Lawyers Journal

MBA officers welcome new attorneys as bar exam pass rates increase

The swearing in of roughly 1,500 new attorneys in late November reflected a passing rate of 88.5 percent for first-time bar examinees, the second year the rate approached 90 percent. The overall passing rate has also been trending upward over the last five years.

Massachusetts Bar Association President David W. White Jr., President-elect Edward W. McIntyre and Secretary Robert J. Holloway Jr. participated in the ceremonies, offering opening remarks in conjunction with Boston Bar Association officers. The ceremonies, which are held in the winter and summer, were held in Boston over a four-day period from Nov. 26 to 30 at Faneuil Hall’s Great Hall. Two ceremonies were also held in Springfield on Dec. 7.

According to the Board of Bar Examiners, the 1,690 first-time examinees who passed the bar examination in July 2007 at the rate of 88.5 percent is down only slightly from the 88.9 percent (1,659 examinees) who passed the July 2006 exam.

By comparison, the passing rates in recent years have ranged in the low to mid 80 percent range for first-time examinees, with 83.8 percent in 2005, 84.8 in 2004 and 81.8 percent in 2003.

The last two years have also reflected a gradual increase in overall passing rates, with 82.7 percent in July 2007 and 82.3 percent in July 2006, compared with 76.5 percent in 2005, 77.3 percent in 2004 and 72 percent in 2003.

A spokesperson for the Board of Bar Examiners said the increases reflect a national trend, and also noted that a larger number of applicants may have played a role in the increase.

“When comparing 2005 to 2007, there is a 6 percent difference in the overall pass rate, but only a 4.7 percent difference between the first-time examinees,” according to the Board of Bar Examiners. “The average pass rate over the past five years for first-time examinees is 85.6 percent, less than a 3 percent variance from 2007, and for all examinees the average is 78.1 percent, a 4.5 percent variance. The national overall pass rate also increased by 3 percent between 2005 and 2006. Therefore, these variances do not appear to be extraordinary.”

The Board of Bar Examiners reports “the bar examination format and grading have remained constant for the past several years. However, there was a two percent increase of first-time applicants from 2005 to 2007, which may have contributed in part to the higher passing rates.”

Jason Chan, a first-time test taker who passed the July exam and now is an assistant district attorney for Worcester County, said that almost every examinee he knew took a bar exam prep course. He recommended taking both the Kaplan PMBR class and the BAR/BRI classes, but noted that the PMBR questions were more on point.

“It seems like a must to me,” said Chan. “The most difficult part of the exam is dealing with the pressure of everyone knowing that you are taking the exam and not wanting to fail.”

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