Which States Have The Easiest Bar Exams?
A while back we did a post on which states have the hardest bar exams. This week we follow up with a discussion of which states have the easiest bar exams! Now surprisingly, this list was actually much harder to compile. When considering difficulty, there are many factors that can make an exam harder, like unique portions or testing conditions. However, once you get passed those that are labeled as “hard,” most bar exams become quite similar. They administer the same standard portions, no surprising conditions, and there’s really nothing interesting about them. So the main focus on creating the list of easiest bar exams had to be standard bar pass rate. That’s one thing that every state has.
Which States Have The Easiest Bar Exams?
Interestingly, many states with traditionally high passage rates suffered a decline in 2016. It’s too early to know for sure why. Maybe that instance of the UBE, or other standardized components, was just harder. It was also the first year administering the UBE for many states, which could play a significant role. Students were unfamiliar with the exam and had little history within the state to go off of. Expect many of these numbers to continue to fluctuate.
Here is a list of some states considered to have the easiest bar exams. The states are presented in alphabetical order.
Iowa has had extraordinarily high bar passage rates during the last 10 years. In fact, 2016 was the first year that the passage rate dipped below 82% during that time frame. While the 2016 numbers were not great (68%), that could coincide with Iowa’s adoption of the UBE. It is not surprising to see numbers change a lot during that first year as students adjust. But as there is no Iowa-specific law tested on their bar exam, this state is a good choice for students looking for consistency. You won’t have to jump through special hoops for this one! Therefore, Iowa should definitely be considered one of the easiest bar exams just looking at passage rate.
Although it saw a slight dip in passage rate in 2016, Kansas’ statistics over the last 10 years still make it one of the nation’s easiest bar exams. And the 72% pass rate in 2016 is nothing to laugh at either. Still, with passage rates regularly exceeding 80%, Kansas is a solid selection if you just need to pass a bar. Kansas recently adopted the UBE (which could explain the lower 2016 numbers), which overall should make things simpler if you don’t want to learn state-specific law. There is no portion unique to Kansas on the exam – it is just straight up UBE!
Missouri’s bar passage rate was the lowest it’s been in 10 years in 2016. But when 78% is your lowest, that’s not much to be concerned about. A regular passage rate in the mid to upper 80s easily makes the list of easiest bar exams. Missouri is a UBE state, and will not test any state-specific law on the bar. However, applicants must take the Missouri Educational Component prior to sitting for the bar. This exam does test state law, but you are provided with study materials and you can use them when you take the test at your leisure.
4. South Dakota
Over the last 10 years, South Dakota has one of the highest bar passage rates in the country. This makes it on the surface a simple choice to include on a list of the easiest bar exams. However, the state is experiencing a somewhat alarming trend after making some changes to the exam, including increasing the minimum passing score. This state is one to keep a close eye on. Passage rates peaked at 94% in 2010 and 2011, with 99% of first time takers passing in 2010. But in 2015, the passage rate dropped significantly to 56%, and then to 50% in 2016. As mentioned earlier, many states experienced significant drops like this. It is somewhat concerning, though, as we don’t know whether these two years are merely anomalies, and the drops are large. Perhaps it is just taking students some time to adapt to the changes.
Wisconsin makes the list of easiest bar exams for a unique reason: if you attend an ABA law school in Wisconsin, you don’t have to take the bar! Students who have graduated from these universities can just apply to practice law in the state. No studying, no stressing, no grueling examination period. If that doesn’t qualify as one of the easiest bar exams… Just note that if you want to take advantage of this option, it requires significant foresight. You have to have gone to law school in Wisconsin, so a decision will need to be made at least three years before you even take the bar!
Also to be considered, with similar characteristics to Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri: Illinois, Minnesota, and New Mexico.
Laura Sigler, a JD Advising bar exam essay grader, who graduated cum laude from Wayne State University Law School wrote this post.
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