Law Student Successfully Sues State Bar Over Grading Policy

The formula the Committee of Bar Examiners uses to score both the Bar Exam and the First Year Law Students Exam, commonly known as the Baby Bar, has been the subject of confusion and debate for years. The Committee uses a scaling formula intended to make the examinees’ scores center on that of previous exam administrations, PLUS/MINUS the difference between how the current group did on the multiple-choice repeater questions.

Interpreting this formula boggles the mind, which is why it has been the subject of debate for so long. As this writer understands it, there are a certain amount of control multiple-choice questions that reappear on each exam, year-to-year. The Committee uses these control repeater questions as a basis for its scaling formula.

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For the sake of explanation, let’s say there are 10 repeater questions out of 100. The calculation of the previous year’s results of those repeater questions averaged 7 of those 10 as correct. In comparison, the results of the current year’s repeater questions averaged 6 of those 10 as correct. For the current year, the Committee would choose a scaling formula from those results to establish a center score. Once the multiple choice section is scaled on this basis, the Committee creates a scale for the written portion that has the “same” center and the same standard deviation as the multiple choice section, which is the basis upon which the Committee claims that each section has an equal, 50/50 ratio.

Mr. Corbett took the June, 2016 Baby Bar and failed by one point. As the scaling formula pertains to Mr. Corbett's results, had he taken the October, 2015 Baby Bar exam, he would have passed with the same score he achieved on the June, 2016 exam that he failed. Admittedly, this scaling formula defies reason. The result of such a calculation resulted in a failure that would have been a pass 8 months earlier. Further, the result was not a true 50/50 ratio. Rather, it was a ratio dependent on how the June, 2016 results compared with the previous year’s results.

As a consequence of Mr. Corbett’s lawsuit, the State Bar and Mr. Corbett reached a settlement agreement that will result in the State Bar’s agreement to rewrite its grading policy to fully disclose its “normalization” process so examinees understand how their scores are actually calculated.

Despite Mr. Corbett’s setback on the June, 2016 Baby Bar Exam, together with the time and effort it took him to litigate this matter, he studied with the Fleming's Baby Bar Review course and materials, and went on to successfully pass the October, 2016 Baby Bar exam. He continues his law school studies at Northwestern California University College of Law, an online law school whose administrative offices are located in Sacramento, CA. 

For a complete description of the lawsuit and the settlement agreement, please go to

To understand the scaling formula published by the State Bar on January 11, 2017, please go to