Robert Anderson

Professor of Law Pepperdine University School of Law

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It would be interesting to compare the rates of test-takers who grauated from a law school in the state with those who did not.

The reason New York appears easier than one would think is that school-wide LSAT data is used in this ranking to determine the quality of a state's test-taker pool. On average, and especially for those coming from law schools outside New York, new attorneys hired in New York will tend to be among the higher performing students at their respective schools, so this ranking methodology will understate the pool quality. The data isn't available to prove it, of course, but I'd be surprised if that skewing effect, in that direction, weren't far more of an issue for New York than for any other state. (That is to say, New York is more of a top-student-magnet, by far, than any other state.)

Where does the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) rank relative to the individual state exams in degree of difficulty?

Hi Tony,

We really can't say in the abstract because states still retain their own passing scores. So although the UBE means that the test itself is the same across jurisdictions, it's really the passing score that will determine how difficult the exam is to pass.


Do you know what the passing score for South Dakota is?

Would you say that a bar exam with a higher passage rate would be easier or would you look only at the passing score? For example, DC only had a passage rate of 46% in Feb. 2013 but the passing score is 133 which is the same as Iowa, Kansas, New Jersey & New York. However, those states had much higher passage rates of 80-90%.

Find a way to take out the graduates of all the unaccredited law schools in California and you might start getting closer to something that is more accurate. I'm confused about Nevada though--is it hard because the professionalism rules are out the window in Nevada???? At least where I'm licensed, a state just as high an ave LSAT as CA, we can't dream of having a law firm called "Half-Priced Lawyers" or say, "you won't just get paid, you'll get EVEN"! What a joke. Truth is, you honestly cannot measure anything accurately because the LSAT is a joke, undergrad GPAs are vastly different, and you have a magic "bonus" percent that is nothing more than a little bit of Al Gore math.

RWL: Thanks for the comment. However, the analysis does not take into account unaccredited schools in any way, so they do not affect the analysis. Nevada's difficulty is likely the result of their "conjunctive" passing rule, which requires applicants to pass each of two separate parts of the exam. This makes it more difficult to pass the exam. As for whether the LSAT is "a joke," I'm not exactly sure what you mean. The LSAT is a very good predictor of law school grades and bar passage. Perhaps you might argue all of those things are "jokes," but I suppose that depends on one's sense of humor!

I can't believe the New Jersey exam is ranked harder than New York's. Having taken both at the same time (like many of us New York law students), I'm pretty sure of this.

99.99% of my study time was for the New York Bar - I only glanced at the New Jersey Kaplan's "book" the night before. This is because New York tests on their own versions of the 6 MBE courses + like 15 other New York specific ones. New Jersey tests you on the 6 MBE courses (not even Jersey-specific) and New Jersey civil procedure.

If you study enough to pass the MBE, you're virtually guaranteed to pass the NJ bar exam. The only reason I can think of why NJ has a lower passage rate would be that there's basically only two law schools in NJ, Seton Hall and Rutgers.

This chart does not take into account that certain states allow people to take the bar without ever having gone to law school . Example, California. Cali allows people to take the bar exam with 4 years of a Law Office Study Program. In fact, these persons do not even have to have a college degree. According to The California Bar Admissions Committee statistics, these test takers have a 18% passage rate for July 2011. Foreign attorneys have have only a 21% passage rate. These numbers greatly bring overall passage rate down. So this chart is not a fair assessment because most other states do not allow this. Those who graduated law school from an ABA accredited school have a passage rate of approximately 70% for first time takers.

I meant 76% passage rate. Typo above

Hi Paula,

These figures are based on graduates of ABA-accredited schools only, so the other categories you mention do not affect the rankings.


I know I'm a bit late for the comments but I would recommend you take a look at the Puerto Rico bar passing rates. Our average for the past 4 years barely makes about 35% passing I believe.

For some states, such as Arkansas, there is a fairly good way to judge difficulty directly. The grading system here norms all the essay questions to the Multistate multiple choice exam, with a "passing" score of 135 Multistate adjusted score.
So, if 70% of the students receive a score of 135 or better on the multistate, then 70% of the students will "pass" on each essay question as well. The highest grade on each essay will be equivalent to the highest multistate score as well, and so on down. If 80% receive a grade of 135 or better, 80% pass each written question. [So, you really ought to root for everyone to do well on the multistate, but that's beside the point.]

I understand that many, but not all, states use a similar system. For each of those states, you can tell how hard they are simply by knowing what multistate grade the test "norms" to. A state "norming to 135" is harder than a state norming to 130.

So, I suggest you check that out--should not be that hard to discover.

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