Florida bar exam results bounce back to previous pass rate

The results for the July exam were released by the Florida Supreme Court.

Photo by Akshay Chauhan on Unsplash

The pass rate for first-time takers of the July Florida bar exam has rebounded to where it was two years ago – 71.6% – and is up more than seven percentage points from last year (64.4%).

The latest results also nearly tie the first-time takers' pass rate for an online-only bar exam given in Florida in October 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. That was 71.7%. 

The results for July were released Monday by the Florida Supreme Court, which ultimately decides who becomes an attorney. Of 2,163 first-time applicants who took the full exam this July 25-26 in Tampa, 1,548 passed. 

Among Florida law schools, Florida International University College of Law came in first with the highest rate of students passing – 113 out of 124, or 91.1%. 

The Florida State University College of Law was second with 121 out of 145, or 83.4%. 

And Stetson University College of Law and the University of Florida College of Law tied for third at 80.6% each. First-time test takers, however, also include those who graduated from law schools outside Florida and others who already practice in other states. 

In Florida as in most states, the bar exam is given twice a year, in February and July. More law school graduates typically take the summer exam than the winter exam administration. 

Test scores in Florida had been trending downward over the last decade. In part, that’s because law schools nationally lowered admission standards to fill seats as the number of overall applicants declined.

Scores took a further hit during the coronavirus pandemic; “related problems mentioned by academics include getting used to online learning, isolation, anxiety and exhaustion,” the ABA Journal has previously reported

As a COVID-related precaution, the exam had temporarily moved online instead of being held in person at the Tampa Convention Center, where it has returned.

Unlike previous years, the court – which administers the test through the Florida Board of Bar Examiners – did not release the total number of exam takers. Some repeat takers do not redo all parts of the exam, but may retake only the portion they failed previously, the Board has explained. 

The Florida exam is given over two days, with one part consisting of written essays and another being a multiple-choice test called the Multistate Bar Examination. (The online test in 2020 did not include the Multistate Bar Examination.)

Applicants separately must pass a legal ethics test known as the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination. Moreover, to become an attorney, applicants not only have to pass the bar exam but also must clear an in-depth background check, generally known as a character and fitness review.