Pass Rate for U.S. Bar Exam Falls Again

Just 78% of first-time exam takers succeeded in 2022, with racial gap remaining a concern

The pass rate for U.S. bar exams dropped in 2022 for the second year in a row, the American Bar Association (ABA) has announced.

The figures released last month reveal that only 78% of first-time takers passed the exam on their first try, down from 80% in 2021 and 84% in 2020.

However, the difference evens out in the percentage of those who pass the bar within two years of graduation. This “ultimate bar pass rate” remained steady at 91%.

The figures are an aggregation of bar exam pass rates from across the country. Annual pass rate comparisons have been complicated by the pandemic, which led to many bar exams being conducted online or in modified format in 2020 and 2021.

The attorney licensing test has faced calls for reform in recent years, with statistics showing a widening racial gap in pass rates. In 2021, 85% of white JD graduates passed the bar exam on their first take, compared to only 61% of Black graduates.

The New York state Appellate Division, for example, announced this month that it would revise a bar admission question requiring exam takers to disclose all previous encounters with law enforcement “due to the disproportionate rates of policing and prosecution experienced in communities of color.”


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