The national Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) mean scaled score for February 2021 was 134.0, an increase of about 1.4 points from the February 2020 mean of 132.6. 16,759 examinees took the MBE in February 2021; of those, 1,665 took the MBE in the 18 jurisdictions that administered the exam in person, and 15,094 took the MBE in the 33 jurisdictions that administered the exam remotely. February 2021 had about 12% fewer examinees compared to the 19,122 who sat in February 2020.1

Reliability for the February 2021 exam was 0.93, slightly higher than the reliability for February 2020. (Reliability is an indicator of the consistency of a set of examination scores, with a maximum value of 1.0.)

The bar exam, like other professional licensing exams, ensures that practitioners meet minimum standards of fundamental competency. In October 2020 and February 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, NCBE took emergency action to minimize the negative impact of the pandemic on recent law graduates by offering a remote administration option. The two emergency remote administrations have successfully provided 44,000 examinees with the opportunity to become licensed to practice law upon passage of the bar exam and after meeting any other jurisdiction admission requirements. 

The remote administration option is again available to examinees testing in a growing number of jurisdictions for the July 2021 bar examination. A list of which jurisdictions will administer the July 2021 examination remotely or in person is available on the NCBE website.

NCBE’s mission is to promote fairness, integrity, and best practices in admission to the legal profession for the benefit and protection of the public. The bar exam serves the public interest and is supported by judges, state bar associations, practicing legal professionals, and the public.

Most jurisdictions are still in the process of grading the written components of the bar exam; once this process is completed, bar exam scores will be calculated and passing decisions reported by jurisdictions. February 2021 bar examination pass rates as reported by jurisdictions are available on the NCBE website.

Graph shows the February MBE national mean scaled scores from 2017 through 2021. The score declined from 134.1 in 2017 to 132.8 in 2018. It then rose to 134.0 in 2019 before falling again to 132.6 in 2020. It rose again to 134.0 in 2021.Graph shows the number of February MBE examinees from 2017 through 2021. The number declined from 22,269 in 2017 to 21,111 in 2018. It then rose slightly to 21,316 in 2019 before falling again to 19,122 in 2020 and 16,759 in 2021.

  1. In the past, NCBE has also provided MBE score information broken into first-time and repeat test taker categories. Repeat test takers are defined as those who were identified as having taken an MBE in any jurisdiction at least once prior to the current administration. This data is not presented here due to the fact that a significant number of examinees took a remote bar exam in fall 2020 that either included only a limited set of MBE questions (in the case of NCBE’s remote testing option) or did not include the MBE at all (in the case of jurisdiction-drafted remote exams). Because these remote testing options were scored by the individual jurisdictions that administered them, NCBE does not maintain MBE records for the examinees who sat for those examinations. (Go back)


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