Bar Examinations and Bar Passage

Speed (Not the Drug, and It Does Not Kill, But It Can Cause Stress)

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



bar exam design, psychometrics


In summary, we have no reason to believe that the MBE is a speeded examination, whether we examine failure to reach the final item, straight-line answers, or declines in performance on items at the end compared to those in the beginning. None of the indexes assessing patterns at the end of the exam reach anywhere near the 10% level traditionally used to define a test as speeded. Comparisons of the percent correct on the last 10 items versus the first 10 items for the 2014 examinations found at most a 4% reduction in performance in July, but that is counterbalanced by a 2% increase in February. The reading rate required to complete the MBE in the time allotted is less than 100 words per minute, a rate that would be expected of students somewhere between the first and second grades. Finally, the language used on the examination is well within the education level that should be expected of graduating law students, being at the most targeted at the second year of college.