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Bar-exam woes didn’t dent passage rate

Updated: September 7, 2012

More than 72 percent of those who took the North Carolina bar exam in July passed, putting the passage rate for the plagued exam on par with rates from past summers. The N.C. Board of Law Examiners delivered the results quickly, mailing pass/fail letters to test-takers by the third week in August, maintaining its reputation for prompt reporting.

Board chairman James Van Camp said once the board decided how to address the effects of a power outage that interrupted an afternoon exam, proceedings moved smoothly.

“We were ready to crank in the numbers to our system,” he said.

The blackout during the July exam created chaos for proctors and testers, who were nearing the end of the second essay-question session when the lights went out. To compensate for the interruption, the board gave testers the benefit of the doubt. Graders evaluated all 12 essay questions, six from the morning and six from the afternoon. If the scores from the afternoon test dragged an examinee’s score below passing, they tossed out those six.

The essay score accounted for 60 percent of the grade, while scores from the multiple-choice multistate exam counted for 40 percent. Van Camp said more testers passed when just the Tuesday morning essay scores were counted than when all 12 questions were counted, but he was unsure how many more. Subjects of the afternoon questions included criminal law, secure transactions, constitutional law, contracts and torts, he said.

The board uses a team-grading system that involves 12 teams of two graders divvying up the responses to each question. The evaluators establish criteria for the grading before the evaluation process begins. A passing score was 350 points, up from 346 points last year. Van Camp said the current board was just following the plan of a previous board when it raised the passing score in February.

He said the number of challenges filed regarding the scores has been minimal.

“There’s always some,” he said. “I think there’ve been a few, but not many up to this point.”

Those who failed the exam can request a breakdown of their score from the board.

Here’s a breakdown of the passage rates by in-state school. The total of 1,194 results excludes those that have been sealed. The board reported in July that 1,217 people sat for the exam.

The results: 866 of 1,194 examinees passed (73 percent). First-time takers numbered 1,003, with 790 passing (78.8 percent). Repeat takers numbered 191, with 76 passing (40 percent).

Campbell University Law School grads topped the passage-rate list at 95 percent overall, with 121 of 128 first-time takers passing (94.4 percent) and two of two repeaters passing.

Wake Forest School of Law had the second-highest passage rate at 92 percent overall, with 65 of 71 first-timers passing (92 percent) and three of three repeaters passing.

UNC School of Law was third at 86 percent, with 141 of 160 first-timers passing (88 percent) and two of seven repeaters passing (26 percent).

Duke University School of Law ranked fourth at 74 percent, with 19 of 23 first-timers passing (83 percent) and one of four repeaters passing (25 percent).

Elon University School of Law came in fifth at 71 percent, with 74 of 99 first-timers passing (75 percent) and six of 14 repeaters passing (43 percent).

Charlotte Law School ranked sixth at 66 percent, with 88 of 129 first-timers passing (68 percent) and 11 of 21 repeaters passing (52 percent).

North Carolina Central University School of Law came in seventh at 54 percent, with 60 of 100 first-timers passing (60 percent) and eight of 26 repeaters passing (31 percent).

Testers with degrees from out-of-state law schools passed at a rate of 65 percent, with 222 of 293 first-timers passing (76 percent) and 43 of 114 repeaters passing (38 percent).



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