even score these MBEs, but just consider taking a few as a way of putting your mindset back into this part of the exam. If you do decide to check your answers (I probably wouldn’t if it were me on the day of the MBEs) do not worry about your actual percentage correct of the five or ten you did. Instead, if you did well – choose to see that as indicative of your likely performance for the rest of the day and if you did not do well, then simply dismiss it as not at all dispositive of how you are going to do on the actual exam. Do you see what I am driving at? An absolutely, 100 percent POSITIVE attitude. This is a necessity (in my opinion) for success on the bar exam. An equally acceptable thing to do prior to the MBEs in the morning would be to do nothing. Or, review a few flashcards – it really doesn’t matter so much what you do in the am right before other than YOUR believing that what you are doing in those moments leading up to the first 100 MBEs is the right thing for YOU to be doing.

2) Expect to not see a correct answer choice and expect this to be the case often. No one that I know of (past student or blog follower – and I have spoken with and worked with thousands of examinees over the years) leaves the MBE feeling like they absolutely nailed it and that for every MBE they felt they were always picking the correct answer. Some feel better about the MBEs than others. But, for the most part, examinees leave this portion of the exam feeling as though they need to really kick it into gear on the remaining essays and PTs in order to pass. So what does this really mean? It means that the MBEs are hard, very hard. I know, you didn’t need me to tell you that – nothing really new. BUT, what is significant is this: you need to be prepared (in my opinion) for feeling like you are not doing very well on the MBEs and you simply need to get through it, be tough and know that if it is difficult for you, then it is also difficult for nearly everyone else.

Do NOT let this test get the better of you. This is a choice that you have to make facing the entire test – that you will remain positive and optimistic about your chances and that you will not let this beast of an exam shake your confidence in your ability to pass. That is half the battle.

3) When you are done with today’s MBEs, take a little bit of a break so that you are able to release the physical tension that builds up over the course of the day of taking MBEs. Go for a walk outside if you can, take a dinner break and eat something healthy and relax, take a bath – whatever will help you decompress both mentally and physically from the day of testing. Of course, this is limited – you really can’t just let it all go, and you really should consider doing some review for the following day’s essays. But, do try to do something(s) to put the day behind you.

What to do for day three’s essays/what to expect?

First, really anything could be tested on day three’s essays – even a topic that you already saw today. For example, in past bar rounds Contract/Remedies was tested on day one on the essays and then it showed up again on day three’s essays as a cross over with Tort/Remedies (so it was part Contract/Contract Remedies and part Torts/TortsRemedies). This is pretty unusual and it threw most you can be sure. But, you should know it is possible. Do I suggest spending a bunch of time on Remedies for Thursday? No, but I would definitely not put it completely behind you – spend a few minutes reviewing it enough that if you had to address the basic concepts and to address injunction for example, that you would be able to do so.

So far everything that was tested on Day One’s Essays was absolutely expected – there were no surprises.

Day three is harder to predict. But, I still think you could see a Criminal Law Murder exam (see my earlier posts from this week regarding the other areas I posted as suggested areas of study – I still stand by these based upon what was tested on day one). I would definitely consider giving a little bit of time to Wills (either as a solo topic or crossed over with Trusts) as well as the area of Business Organizations – although, I do not necessarily think that you will see both of these topics show up – I DO think that either Wills or Business Organizations is about equally likely of showing up. So be prepared for both topics.

As I stated previously (both here on the blog and in the tips list emails sent out so for for this bar round) Constitutional Law (Dormant Commerce Clause) is still on my list of possibilities as are: Evidence or even Community Property (again, and this would be the fourth time in a row) but, if Community Property, then I would expect it as a crossover with something else (understand – I am not “predicting” Community Property, I am just re-iterating that the examiners can test in any area (whether that area was tested recently or not).

The real issue is, since you did not see a Professional Responsibility Essay on Day One, whether you will see it as an essay on Day Three. Most would say yes, and I would tend to generally agree with this as it is historically the case to almost always see at least one essay on the exam that tests Professional Responsibility. But, it is not guaranteed. What is guaranteed is that Professional Responsibility will show up somewhere on the written portion of the bar exam. Sometimes this means that Professional Responsibility shows up on both days of the essays (the February 2008 bar exam tested a straight Professional Responsibility essay on day one and then tested Professional Responsibility again on one of the essays on day three – but as a cross over with Business Organizations). Some bar rounds it shows up on both a PT and an essay and some rounds it only shows up on one or both of the PTs. So this is an unknown. Understand, that I do not discuss the Performance Tests until the conclusion of the bar exam (which for some examinees is not until the end of the day on Sunday).

If you signed up earlier this week for our February 2015 Bar Exam Tips List, you would have received sample essays and answers (one of which was quite similar to what was tested today in Property – so I am told). I also sent out a Dormant Commerce Clause essay, two in fact) and other handouts. These are still available (up through this Thursday). If you would like to receive these, simply sign up for the Bar Exam Tips List by completing the form below.

Thank you again for following my blog. I truly am humbled by the following, by your emails (which I do personally respond to and enjoy doing) and kind words you have shared. Thank you.

Remember, believe in yourself and do not let this test get the better of you.

