Bar applicants ace August 2020 exam

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Indiana’s unprecedented bar exam that was reformatted and delayed until August 2020 because of the coronavirus has turned in a pass rate that tops the previous four years.

The preliminary figures released Tuesday for the August 2020 bar exam show an overall pass rate of 74%, about 10 percentage points higher than the overall pass rate for the previous four July bar exams. First-time takers posted a pass rate of 84% while repeat takers had a pass rate of 53%. This is the highest rate for repeaters since 54% passed the February 2015 bar.

Comparatively, the overall pass rate for the bar exams given in July 2016 through 2019 hovered around 65%. The pass rate for first-time takers was roughly 75% for that same period. The pass rate for repeat takers bottomed out at 23% in last year.

Not since the July 2015 bar exam, when the overall pass rate hit 74%, have so many applicants successfully completed the exam.  First-time takers had a pass rate of 80% in the summer of 2015 and repeat takers turned in a pass rate of 32%.

A total of 511 applicants took the August 2020 bar exam and 377 passed, according the the list released Tuesday. The number who sat for the August 2020 exam was the highest since July 2017, when 529 sat for the bar.  

The results cap an unnerving period for the August 2020 bar applicants.

Although Indiana was one of just a few states that gave the bar exam during the summer, the format was altered and the test was given remotely. The Indiana Supreme Court did not want the applicants to take the exam in person because of the danger posed by the COVID-19 virus but technical difficulties with the software caused a delay of the exam from July 28 to Aug. 4 and forced last-minute changes to how the test was administered.

For the August 2020 exam, the applicants were emailed the questions and were allowed to refer to their notes, books and class materials during the test.

The Indiana Supreme Court issued an order in May that reduced the bar from a two-day event to a one-day test and had only the content prepared by the Indiana Board of Law Examiners.

Typically, the Indiana Bar Exam incorporates the Multistate Performance Test and the Multistate Bar Examination, both prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, along with the Indiana essay questions prepared by the Indiana Board. The August 2020 exam consisted of short-answer questions, given during the morning session, and essay questions, administered in the afternoon.

Results for the August 2020 exam are preliminary. Usually applicants who were within a few points of passing can appeal and have their exams regraded.

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