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Multi-State Bar Exam Scores Hit A New Low

April 13, 2017

In February 2017, the average score of the Multi-State Bar Exam (MBE) declined by another point.  “The exam is a six-hour, 200-question multiple-choice examination developed by NCBE and administered by user jurisdictions as part of the bar examination.    The MBE is only one of a number of measures that a board of bar examiners may use in determining competence to practice. Each jurisdiction determines its own policy with regard to the relative weight given to the MBE and other scores.”

The average scores in February, mark the lowest average scores seen since the test’s inception in 1972.  While many may think that this decline indicates a low point in history, others point to a shift in law school admissions as a potential source of optimism.  Erica Moeser, president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, explains the lower MBE scores may reflect differences in law school admissions. Applications are declining, she notes, “without a consistent decline in terms of the number of students enrolled.”  Furthermore, there is still hope for the future.  Law schools admitting students with lower LSAT scores are “taking aggressive efforts to educate those students, and she believes that’s why multi-state bar exam scores are increasing in some states. Law schools are thinking about how people learn from the top to the bottom of the class, she said.”

If enrollment in law schools continues to decline, we may see more top law schools admitting students with weaker LSAT scores.  While these students likely constitute a better representation of the Unites States population, schools may be faced with some challenges when educating those in the bottom 25% of the class.  However, as Moeser notes, “As schools are really addressing how one educates a diverse population in law school, some very good things are happening.”

Learn more about the MBE.  Read the full article from the ABA Journal.

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