Average MBE Score Drops to Record Low in February 2018

February 2018 Average MBE Score Drops to Record Low

According to recently released statistics by the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners, the mean MBE scaled score for the total population for the February 2018 bar exam was 132.775.  This is a new record low in the history of MBE scores.

We have created two charts to illustrate this drop in MBE scores. The first chart shows you the data and exactly how the MBE score has dropped. We used the scale from 130 – 144, because those are scores that reflect passing MBE scores in virtually all of the fifty states. (Though Wisconsin does consider a 129 passing).

Mean MBE Scores for February Bar Exams

mean MBE score, MBE average for February 2018 bar exam

In February 2017, everyone was concerned because the mean MBE score dropped to 134, which was the lowest it had been in the history of MBE scores. Now, we have reached a new low, literally, as the score goes down even further to a 132.7. 

You can see scaled scores from recent years here:

  • February 2018: 132.7 
  • February 2017: 134.0
  • February 2016: 135.0 
  • February 2015: 136.2
  • February 2014: 138.0
  • February 2013:138.0
  • February 2012: 137.0
  • February 2011: 138.6
  • February 2010: 136.6

February 2018 Mean MBE Score – In comparison with Passing MBE scores 

In this chart, we show you the passing state MBE scores on the righthand side so you can compare the average MBE scores with passing MBE scores. For example, California technically requires a 144 to pass. Alaska, North Carolina, and Virginia require a 140. Texas, Michigan, and Massachusetts require a 135. And New York, New Jersey, and Illinois require a 133. You can see passing MBE scores by state in this post.

mean MBE score, MBE average for February 2018 bar exam

An Important Note about “Passing” MBE Scores:

Note that the vast majority of states do not require examinees to obtain a certain MBE score. So long as you receive an overall passing score on the bar exam, you will pass! For example, New York requires a 266 to pass the exam. Thus, if you received a score of 133 on the MBE and a score of 133 on the written portion, you would pass. (So, we consider a 133 a “passing” score.) However, you do not need a score of 133 on each portion of the exam. Instead, you could get a score of 140 on the written portion and 126 on the MBE and still pass. (There are some exceptions – like Kentucky requires a score of 132 minimum on the MBE. South Dakota requires a minimum score of 135. And Palau requires a minimum score of 120.)  Generally, however, the vast majority of states do not have a minimum passing MBE score and you can get to that overall passing bar exam score whichever way you choose!

What does this new MBE low mean for February 2018 bar exam test takers? 

As results are starting to trickle in, this news will no doubt make some bar exam test takers very uneasy. However, remember that a national score does not mean much in terms of figuring out how an individual test taker did. There will still be students that receive scores of 180 and students that receive scores of 80. If you took the exam, remember that the national score is based on thousands and thousands of test takers, and does not indicate at all how you, personally, scored.

What does this new MBE low mean for July 2018 bar exam test takers and beyond? 

It is too early to say although we would not be surprised if the July 2018 average MBE score was also on the low side. We are not speculating as to why the bar exam score dropped lower or what this means for future bar exam takers, but if you have any thoughts, you are welcome to state them in the comments below.

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5 Comments

    CD McDonald

    So this is justification for law schools and the ABA eliminating the requirement for taking the LSAT , when that test has shown good correlation with bar passage rates? I am aware of no evidence that performance on the GRE has any meaningful correlation to bar passage rates.

    KP

    Does this consider the fact that the MBE jumped from 10 ungraded questions to 25? Of course, scores will drop because fewer questions are graded, which means each question is worth more, so missing one now causes the test taker to lose more points than missing one prior to the recent change.

    Ashley Heidemann

    That’s a great point. I think you may be right. The NCBE doesn’t reveal the scoring it uses. However, the change occurred in February 2017 (where there was a dip in the average MBE score) and then the July 2017 MBE average went up. So, it seems unusual that the average MBE score is down again, given that it didn’t correllate with the timing of the change exactly. But you are right that this probably contributes to it! Great point.

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