Low February bar pass rate likely to get post-appeal bump

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As the Indiana legal profession begins to draw conclusions from the February 2019 bar exam results in which fewer than half of test-takers passed, it might want to keep in mind Yogi Berra’s observation: It ain’t over till it’s over.

The February 2019 passage rate of 45 percent released Monday is the preliminary result, which likely will be buoyed by the appeals process. Students who are within nine points of passing the Indiana bar can request the board of law examiners review and rescore their answers on the essay portion of the test.  The essay section consists of six questions and comprises 30 percent of the total exam score.

In 2018, the overall pass rate for the February improved from the preliminary 47 percent to 51 percent after the appeals process and, likewise, in 2017 the February overall passage rose from 48 percent to 52 percent.

Historically, the appeals process can raise the pass rate by 2 to 4 percentage points, according to Bradley Skolnik, executive director of the Office of Admissions & Continuing Education.

However, even with an appeals bump, the February 2019 results might remain the lowest in at least the last 17 years. If the 2019 pass rate increases by 4 percentage points, as the rates did in 2017 and 2018, the overall rate would be one step below 50 percent.

Across all categories, the preliminary February 2019 results are down.

The overall pass rate for first-time takers was 62 percent and 29 percent for repeat takers. Comparatively, in 2018 the post-appeal overall pass rate for first-time takers was 70 percent and for repeaters was 30 percent. Also, the final results for February 2017 included an overall pass rate for first-timers of 66 percent and for repeaters at 42 percent.

A total of 240 individuals took the February 2019 bar exam with 111 taking the test for the first time and 129 retaking the test. Conversely, 270 individuals took the bar in February 2018 and the first-time takers outnumbered the repeat takers, 140 to 130. February 2017 mirror this year’s numbers, with 263 taking the exam and 116 being first-timers while 147 were repeaters. 

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