Other Statistics

Bar Exam Difficulty

The "cut score" is the minimum passing score as set by each individual state. If a test-taker scores below the cut score, they fail the exam. Although not all states use the MBE's 200 point-scale for the cut score, the National Conference of Bar Examiners converts state scales to the MBE scale. We've reproduced the NCBE's table below.

Cut scores indicate bar exam difficulty. Difficulty does not refer to how challenging a state's exam is—the scaling and equating process smooths over that variance. Difficulty refers to the chances a state will consider a person minimally competent to practice law in the state based on the same performance. A hypothetical test-taker could take the bar in two states and pass one and fail the other based on nothing more than both states' cut scores. Different cut scores reflect different views on minimal competence.

Note that South Dakota recently made their bar exam dramatically tougher—and the 2013 bar passage rates on this report do not account for this change. South Dakota changed its MBE cut score from 130 to 135 and set a minimum passing standard for each section.

The list below does not include Louisiana because Louisiana does not utilize the MBE. However, industry observers indicate that it is among the most difficult exams in the country. Our data confirm: schools in Louisiana have poor bar passage rates despite relatively stronger (if not strong) entrance credentials.

StateCut Score
Delaware 145
California 144
Oregon 142
Nevada 140
Virginia 140
Idaho 140
Alaska 140
North Carolina 138.4
Rhode Island 138
Maine 138
Colorado 138
Arizona 136.5
Florida 136
Pennsylvania 136
Maryland 135.3
Arkansas 135
Washington 135
West Virginia 135
Vermont 135
Utah 135
Texas 135
Georgia 135
Ohio 135
Tennessee 135
New Hampshire 135
Massachusetts 135
Michigan 135
Wyoming 135
Montana 135
Nebraska 135
South Dakota 135*
Hawaii 134
Illinois 134
New York 133
New Jersey 133
Kansas 133
Iowa 133
DC 133
Kentucky 132
Indiana 132
Mississippi 132
Connecticut 132
Oklahoma 132
North Dakota 130
Minnesota 130
Alabama 130
Missouri 130
New Mexico 130
Wisconsin 129
South Carolina 125