Many of you are aware that bar exam passage rates for the July 2014 testing dipped to their lowest levels in a decade. Professor Derek Muller has written extensively about this phenomena on his blog. Mr. Muller appropriately asked the question in his blog: was the July 2014 bar exam more difficult or were there less qualified test-takers?
Dozens of law school deans complained about this year's sharp fall in bar passage rates. The University of North Dakota's Dean Kathryn Rand took the opportunity to write to the NCBE about the scoring of the July MBE. The NCBE's President, Erica Moeser, responded to Miss Rand's letter on December 18th. The full text of Miss Moeser's letter is posted below.
Miss Moeser seems to take offense to the notion that anyone would question the integrity of the MBE. However, with a secret and proprietary scoring system, how can we be sure?
After the July 2014 bar exam, I conducted a poll and asked examinees to rank the difficulty of the July 2014 MBE on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being easiest and 10 being most difficult. The majority of those polled gave this exam a 10.
I can say unequivocally that the test questions on the July MBE were so confounding - too many looked nothing like the practice questions published by reputable bar review companies such as Kaplan (PMBR) and Barbri.
Furthermore, I took both the July 2013 and July 2014 MBEs and I can say without doubt that the July 2014 MBE was a much different exam. Although Miss Moeser may eloquently argue how the NCBE staff normalized the July MBE just like any other testing, I do not believe that occurred.
With a new subject being tested in February 2015, I wonder how the NCBE will score that exam. I for one cannot believe that MPRE scores, LSAT scores, or overall law student quality is the reason for the lower MBE scores.
It is true that there was a drop off in the LSAT scores for the 2011 incoming class. It is also true that law school applications are dropping to lows not seen in decades. Yet this does not adequately explain why the July 2014 MBE looked like a completely different exam than previously seen.
If it is the case that law schools will experience a decline in the quality of prospective law students, then it will be more difficult for future law school graduates to pass the bar exam, making it hard for bar review courses to deliver results.