Your Bar Score Letter
Pass or Fail
On a Thursday in November, many California bar exam candidates received a letter from the Committee of Bar Examiners stating “…you were unsuccessful on the July 2022 California Bar Examination.” This should come as no shock to you as you already looked online, saw the results, and spent some time alternating between tears, frustration, and disappointment. BarMD is here to help you interpret your bar score letter.
Let’s interpret your bar score.
Your letter can help you figure out what to focus on going forward to properly allocate your time and resources in the areas where you need the most help. With the right direction and preparation, you can build the confidence to not only take the bar again, but you will pass.
First, a refresher on bar scoring.
You need to achieve a total of 1390 scaled or better to pass the exam. The exam is broken into two parts for scoring purposes. The written portion of the exam (essays and PTs) is worth 50% of your grade. The detailed breakdown is as follows:
- Your five essays are worth 80% of your written score and 40% of your overall exam score.
- Your performance test, or PT, is double-weighted, meaning one PT counts for two essays.
- Your PT makes up 20% of your written score and 10% of your overall bar exam score.
The Takeaway: good PTs can carry you and bad PTs will guarantee you will take the exam again.
The MBE also makes up 50% of your total score. Because it’s worth half of your score, it is difficult to score well enough on the MBE to overcome serious writing deficits. You can score slightly over 1500 on the MBE, but still fail because your written score was in the high-1200s. BarMD teaches students how to improve their MBE score by breaking down the question to a narrow controversy and teaches a methodical process by which students truly have to demonstrate they understand what is being tested.
Written scores are broken down by graded event. You’ll see a score for each essay and PT. Sometimes you’ll see scores in the second read column. A second read means your scaled written score was at least 1350 (within 40 points of passing) but did not reach the required 1390. If you fall between a 1350 and 1390, all of your answers were read a second time by a different set of graders. Scores are then averaged and if your score after two readings is 1390 or higher, you pass. I have seen a 75 scored down to 55. All of your mistakes become obvious. No amount of pretty formatting or headings can hide the fact that you incorrectly invalidated a will and the property passed through intestacy and ended up in the hands of the testator’s brother whom he hated for stealing his wife.
Bar Scoring Formula
To determine your scaled score, the bar uses a formula to make sure the scores stay constant. Here is the formula used for the July 2022 bar exam:
Written scaled score = (Raw written score x 4.5926) – 581.4888
The number needed to get to 1390 on the written portion was 61.325. This means you needed to average 61.325 across all written graded assignments, and a total scaled score of 429.275 on the written portion. If you got a 430, should you be happy? I would not be. Scores to hit 1390 can be much higher. Repeating a 430 may not be good enough in February, especially considering applicants needed a 440 to pass the February 2022 exam. If you did well on the written portion in February, you simply cannot afford to rest on your laurels and ignore essay and PT practice.
Previously, bar candidates were given a raw MBE score and sub-scores for each of the six MBE topics. Now, the bar only provides scaled MBE scores. Why does the bar use scaled scores? The idea is that scaled scores balance out the difficulty of the exam so that, in theory, no exam is harder than another. When the Bar provided a scoring table, the number of correct scores needed to achieve a scaled 1440 (the passing score at the time) ranged from 126 to 135. If you divide your scaled MBE score by 10 or 11 points, that should give you a rough idea of how many correct answers you got out of the 100 scored MBE questions.
Scaled scores are deceiving. In February 2011, you need to score 128 answers correct to reach 1440. If you scored 120 correct answers, your scaled score would be 1372. That gap seems greater than just 8 correct answers. This is why you should not be too hard on yourself. If all of the numbers and equations above overwhelmed or confused you, you should review your score letter with a bar exam expert.
BarMD Can Help
BarMD ensures examinees enter the test with the skills they need to craft the ideal bar essay or performance test. Students complete numerous practice exams, all of which are reviewed by a staff of experts— legal writing professors, honors graduates of top law schools, and practicing attorneys. Every student receives a wealth of individualized comments. And these are designed to push them to the next level of essay writing.
BarMD’s revolutionary method of teaching takes students beyond the “memorize and regurgitate” formula. You’ll learn how to issue spot like never before— a skill crucial to both MBE and bar writing performance. Your analysis will be pristine. Your structure will be perfect. With our help, you will maximize your score.