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No immediate plans to change cut score; two new studies to be completed Summer 2019

From the National Law Journal, published today.  Upshot:  definitely no changes to the Cal Bar cut score for February 2019 or July 2019.  As to the future, who knows.  As my old accounting professor used to say, nothing exists until it does.


Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said Tuesday the state Supreme Court has no immediate plans to reconsider the passing score on the California bar exam despite a historically low success rate on the July test.

Fielding questions at her annual meeting with reporters in her San Francisco chambers, Cantil-Sakauye said the high court will wait to see the conclusions of two related studies, one assessing California law school students and the other considering what skills contemporary lawyers need and how those traits can be tested, before considering any action.

The pass rate on the July 2018 exam plunged to 40.7 percent, marking a 67-year low for the summer test.

“I understand what those numbers mean, and it’s frightening,” Cantil-Sakauye said. “So we’re continuing to take a review.”

More test-takers have failed the California bar exam than have passed it in each of the last five years. In the wake of those results, law school deans and some legislators last year pleaded with the Supreme Court to reduce the exam’s required passing score, or cut score—the second-highest in the nation. The justices said then that they were “not persuaded” that changing the score was necessary “ at this time.”

“We know we still need to take a look and we’re waiting for those [studies'] results to come in,” Cantil-Sakauye said. “And then we’ll sit around this table, all seven of us, and we’ll talk about these results and whether or not we should lower the exam score.”

The dismal pass rate on the July exam reignited the debate over the California test and its pass rate, which is significantly lower than those in other states. The state bar is nearing completion of a report analyzing data about law school students, their LSAT scores and other factors that may influence bar exam scores. The second job-skills analysis is expected to be completed in the summer of 2019.

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