Bar Exam Scores Are Down For The Second Year Running

bar exam scantron multiple choiceBesides law review, the bar exam remains as one of the industry’s most cherished hazing rituals. Does a freshly minted JD who exclusively plans on representing clients whose First Amendment rights have been violated really need to know wills and trusts? No, but that’s beside the point. They need hurt like everyone else before them hurt and take the test so we can all trauma bond over the damn thing. The most recent bar scores show that some are getting hit harder than others. From Reuters:

The first-time pass rate for white test takers last year was 83%, while 57% of Black examinees passed on their first attempt — a difference of 26 percentage points — the ABA said Tuesday. In 2021, that gap was 24 percentage points.

That trend held true for Hispanic and Asian test takers, with first-time pass rates of 69% and 75% respectively. The disparity with white examinees grew from 13 percentage points to 14 in 2022 for Hispanic test takers, the ABA data show. And the gap with first-time Asian examinees went from 6 percentage points to 8 last year.

The performance of white first-time bar examinees also declined from an 85% pass rate in 2021 to 83% in 2022.

You hate to see it. There have long been racial disparities associated with bar scores, and as much as it sucks to see how many people will need to buckle down on a second wave of BarBri before their second go at it, it is interesting that everyone’s passage rates have been lower than usual.

A national conference spokesperson called the differing pass rates “troubling” on Wednesday, while noting that those disparities are not new and are the result of many factors.

“We know that education was significantly disrupted by the pandemic, and that the effects of the pandemic were significantly worse for Black Americans and other historically marginalized communities, often exacerbating existing disparities,” said national conference spokesperson Valerie Hickman.

Despite many people acting as if the pandemic is over, the effects of it aren’t — as the test scores show. I’m curious how much of this is a consequence of learning in hybrid models. Will scores go up as students whose entire law school experience has been in person hit the test? Hopefully the test will be a relic by then. With enough time playing around  with ChatGPT, I suspect some of the aptitude will come with osmosis. AI does tend to do better than humans on the test nowadays.

Racial Disparities In Bar Exam Scores Worsened In 2022 [Reuters]

Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s.  He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at and by tweet at @WritesForRent.


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