Unpacking the Bar: Of Cut Scores, Competence and Crucibles

42 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2006 Last revised: 8 Dec 2012

See all articles by Gary S. Rosin

Gary S. Rosin

South Texas College of Law Houston


Bar passage rates of first-takers vary widely among both the states and the law schools. State grading practices also vary widely, particularly as to minimum passing scores ("cut scores") and whether they scale state exam components to the MultiState Bar Exam ("MBE"). The broad ranges of Bar passage rates and of state grading practices call into question the stewardship of the states over admission to the practice of law. This study uses generalized linear modeling, with a logit link function, to isolate the effect on the Bar passage rates of ABA-approved law schools of three factors: (i) the LSAT scores of entering classes, (ii) state cut scores; and (iii) scaling to the MBE. LSAT scores of a law school's entering classes were the most significant factor in determining a law school's Bar passage rate. But differences in state cut scores, and in MBE scaling, are associated with large differences in the Bar passage rates of law schools with equivalent LSAT scores. This suggests that the states need to work together with a view to reaching a national consensus as to the elements of minimum competence, and how best to measure them.

Keywords: Bar passage, Bar exam, cut scores, scaling, equating, academic qualifications, law schools

JEL Classification: H79, I28, J44, K39, K49, L84, Z00

Suggested Citation

Rosin, Gary S., Unpacking the Bar: Of Cut Scores, Competence and Crucibles. 1st Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper, Journal of the Legal Profession, Vol. 32, 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=988429

Gary S. Rosin (Contact Author)

South Texas College of Law Houston ( email )

1303 San Jacinto
Houston, TX 77002
713-646-1854 (Phone)
713-646-1766 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.stcl.edu/rosin/Gary_Rosin.htm

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