Visualizing the overall bar pass rate declines in 2015 across jurisdictions

In early September, I highlighted the warning signs of bar pass rate declines in several jurisdictions. Shortly thereafter, the NCBE disclosed that MBE scores had hit a 27-year low. Last year, I offered a rough compilation of the decline in overall pass rates, suggesting that ExamSoft was not to blame but that the MBE itself may have contributed to the decline. (Later evidence convinced me that the MBE was likely not responsible for the decline.) By March, we had more granular data for jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction results.

Here are the changes in overall bar pass rates between July 2014 and July 2015. for a handful of jurisdictions that have easily-disclosed top-line data.

The overall declines are far from universal in these jurisdictions, and the median decline is about 2 points. But several jurisdictions did experience overall declines of at least 5 points.

Cobbling together the overall results from July 2013 to July 2015, a two-year change, the trends are fairly stark in most jurisdictions, often joining together significant declines in 2014 with modest declines in 2015.

The entering class profiles for the next few law school classes suggest that these trends will continue, at least to a small degree--the total degree remains something of an open question. How schools react, or how prospective bar examinees react, may further change these projections. And next spring, we'll have the data for the first-time bar-pass rates in these jurisdictions, which will provide a slightly more useful comparison of the overall trends.