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UF Law graduates perform well on spring Florida Bar Exam and MPRE

The Florida Supreme Court has released the results of the February 2011 Florida Bar Examination, which consists of the General Bar Examination (Part A and Part B) and Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). The University of Florida Levin College of Law had the highest passage rate on the General Bar Exam and the second-highest on the MPRE. But this is not a reason to brag, according to UF Law Dean Robert Jerry.

"I'm pleased that our graduates performed well, of course. But I'm always surprised how results on the spring exams are sometimes described since so few graduates take the February/March tests compared to the summer exams. Any mathematician knows the law of small numbers makes these results highly unreliable as a basis for comparing schools," said Jerry. "I am particularly disappointed that publicity tends to stress percentages rather than numbers, since that gives underserved validity to the results by implying that similar numbers of test-takers participate in the spring and summer exams."

The Florida Bar Board of Examiners, an administrative arm of the State Supreme Court, conducts exams every February and July for law school graduates seeking to practice law in Florida.

This year, 873 law graduates took the February 2011 exam, compared to 3,360 who took the July 2010 test. This disparity holds true every year and for every school.

To ensure consistency in evaluating bar exam performance, it is recommended that February and July exam results in the same year be combined to ensure accurate class-by-class comparisons. This is what the American Bar Association asks law schools to report for accreditation purposes.

Of the 34 UF Law grads who took the February 2011 examination, 31 passed, resulting in a 91.2 percent pass rate compared to the state's overall pass rate of 79.5 percent. UF Law was also first on the July 2010 Florida Bar Exam. Out of 310 UF Law grads who took the July exam, 269 passed (86.8 percent), which was several points above the 79.2 percent pass rate for all first-time takers.

Since 1996, which is as far back as current record-keeping goes, UF Law's combined February-July pass rate has always been above the overall pass rate, and on only two out of 31 tests in that time period — both February exams — has the UF Law pass rate been lower than the overall rate.

"Numerical analysis can be a helpful tool when evaluating the quality and progress of a school," said Jerry. "But it is only one tool among many, and great care must be taken to understand the origin and context of any numbers used, particularly in rankings such as U.S. News and World Report, and to realize that numbers alone will never convey the true value of any institution."