The California State Bar has posted the stats for the February 2009 bar exam (PDF). The examinees have all discovered whether or not they have passed. The full list of those who passed will be made public on Sunday morning.
The pass rate for this last administration was 33.5%. To put that in perspective, the pass rate for the February 2008 exam was 39.6%; for the February 2007 exam, 36.8%; and for the February 2006 exam, 39.0%. This year's pass rate is the lowest since the 33.4% in February of 2002, and the second lowest since the 28.1% in the Spring of 1987.
Generally, the February bar exam is calibrated to compensate for the July bar exam of the previous year: if the July exam was too "easy", the February exam is made "harder"; if the July exam was too "hard", the February exam is made "easier". Since the July 2008 exam had a passage rate of 61.7%, which is the highest since the 62.9% of July 1997, that may have been an incentive to make this past February administration harder.
On the other hand, the February 1998 exam had a pass rate of 40.0%, so what gives? Perhaps, then, the exams are controlled for number of passing examinees. The July 1997 + February 1998 exams had, respectively, 4,581 and 1,558 people passing, for a total of 6,139 qualifications. The two most recent administrations produced 5,330 passes in July 2008, and 1,368 in February 2009, for a total of 6,698 qualifications. This indicates an increase of less than 9% in the number of qualifications, which seems to track the population growth of California.
Congratulations to those who passed!