Is the UBE easier than other Bar Exams?

30 Jul

Since the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) was established, several people have asked me whether the UBE is an easier exam to pass — should they wait until the UBE to try taking the exam.

I’ve been rather curious myself, so I started keeping track of the passage rates before and after UBE implementation.

For those of you unfamiliar with the legal practice, each state requires passage of the state bar exam as part of the qualifications for legal certification. Although in the past, each state offered its own unique exam — the UBE is a standardized legal test with scores easily transferred across jurisdictions.

States are not obligated to implement the UBE, and many have chosen to continue using their own exam. Those who do do implement the UBE may also choose to add a state-specific component requirement. But the bar exam itself is more or less consistent across the member states.

The question is whether applicants are finding it easier to pass the UBE than they were the original state exam.

After reviewing initial passing rates, it does not appear that implementation of the UBE has eased the passing of the bar.

Of those states that have the UBE, only Washington, DC and Oregon show consistently higher passage rates. Most of the states in fact show lower passage rates post-UBE, though some fell more than others. Naturally, it seems that states that had fewer applicants and potentially less difficult exams (Alabama, North Dakota, Arizona) saw more remarkable declines. Those states known for the difficulty of their exam (e.g. DC) saw slight improvement.

I only compared July exams, not February so there may be some different in the winter exam.

The charts below demonstrate the three years before the UBE and all subsequent years. A couple of states do not yet have enough data to come.

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