There is no test I’ve taken as stressful as the Illinois Bar Exam. I’ve never studied harder for anything in my life. I’ve never been more stressed to open a letter as I was when I got the results of my test. If I passed I knew that I’d never have to take a real test again for the rest of my life. I love being a lawyer, but didn’t love being a student. I was also broke so if I didn’t pass I would have really been screwed. Thankfully I did pass and haven’t had to think about it since. The only stressful tests in my life are my son’s Algebra exams.
If I recall correctly, around 90% of test takers passed in Illinois when I took the exam in 1997. That success rate has been dropping ever since. This past year, only 72% of those who attempted the Illinois test passed. Out of those who were first time test takers only 77% passed. In comparison, in in 2009, 89% of test takers passed. Even more interesting about this trend, are the numbers nationwide. In 2008 76% passed and in 2015 only 63% of national test takers actually passed the bar exam in the state they were testing for.
Can you imagine putting all that work in and paying all that money for school and not being able to practice law?
There have been some changes in the overall scoring process in Illinois. This change was to help those who may have scored poorly on the essay portion, still have an opportunity to pass on the multiple-choice portion. No one really knows what is causing the scores to continue to drop, and many questions as to the why of it have been raised. Schools and the Illinois Board are working together to research what can be done to improve passage rates.
Is the bar set too high? Or is the education being provided lacking? Taking the bar exam may be one of the most stressful tests ever taken. The waiting period that once seemed like forever as potential attorneys waited for the snail mail letter to come, now has been surpassed, as the entire process is online. Does the online version add to that stress? Whatever the cause is less attorneys are passing the Illinois bar exam year after year.
I don’t know that the world will suffer by less attorneys being around, at least not now when there are so many of us. But if we are going to admit all of these kids in to law school, they should have a realistic shot at pursuing their career when done.
Or you can always move to Wisconsin. I assume it’s still the way it was when I was in law school that if you graduate from one of their schools you automatically pass the bar for that state.