Visualizing the grim final numbers from the July 2014 bar exam

Most by now are undoubtedly aware about the significant decline in MBE scores and bar pass rates in the July 2014 bar exam. I've recently been persuaded (but not wholly) by NCBE explanations, suggesting that the July 2014 had generally worse predictors and performed worse as a result. If true, that suggests a grim reality as predictors worsen over the next several administrations.

I had some data earlier, cobbled together from state by state data sets using overall pass rates, suggesting, among other things, that the ExamSoft fiasco was not (primarily) responsible for the decline.

The NCBE has released its statistics for the 2014 administrations of bar exams. That means we have access to complete data sets, and to more precise data (e.g., first-time pass rates instead of overall pass rates). Below is a chart of changes in first-time bar pass rates among all 50 states and the District of Columbia between July 2013 and July 2014, with some color coding relating to the MBE and ExamSoft. Thoughts below.

As noted previously, the only non-MBE jurisdiction, Louisiana, saw a significant improvement in bar pass rates among first-time test-takers. So, too, did North Carolina--an MBE and ExamSoft jurisdiction with its essays on Tuesday. Congrats to the lucky test-takers in the Tar Heel State. Elsewhere, however, you see across-the-board declines among first-time test-takers, with a modest improvements in a few of jurisdictions.

It's wait and see for the July 2015 administration to determine whether this decline is the start of a trend or, perhaps, a one-off aberration.