Maine Bar Results Are Out. The Pass Rate Is Way Up.
Posted by Edmund R. Folsom
December 13, 2020
Good new can be hard to come by in 2020, but the results of Maine’s September 2020 bar exam are straight up good stuff. Maine’s 31% pass rate on the February 2019 bar exam was the lowest pass rate in the U.S. for a February 2019 bar exam. Maine’s pass percentage on the July 2019 bar exam was a dismal 52%, followed by 50% on the February 2020 bar exam. February pass rates tend to be worse than July pass rates, because there are more repeat takers on the February exam and because repeat takers don’t do as well as a group as first-time takers.
Sometime between the July 2019 exam and the February 2020 exam, Maine reduced the “cut” or passing score for acceptance to the Maine bar from 276 to 270. To explain, Maine now administers the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), along with most of the 50 states. One portion of the UBE is called the “Multistate Bar Exam” (MBE) consisting of a fairly brutal day-long set of multiple-choice questions. Maine has used the MBE for a long, long time, but Maine used to create its own questions for the second day of the exam. Some states still do. Now, Maine administers the UBE and the rest of what makes up the UBE just like all the other states that use the UBE. But each state that administers the UBE gets to decide what “cut” score it requires for admission to its bar. Until recently, Maine chose a cut score of 276. That was the second highest UBE score in the U.S. – only Alaska’s was higher at 280. What was the point?
At 270, Maine’s UBE cut score is now in line with the cut score in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont. Connecticut’s is a slightly lower 266. Maine’s lower cut score doesn’t seem to have made a huge difference for its February 2020 exam takers, but the lower cut must have helped create the results recently released for Maine’s September exam (there was no July exam this year in Maine – instead the exam was administered in September due to COVID-19 concerns). Maine’s September pass rate is 86%! According to the Bangor Daily News, students from the University of Maine School of Law passed at a rate of more than 90%, with 48 of 53 passing!
Nationally, there were very few people who sat for the July 2020 bar exam, but among those who did the average score on the MBE rose 5 points to 146.1. MBE scores have been crashing nationwide for several years now, so the significant rise among the small number of July takers is also very good news. There’s some speculation that the pandemic left test takers with little to distract them from the full-time drudgery of studying for the bar exam. Whatever the reason, things are finally looking up on the bar exam front. It simply isn’t good to graduate people from law school and have them fail the bar exam at a rate anywhere near 50%. May the up-trend continue.
Congratulations to those of you who blew the exam away in these weirdest of times!