Since the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) was established, several people have asked us whether the UBE is an easier exam to pass. Should you wait until the UBE to try taking the exam.
To answer that question, we started keeping track of the passage rates before and after UBE implementation.
For those of you unfamiliar with the legal practice, each state requires passage of the state bar exam as part of the qualifications for legal certification. In the past, each state offered its own unique exam. But more recently, states are adopting the UBE (uniform bar examination) instead. The UBE is a standardized legal test with scores easily transferred across jurisdictions.
States are not obligated to implement the UBE, and many have chosen to continue using their own exam. As of March 2020, 16 states (California, Nevada, Hawai’i, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) do not use the UBE.
Those who do implement the UBE may choose to add a state-specific component requirement.
But the UBE itself is more or less consistent across member states.
The question is whether applicants are finding it easier to pass the UBE than they were the original state exam.
After reviewing initial passing rates, it does not appear that implementation of the UBE has eased the passing of the bar.
Of those states with the UBE, only Washington, DC and Oregon show consistently higher passage rates. Most states showed lower passage rates post-UBE, though some fell more than others.
Naturally, it seems that states that had fewer applicants and historically easier state exams (Alabama, North Dakota, Arizona) saw more remarkable declines. Those states known for their difficulty (e.g. DC) saw slight improvement.
We only compared July exams; there may be some difference in the winter exam.
The charts below demonstrate the three years before the UBE and all subsequent years. The red line marks when the UBE began. A couple of states do not yet have enough data to judge.