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Latest Bar Exam Results Demonstrate Increased Pass Rate at 37%

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(Mirel Kipioro/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

In May, the State Bar released its bar exam results data, announcing that 1,151 people passed the general bar exam, a pass rate demonstrating a 10.4 percentage point increase over last year’s test. If those who passed the exam satisfy all other requirements for admission, they will be eligible to be licensed by the State Bar to practice law in California.

“We heartily congratulate the 1,151 applicants who passed the General Bar Exam and the 247 candidates who passed the Attorneys’ Exam, particularly after facing and overcoming the many challenges of 2020. We hope to welcome all those who passed to California’s legal profession very soon,” said Donna Hershkowitz, Interim Executive Director of the State Bar.

This year’s February exam was the second administered remotely, after the near-record cohort who took the exam in October. It was also the second graded under the reduced cut score of 1390, directed by the California Supreme Court in July 2020. If the cut score had remained at 1440, approximately 734 General Bar Exam takers (24%) would have passed this examination.

The February exam cohort was smaller than typical for a February exam (approximately 3,100 compared to 4,000-5,000 on average), likely attributable to the increased number of test takers for the October 2020 exam cohort, the availability of the new provisional licensure program, and the higher pass rate on the October exam. As is typical, a majority of the February exam cohort were repeat takers, although at a lower percentage than average (approximately 60% compared to the typical 70%).

February 2021 General Bar Exam preliminary statistics:

• Completed the exam: 3,098 applicants

• First-time applicants: 1,227 (40% of total)

• Pass rate for first-time applicants: 53% overall

• Repeat applicants: 1,871 (60% of total)

• Pass rate for repeat applicants: 27% overall

Pass rate for the General Bar Exam (rounded to whole numbers) by law school type:

School Type: First-Timers | Repeaters

California: ABA 65% | 39%

Out-of-State: ABA 58% | 26%

California Accredited (not ABA): 44% | 17%

Unaccredited: Fixed-Facility: 0% | 0%

Unaccredited: Correspondence: 43% | 20%

Unaccredited: Distance-Learning: 47% | 17%

All Others: 47% | 23%

All Applicants: 53% | 27%

The Attorneys’ Examination is open to those who have been admitted to the active practice of law and are in good standing for at least four years in another U.S. jurisdiction. Of the 432 attorneys who completed the Attorneys’ Examination, 247 (57%) passed.

Successful applicants who satisfy all requirements for admission may take the Attorney’s Oath individually or participate in admissions ceremonies held by their law school or others. Due to the current COVID-19 restrictions, the State Bar’s Office of Admissions did not hold its admissions ceremonies and instead swore in individuals remotely.

If they have satisfied all other requirements, applicants are eligible to practice law in California after taking the Attorney’s Oath and submitting their oath card to the State Bar. Approximately two weeks after forwarding the oath card to the State Bar, their names appear on the agency’s roll of licensed attorneys accessible on the State Bar website.


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