If you plan on sitting for the bar exam in the near future or if you simply enjoy keeping up to date on the latest bar exam news, you’re probably well aware of the revelation that bar exam scores are at a historic all-time low. This isn’t the first year that scores have taken a plummet. In July 2017, the national mean MBE scaled score was 141.7. However, everyone hoping that this average was a one-time fluke may have faced some serious disappointment when the NCBE released the national mean scaled score for July 2018. A shocking 139.5, a surprisingly low result, especially considering that the national mean score has not been that low since 1984. So what exactly is happening? Why do scores appear to be on a down turn and is there anything we can do to fix it? Well, to provide the shortest answer, it’s unclear why scores have plummeted. Some people have attributed this to law schools accepting students with low LSAT scores. While I can concede that there is perhaps a slight correlation between an examinee’s poor standardized testing on the LSAT and then later on the bar exam, I cannot attribute this as the sole factor for this issue. Instead, I contend that a variety of factors may have contributed to this plummet. Everything from the number of examinees to the difficulty of the exam should definitely be taken into consideration. However, regardless of the true underlying cause, you probably have one major concern as you read this post, “how can I avoid ending up on the lower end of the score spectrum?” I suggest giving the below options a try.
1. Make an Informed Decision about which State to Sit for the Bar
If you’re worried about receiving a low bar exam score and you’re somewhat flexible about which state to get barred in, definitely consider taking the bar in a state that issues an easier exam. Although almost every state offers the same MBE, regardless of whether they’ve adopted the UBE, it’s important to consider the other sections of the exam such as the essays or MPT which can have varying levels of difficulty and which could possibly be detrimental to your overall score. The essay portion for states that have not adopted the UBE includes questions on local state laws which can be very difficult to remember alongside the federal laws you have to memorize for the MBE. Therefore, if you’re on the hunt for an easy bar exam location, be sure to avoid: California, Arkansas, Washington, Louisiana (which does its own thing completely) and Nevada. Instead, consider taking the exam in easier states such as: South Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska or Iowa.
2. Consider Sitting for the UBE Instead
It’s definitely arguable that the UBE is easier than a regular state offered exam. In addition to promoting flexibility in practice, the UBE offers several other features which add to its appeal. The UBE tests less subjects than non-UBE exams, the UBE does not test on local state law which definitely lends a hand to it being easier, and the UBE is also a standard two-day exam. This factor can be a major relief to examinees who want to avoid the dreaded three day exam offered in some states.
Now do keep in mind that the UBE is not a solution to get around sitting for the MBE. The MBE portion is still on the UBE exam. However, the appeal of less essays and non-state law interference could definitely serve to bolster your overall score.
3. Take all Sections of the Exam Seriously and Simply Focus on Just Passing
I think it may be fair to say that many prospective bar examinees fear the MBE portion of the exam the most. Yes, these fears are very valid, however, it’s important to recognize that even with a lower MBE score, you can still pass the bar exam! States take into consideration an overall score before issuing bar passage. Therefore, even with a lower MBE score you can still redeem yourself with a good score on the essays or on the MPT. I say all of this to emphasize the importance of taking the entire exam seriously and not just the MBE. It’s easy to get bogged down on preparing primarily for the MBE portion because this is the portion that gets talked about the most and tends to be the most feared. However, it’s just as important to equally prepare for the essays and the MPT because with a low MBE score these additional sections can be your saving grace.
I know that this post focuses on plummeting MBE scores and although I do admit that this occurrence is a tad bit scary, please be aware that with an average MBE score or even a below average MBE score, you can still pass this exam. Therefore, focus your energies on simply passing the overall exam versus reaching a high MBE score. This mindset should certainly help to reduce any rising anxieties, which can help to clear your mind and positively refocus it on the task ahead.