Close up of student taking notes for an exam

60% Pass Rate for St. Francis Bests Every Other Category — Congratulations to Our Graduates!

Results of the February 2019 California Bar Exam are out, and St. Francis School of Law graduates continued their outstanding performance on this very tough exam with a 60% pass rate. The California General Bar Exam is the toughest bar exam in the nation, owing to the high minimum passing score and demanding grading system.

How Does the California Bar Exam Work?

Like most state’s bar exams, the California General Bar Exam is two days, one day of multiple-choice testing (the Multistate Bar Exam, or MBE) and another day of essays and performance tests. California requires applicants to achieve a 1440 combined scaled score to pass. Only one state — Delaware requires a higher minimum score (1450). This high “cut score”, as it is known, brings about much lower pass rates in California, recently in the range of 30% to 45%.

Results of the 2019 February California Bar Exam

In February, first-time takers of the California General Bar Exam who graduated from California ABA-approved law schools achieved a pass rate of 45%. The highest pass rate for any reported sub-category — that is, a group of schools, like in-state ABA-approved law schools — was 48%, achieved by first-time takers from ABA-approved law schools located outside California. These takers typically come from highly acclaimed national law schools like American University, Tulane, and the University of Michigan. Considering their pedigree, 48% seems like a poor showing, but the exam was clearly a “killer”, as so many recent California Bar Exams have been. The overall exam pass rate was just 31.4%. Out of 4,639 applicants, only 1,458 passed. That comes on the heels of a July 2018 bar exam that produced the lowest pass rate on a July exam in 67 years — 40.7%.[i] (Pass rates are typically lower on February exams, owing to the larger percentage of repeating applicants taking the February exam.)

3 of 5 St. Francis graduates taking the exam in February 2019 passed it on their first try. It is a remarkable showing on a difficult exam and the St. Francis community is extremely proud of all our graduates, and especially those passing this very tough exam. Congratulations to these remarkable alumni! Publication of overall exam statistics typically lags release of individual student results by several months, so it is impossible at this time to compare St Francis’s graduates’ results to those of students at other specific schools. But it is clear that St. Francis graduates continued their dominance of the very tough California General Bar Exam in February 2019.

How Does St. Francis Successfully Prepare Students for the Bar Exam?

St. Francis students prepare for the bar exam through dedicated coursework, personal mentoring, and regular practice. After four years of law study, they complete a rigorous 12-week review and practice program, including review classes and simulated exams. They know that practice is essential to success, and really dedicate themselves to it in the weeks and months before the exam. This intensive course is key to St. Francis’s success rate on the California Bar Exam.

Congratulations to all of the successful St. Francis graduates, and best wishes for next time for those planning to retake the test — you will get it next time! We are proud of you and appreciate you.

For detailed historical pass rate statistics on the California Bar Exam, see: Overall statistics for the February 2019 California Bar Exam have not yet been released, but the State Bar’s press release on the February 2019 results is here: [i] “Lowest bar pass rate for California in 67 years; other states see drop, too.” ABA Journal, November 19, 2018.

Gregory J. Brandes is a law professor and Dean of St. Francis School of Law. He is an expert on legal education and admission to the bar and is admitted to the bars of the United States Supreme Court, Colorado, and Illinois.