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Feb. bar exam sees record low number of test-takers — and a 39% pass rate

The number of people sitting for the Maryland bar examination in February hit its lowest level in more than 50 years, with only 302 people opting to take the test. It was the lowest figure since March 1965, when 279 people sat for the exam.

However, test-takers did better on this year’s February exam than they did last year: 39% passed this February compared to 38% last February, according to the State Board of Law Examiners.

The Maryland bar exam is given twice a year, in February and July.

This year’s results were lower than those in the recent past. The passage rate for the February bar exam was 42% two years ago and 53% in 2016. Last year’s February results marked the lowest passage rate for any Maryland bar exam since February 1971, when the pass rate also was 38%. The lowest rate before that was in February 1969, when only 35% passed, according to the State Board of Law Examiners.

Far fewer people took the bar exam this year compared to February 2018, when 471 people took the test. Two years ago, 560 people sat for the February exam, according to data from the State Board of Law Examiners.

Of the 302 people who took the exam this February, 119 passed, according to numbers obtained from the board on Tuesday.

Typically, most February applicants are repeat test-takers. This year, for example, only about 28% of individuals took the February exam for the first time. Among first-time takers, 51% passed, according to the State Board of Law Examiners.

Forty-three percent of University of Baltimore School of Law graduates and 35% of University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law graduates passed the February exam, according to the board.

Thirty-one UM Carey graduates and 77 UB Law graduates took the exam in February.

The decrease in the number of test-takers has been attributed to applicants’ choosing to take the Uniform Bar Exam, or UBE, in Washington; the credential conferred by that exam is more easily transferable to other states. Maryland is slated to implement the Uniform Bar Exam in July.

Under the current format, Maryland test-takers sit for two days. The first day is the Maryland General Bar Exam, an essay test; the second day is the Multistate Bar Examination, a multiple-choice exam that is part of the UBE.
The national Multistate Bar Examination mean score for February 2019 was 134.0, a 1.2-point increase from February 2018, which had a record low score, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners. This year’s results marked the first increase in the mean score since February 2013. There was also a 1% increase in the number of examinees this year compared to February 2018, the National Conference of Bar Examiners said in a news release.

Anamika Roy is a student at UM Carey.

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