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First-time Bar Takers See Drop In Passage Rate Across the Board  

First-time bar passage rates were down in nearly every measurable demographic, according to newly released data from the American Bar Association (ABA).

The data is part of a relatively new initiative from the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to address concerns about a lack of accessible, comprehensive information regarding bar passage rates for different ethnic and racial groups.

Information from 196 law schools was collected in the wake of revisions made in 2019 to Standard 316, which deals with bar passage governance. As part of the revisions, 75% of students at ABA-approved schools must pass the bar within two years of graduating or else the school risks falling out of compliance. “Several years ago, we promised to collect and publish such aggregate data and consider whether the requirements of Standard 316 needed to be reviewed in light of what we collected,” said Bill Adams, ABA managing director of accreditation and legal education. “We will continue to evaluate the annual data and consider any changes as appropriate.”

Per the trade group, this is the third year in a row the data has been collected and published.

From Twitter

Spivey Consulting @SpiveyConsult ·Apr 4

PLP 2023.04.18"First-time bar passage went in the wrong direction this year, down 2% from last year. 30 schools had a first-time pass rate <60%. I am far from a bar passage expert and suspect the reasons are multivariate not just COVID."

According to the ABA, passage rates for first-time bar takers were down in every measurable demographic between 2021 and 2022 except for those students who identified as Hawaiian. A total of 33,721 graduates took the exam for the first time in 2022, according to the data.

White first-time test takers saw their rate drop from 85% to 83%, Black first-time takers saw their rate dip from 61% to 57%. Similarly, that same rate dropped from 72% to 69% for Hispanics, from 79% to 75% for Asians, from 70% to 60% for Native Americans, from 84% to 81% for non‐residents, from 81% to 73% for those whose race is unknown and from 76% to 74% for individuals who identify with two or more races.

Hawaiian first-time test takers, on the other hand, saw their passage rate jump from 47% to 69%, notes the ABA.

Additionally, the “ultimate” passage rate, which reflects the entire two-year window established in the 2019 revision, was down from 91% in 2020 to 87% in 2021.

From Twitter

ABA International @ABAInternatl ·Apr 3

"The Section hosted a successful Pathways to Bar Passage program on Wednesday, March 29th! The expert panel gave detailed advice and guidance on how to prepare and pass the bar exam. See the recording link. Alexandra Vargas pictured. Passcode: 5F%F4YbL" 

Sean Silverman, of Silverman Bar Exam & LSAT Tutoring, said he expects Florida’s bar exam could be undergoing some changes as soon as July’s exam. First-time takers in Florida passed at the lowest rate in 15 years and dropped seven percentage points between the last two exams, according to reports.

“On first glance, though, these changes seem to me to be more about how the content will be tested rather than what content will be tested,” he wrote. “Specifically, according to the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, UCC 3, UCC 9, and Trusts, will now be tested primarily through the use of multiple choice questions rather than through essays. The most significant one here is Trusts, since over the years that was a commonly tested essay subject.”

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