Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why Did So Many People Flunk the Bar Exam This Year?

Bloomberg Businessweek reports:
The most recent bar exam test results are in, and they are ugly. In several states, people who took the bar in July were more likely to fail than those who took it last year, and scores on one portion of the test dropped to their lowest point in 10 years.

Are America’s law graduates really getting dumber? The people who put together the bar exam seem to think so.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners, a nonprofit that prepares one of the state-specific multiple-choice sections in which scores dropped dramatically, sent a curt message to law school deans in October. “The results are correct,” wrote Erica Moeser, the group’s president, in an Oct. 23 memo. “The group that sat in July 2014 was less able than the group that sat in July 2013,”

It’s technically true that this year’s crop of grads was “less able” than before, if you use their pre-law-school test scores as a proxy for their smarts. The median LSAT score among students at American law schools has declined every year from 2010 to 2013, according to an analysis by Jerry Organ, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas. Last year, Organ found, law schools admitted 50 percent more students with low LSAT scores than they did three years ago.

Those numbers suggest that students might have been less prepared, but the figures may not be dramatic enough to explain this year’s bar results. Organ analyzed how LSAT scores have tracked with scores on the exam in the past, and he found that this year’s J.D.s should have performed slightly worse. Instead, they bombed.
It appears the LSAT is an excellent predictor of many things! Should the federal government be giving out student loans to people with low LSAT scores? As Professor Glenn Reynolds has warned , the higher education bubble is here.