Bar Examinations and Bar Passage

Improving the Signal Quality of Grades

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



bar passage correlates, law school curriculum, law school performance


We investigate how improving the signal quality of grades could enhance the matching of students to selective opportunities that are awarded early in academic programs. To do so, we develop methods to measure the signal quality of grades and to estimate the impact of changes to university policies on the identification of exceptional students for these opportunities. We focus on law schools, a setting where students are awarded important academic and professional opportunities after just one year of a three year program. Using transcript data from one top law school over a 40 year period, we document large gains in identifying exceptional students if selective opportunities were awarded with more grades and if law schools were to change certain personnel, course, and grading policies. Our findings provide motivation and a blueprint for how law schools and universities more generally could leverage their internal records to ensure that fewer exceptional students miss out on selective opportunities.