Bar Examinations and Bar Passage

Why the Bar Examination Fails to Raise the Bar

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



minimum competence


"This article does not take the position that we would be better off without a bar exam, although there may well be a case to be made in support of that proposition. There is enough evidence that public and the profession’s confidence in legal academia is not universally strong enough to support turning the decision on licensing over to law schools alone. However, a review of what is generally tested on bar exams does suggest that it is unlikely that current bar exams are testing the right things in the right way as a proper measurement of competence to practice law. Certainly the current test does not seem to be asking questions that should allow anyone to conclude that applicants who fail are 'less able' to practice law, at least as ordinary speakers of the English language use that phrase.

"In fact, there is substantial evidence that the bar exam itself is helping shape the legal education system into one that is failing at least some of its constituents. If we want to 'raise the bar' with our professional licensing examination, we need to make sure that we are testing the skills that are important for being a competent attorney. We also want to make sure that law schools are teaching the skills that are necessary to the practice of law, not just those that will aid in the passing of an arbitrary examination." (p. 51)