All the best on the MBEs (for those of you taking this portion) and on the rest of the exam. I will be writing more soon. As always, I appreciate any feedback, questions or comments you have.

Sincerely,

Lisa Duncanson

 

Prepare For The February 2015 Bar Exam With The Two Day Bar Exam Cram Sessions

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Hello all,

All the best of luck to those who are waiting for bar results for the July 2014 bar exam!

For those of you who are preparing for the February 2015 bar exam, we have released our February 2015 Bar Exam Cram Session Schedule. We will conduct three separate Bar Exam Cram Sessions for the February 2015 Bar Exam. The dates are as follows (click on dates below for more information and to register):

Session I – December 13, 2014 & December 14, 2014

Session II – January 17, 2015 & January 18, 2015

Session III – February 7, 2015 & February 8, 2015

The Two Day Bar Exam Cram Sessions provide a condensed review of all bar tested topics and provide students with a tried and true approach for each essay tested topic. We tell you what you need to know, including what to write, when to write it, how much time to spend on particular issues and provide you with a proven approach to success on the California Bar Exam. You receive a complete set of The Bar Exam Cram Sheets, a study plan for the final ten days leading up to the bar exam and all of the Bar Exam Guru’s predictions and email updates up through the bar exam. See the links above for more detailed course information.

Stay tuned for more information about our February 2015 Civil Procedure MBE Maximizer Program, Score Maximizer Program and Writing Maximizer Program.

All the best to everyone waiting for bar results!

Lisa Duncanson

Founder/Program Director
Bar Exam Cram Session and Bar None Review
(213) 529-0990
http://www.barexamcramsession.com and http://www.barnonereview.com

 

 

Good Luck to all who are studying for the California Bar Exam!

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Hello Everyone,

We are having another free, “How to Pass the Bar Exam Workshop” next week! Details to follow very soon . . . until then . . . all the best of luck to you! (See post below for how to create a study plan).

Good luck photo for blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder (213) 529-0990
Bar None Review and The Bar Exam Cram Session (TM)

Day One Essays for the California Bar Exam: Wills, Con Law and Property

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Hello All,

I have spoken to some of my students now and have learned that this morning’s essays were: Wills, Constitutional Law (Religion) and Property (landlord/tenant & covenants).

So . . . we predicted three so far, including the subtopics for both Con Law and Property. Not bad. (For more on “predictions”, see my earlier post from this morning, below).

Given what was tested today, I would think that you will see topics on Thursday that were tested on the July 2010 bar exam. As I mentioned in my previous post, usually each bar round includes topics that were tested on the preceding bar round.

I still think that Civil Procedure is a possibility (if not this bar round, then I would expect it for July). Also, typically each bar round there are three MBE topics tested. So far two have been tested (Property and Constitutional Law). Perhaps then we will see Evidence or Criminal Law/Procedure or Torts (maybe as a tort remedies or defamation essay) repeat from the July 2010 exam and show up on Thursday. We shall see. Obviously it is not realistic to think that one can predict this exam. But, we are excited that so far, today, three of our essay “predictions” were tested: 1) Wills, 2) Property (landlord/tenant & covenants) and 3) Constitutional Law – Religion (free exercise and establishment clause). While I have not seen these exams yet (obviously) it sounds like the Constitutional Law exam may have presented an issue with respect to compelling government interest since the backdrop for the First Amendment Religion claim was in the context of the military. The examiners may have wanted a discussion of compelling government interest having been met since national security is a compelling government interest. Again, since I have not seen this exam and am only hearing about portions of it from students, I can not be sure. But, clearly the topic coverage for today was: Wills, Property and Constitutional Law.

Professional Responsibility is usually tested on the essay portion of the bar exam. However, this might be the bar round where the examiners decide to drop this from the essay portion and instead cover it more extensively on the performance test. (Professional Responsibility has to show up on either the essay section OR the performance test section or both).

Once I hear what was tested on the Performance Test section for this afternoon, I will have a better idea of what I think should be expected on day three.

Again, I do not claim to be able to predict this test. I have over the years had a good grasp on what is likely simply because I study this test year after year after year. As a result, I feel as though I have a good sense of what to expect. But, truly, you have to simply be prepared for every topic.

If you are wondering what you should study or review tonight and tomorrow night (in preparation for Thursday’s essays), the answer is this: study your weakest areas. Think about it this way – ask yourself what would be the worst topic for you to get on Thursday morning? Whatever that subject is for you, that is the subject you should spend a little time reviewing. Ideally, you would skim all the topics in a short  review version (for example, our one sheets are one to three page condensed outlines of each topic). Whatever your source, try to do an overview of the subjects so that you feel comfortable on Thursday. And, if there are one or two topics that bother you more than other topics (topics you hope you will not get on Thursday) then study those topics over all others.

Above all, relax, do not doubt or second guess yourself . . . write, write and write as much as you can during each essay and performance test. Remember, the graders can only grade what you put down on the page (laptop or bluebook). The graders will not give you credit for the things that you thought of but, did not write on . . . so WRITE!

Good luck to everyone who is taking the bar exam this week!

Sincerely,

Lisa Duncanson