Published on September 1, 2020

July 2020 MBE Mean Score Increases

Press Release

The national Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) mean scaled score for July 2020 was 146.1, an increase of about 5 points from the July 2019 mean of 141.1. In July 2020 5,678 examinees in 23 jurisdictions sat for the MBE. The small number of examinees and jurisdictions in July 2020 (compared to the 45,334 examinees in 54 jurisdictions who tested in July 2019) was a result of the use of alternative test dates in many jurisdictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the comparison of July 2020 MBE performance with July 2019 performance across all jurisdictions, a comparison was made between 2020 and 2019 performance in the 23 jurisdictions that administered the exam this July. Results of this comparison were largely the same as those observed with the full sample, although the differences between 2019 and 2020 were smaller for this group than when 2020 performance was compared with total 2019 results: overall, performance improved by about 3.5 points over 2019 for test takers in the 23 jurisdictions that administered the exam this July.

The percentage of examinees who were likely first-time test takers* in July 2020 (about 75%) was about 6% higher compared to the limited July 2019 cohort and about 10% higher than the full 2019 cohort.

The percentage of examinees in July 2020 who had likely taken the bar exam previously (about 14%) was about 7% lower compared to the limited July 2019 cohort and about 12% lower than the full 2019 cohort.

The average increase in mean MBE scores from July 2019 to July 2020 is attributable to increased performance across all groups of test takers examined. The increase in the number of first-time test takers and corresponding decrease in the number of repeat test takers may also have been a factor, as the performance of first-time test takers tends to be stronger, on average, than that of repeaters.

Reliability, an indicator of the consistency of a set of examination scores with a maximum value of 1.0, was 0.93 for the July 2020 MBE, similar to previous July MBE administrations. 

Jurisdictions are currently in the process of grading the written components of the bar exam; once this process is completed, bar exam scores will be calculated and passing decisions reported by jurisdictions.

As part of its COVID-19 response, NCBE is providing jurisdictions with exam materials for two additional bar exams in September. On September 9-10, nine jurisdictions will administer the exam to about 2,300 examinees. On September 30-October 1, five jurisdictions will administer the exam to about 500 examinees. NCBE will release MBE mean score data for these additional exams when it becomes available. NCBE is also providing a limited set of exam materials for an emergency remote exam for local admission to be held on October 5-6 by 20 jurisdictions. Because that exam will be scored by the individual jurisdictions that administer it, NCBE will not have MBE mean score data to report for the remote option.

Nine jurisdictions that administered the exam in July are also administering a second exam on one of the three September or October dates in order to give their candidates an additional option to take the exam during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seven jurisdictions that traditionally administer the MBE have chosen not to do so for their July or alternatively scheduled exam administrations or have canceled their exams until 2021. A map showing bar exam status by jurisdiction is available on our COVID-19 Update page.

* The first-time and repeat test taker information calculated by NCBE is an approximation based on biographic data and the NCBE Number, which have not been used consistently in all jurisdictions across time. Use of the NCBE Number as a unique identifier has increased steadily since it was introduced in 2011; it is now used in all but two of the jurisdictions that administer the MBE, and it identified about 99% of the July 2020 examinees. Repeat test takers are defined as those who were identified as having taken an MBE in any jurisdiction at least once prior to the current administration. However, the identification of repeat test takers is less certain in the case of earlier previous exam administrations than for more recent administrations, depending on when a jurisdiction began using the NCBE Number.

July 2020 MBE Chart Comparing Counts From 2016-2020


July 2020 MBE National Mean Scaled Scores Chart Comparing 2016-2020