Statistics on the 2014 Bar Examinations
by Thads Bentulan
RP vs US Bar
The Philippine bar exam is the probably one of the hardest bar exams in the world. Why? The “real unadjusted success rate” of the Philippine bar ranges from 5% in 2007 to 6.7% in 2012 to 13.3% in 2013 and 11.4% in 2014. The usual range is between 5% to 8% real unadjusted success rate. That’s about 300 to 400 passers out of 6,000 takers. Due to this low success rate, the Supreme Court regularly issues an en banc resolution lowering the passing score from 75.00 to, say, 73.00, as in the case of the 2014 bar.
On the other hand, the American bar is supervised by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) which is a non-profit organization, not a bar association, and not the state or federal Supreme Court. The NCBE creates and scores the multiple-choice questions. In most states, the bar is only a two-day exam. On the first day is the written exam, and on the second day is the multiple choice test (MCQ).
This is not the time to discuss it fully, but the subject coverage of the Philipine bar covering eight major subjects is extremely broader than that of the American bar which has around four subjects only. And two of these subjects are just minor components of one Philippine bar subject. In terms of preparation and study time, the difference is huge.
By the way, the NCBE raised worrisome issues recently, because the performance of the American examinees have deteriorated. Typically, there are two exams per year in most states. In the last ten previous bar exams, the average success rate of the California bar is 48% (average number of examinees is 6,500 per bar) and that of New York bar is 58% (average of 7,700 examinees).
Particularly with respect to the 2014 bar, the US national bar success rate was 64%; with California 47% and New York 60%. The states with the highest success rates are Marianas Islands 88%, Missouri 84%, New Mexico and Iowa 83%, Kansas 82%, New Hampshire 81%, and Utah 80%. The lowest is Puerto Rico 39%. By the way, 33% of the NY examinees graduated from foreign schools such as the Philippines; California 14%.
As you can see, even their lowest in America is more than double the success rate in the Philippine bar. And they only have two days for the bar and the second day are MCQ only.
The Americans are worried about success rates from 80% to 88%? Is the USA a diploma mill of lawyers? That’s nothing compared to the Philippine 5% to 13% success rate. That’s how hard the Philippine bar is. You may be tempted to say that our examinees are not intellectually at par with the Americans but if you have systemic rate of unadjusted 5%-13% passers over the last 20 years, then that is no longer an “human intellectual level” issue but a “systemic difficult exam” issue.
Bar vs. Medical Board
The medical board exams is the comparable exam to the bar because both are given to post-graduate degree holders. In the last ten medical board exams the average was 64% success rate. In particular, for 2014, the success rate for medicine is 81% compared to 11.43% of the bar. So for 2014, only 19% failed the medicine board; only 11% passed the bar. That’s a diametrical pass-fail ratio.
But let’s look at actual head counts. Only 512 out of 2,730 failed in the medical board while only 684 passed the bar, or a mortality of 5,300 individuals out of 5,984! Remember our example at the outset of an examinee with a grade of 79 in the bar which would have been pathetic in the medical or CPA board? That person is among the top 85th rank while 5,300 perished. That’s how impressive that grade is.
The success rate in law is so small that it is just equivalent to the failure rate in medicine. Can we say that, as a group, the barristers are not as knowledgeable as the medical graduates? Or that the Philippine barristers are not as well-equipped as their American counterparts? Or, is there something wrong with the current bar format that reflected a high systemic failure rate?