As the July 2014 Bar Exam scores were released, one thing became clear: the scores were low. Very low.
In fact, according to Above the Law, among the 29 jurisdictions that released July 2014 scores thus far, four have seen a decrease in pass rates of at least 10 points while thirteen experienced drops of five to nine points. Only 11 remained unchanged or dropped four or fewer points.
Needless to say, people were wondering what caused the significant decline. On October 23rd, after many called for an explanation, Erica Moeser, president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners released a statement explaining that the significant drop in scores caused concern among the NCBE, spurring the organization to check for any potential scoring errors. Ultimately though, the NCBE found no issues with the test. Since the most recent test was found equal to its predecessors, Moeser and the NCBE concluded that the issue was not with the test itself, but with the test takers. “The group that sat in July 2014,” the letter stated, “was less able than the group that sat in July 2013.”
Moeser’s explanation did not sit well with some, specifically, Brooklyn Law School Dean Nicholas Allard. In response, Allard issued a letter of his own in which he criticized the NCBE for its lack of transparency in the result-checking process. The NCBE’s conclusion that the July 2014 Bar examinees were simply less able than the July 2013 Bar examinees was, in Allard’s opinion, inconclusive and reckless.
Allard cited his own school as an example, stating that the credentials of this year’s Brooklyn Law School’s graduates were just as good, if not better, than the 2013 graduates.
The debate between Moeser and Allard has led to finger-pointing on both sides, neither one of which believe they are at fault for the abnormally low scores. Were the test takers in 2014 simply less prepared than those in previous years or is a more difficult test or scoring error to blame?
Ultimately, unless the NCBE is pressured to reevaluate the test again, we may never know the root of the poor performance problem. Although, the statistics of the remaining jurisdictions could offer some answers.
Fortunately, for repeat and first-time takers alike, Bar prep courses like AdaptiBar put students in the position to succeed. While you can’t control outside factors, you can control how well you master the material.
Sources: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2014/11/10/decline-in-bar-exam-scores-sparks-war-of-words/; http://www.abajournal.com/mobile/article/drop_in_nationwide_bar_exam_scores_is_likely_due_to_less_able_test_takers_m