Help! I’m only in the 30th percentile. Should I be worried?

By Mike Sims,
BARBRI President

Some of the most common inquiries I get this time of year are: “How many MBE questions should I be getting correct?” or “I only answered 54 percent of the torts questions correctly last night. Am I okay?” While these are both good questions, they are not the most important one to have.

The most important question in terms of your MBE prep is: “What is my percentile ranking?”

PERCENTAGE CORRECT IS NOT PERCENTILE RANK

The distinction between percentage correct and percentile ranking is one of the most important, as well as most confusing, aspects of bar preparation.

Percentage correct is the ratio of correct-to-incorrect answers in a particular set of questions. Percentile rank is a measure of how you are doing in comparison to everyone else – the same thing as class rank in law school.

LET’S DO SOME QUICK CALCULATIONS

To better understand this, imagine completing a set of 100 MBE practice questions and correctly answering 58 of them. Is that a good or bad score? You have to calculate percentile rank to figure that out.

Imagine there were 99 other students who worked that same set of MBE questions for a total group of 100 exam takers. Seventy answered more than 58 out of the 100 questions correctly. You answered 58 correctly. And 29 students got less than 58 correct. Translation: 70 percent of the higher-scoring test takers did better than you and you performed better than the other 29 percent. In other words, you were in the 30th percentile – better than the bottom 29 percent but lower than the top 70 percent.

THEN CONSIDER NATIONAL FIRST-TIME PASSING RATES

So is being in the 30th percentile good or bad? Pass rates do vary from state to state. According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the average pass rate for first time bar takers from ABA accredited schools is 77 percent. This means the failure rate is 23 percent. Putting this in terms of percentile rankings, students who are in the bottom 23 percent – the 23rd percentile and below – do not pass the bar exam. Students in the top 77 percent – the 24th percentile and higher – pass the bar exam. With this national average measurement established, being in the 30th percentile is solidly in the passing zone.

WITH BARBRI, YOU KNOW WHERE YOU SIT ON THE CURVE

As a BARBRI student, you have a significant edge when it comes to calculating your percentile ranking. Your score on the BARBRI simulated MBE compares your performance by MBE topic and subtopic to tens of thousands of bar takers nationwide – the group you’ll be competing against on the bar exam. And our StudySmart MBE software gives you regularly updated percentile rankings each day. As a BARBRI student you really will know where you sit on the bar exam’s curve before you take it.

Over the next few weeks, you’ll work many more MBE practice questions and you’ll have a lot of chances to improve your MBE score. Between now and then, keep your eye on the right number – the percentile ranking.