What Do the Results of the February 2018 Bar Exam Mean?

The results of the February 2018 bar exam were released last week. The following will help you gain a better understanding of their significance.

The most significant cause for decline in pass rate of NSL graduates on the February 2018 bar is the decrease in the number of NSL graduates taking the bar for the first time. For the past ten years, most Henry Term students who graduated in December took the bar exam for the first time in February. However, the last Henry Term students graduated in December 2016 and took the bar in February 2017.

The following table illustrates the effects of the change in participation.

Total Takers % Pass 1st Time Takers % Pass Re-takers % Pass
Feb. 2017 128 36% 49 55% 79 24%
Feb. 2018 87 14% 11 36% 76 11%


The following table demonstrates that the success rate for re-takers declines significantly based on the number of bar exams taken.

No. of Attempts

% Pass







4 or More


Even though the bar exam continues to be challenging, every student admitted to the Nashville School of Law can pass the bar exam. Success requires focused commitment for four years – from the first day of orientation to the last final exam and beyond. Students must be ready to immerse themselves in every course and to set aside the time needed to master every subject and to prepare for the bar exam.

The school’s current curriculum, introduced last year, provides the ingredients for success on the bar exam. During your course of study you will have the opportunity to

  • develop your critical legal thinking skills;
  • improve your writing skills;
  • take a course in every subject tested on the bar exam;
  • refine your test-taking skills on your mid-term and final exams, as well as on practice bar exams;
  • participate in Advanced Legal Studies, which provides a systematic review of all subjects tested on the bar exam;
  • participate in our new Bar Exam Workshop; and
  • have access to all BARBRI bar prep materials, including the online practice exercises.

When all is said and done, the difference between passing and failing the bar exam is related directly to each person’s tenacity and commitment to begin preparing for the bar exam from the first day of law school. As Benjamin Franklin once observed, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Beware of the following myths about passing the bar exam:

(1)       You won’t pass the bar unless your LSAT score is 150 or higher.

There may be some correlation between LSAT scores and ultimate success on the bar exam, but there is no causal connection. The average LSAT score of the NSL graduates who passed the bar examination for the past several years has been 150 or below. By the same token, having an LSAT score higher than 150 does not guarantee bar passage.

(2)       If I receive passing grades in my law school classes, I can pass the bar.

Academic success greatly enhances, but does not guarantee, passing the bar exam. There is a correlation between class rank and success on the bar exam. Persons who graduate in the top half of their class have a higher success rate than students in the bottom half of the class.

(3)       The Advanced Legal Studies and Bar Exam Workshop are too hard and require more time than they are worth.

Courses similar to these are offered by many other law schools. Their purpose is to improve test-taking skills. Because every point earned on the bar exam is important, these courses offer substantive training and supervised practice exercises that improve efficiency and effectiveness. The professors teaching these courses are acknowledged experts and are among the best in the country.

(4)       Watching videos of bar review lectures is the best way to prepare for the bar exam.

Active, as opposed to passive, learning increases the potential for success on the bar exam. Accordingly, preparing your own outlines of the subjects tested on the bar exam and completing as many practice exercises as possible are far more beneficial than simply listening to recorded lectures on topics that you have heard before.

BARBRI provides students with a wealth of online practice exercises. It has been our experience that the pass rate of students who complete 75% or more of these practice exercises is significantly higher than those who complete 50% or less.

(5)       I’ll take the bar exam even though I don’t have time to prepare. If I don’t pass, I’ll prepare more seriously before I take it the second time.

John Wooden, America’s winningest basketball coach, told his players repeatedly – “If you don’t have the time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”  There is no substitute for thorough preparation.

Taking the bar exam twice is not a winning strategy. NSL has more repeat takers than any other law school. The low pass rate of the repeat takers erodes the published overall pass rate of the school.  More importantly, as the information in the second table demonstrates, the passage rate declines significantly as the number of attempts increases.

Each of you embarked on your legal studies with one goal in mind.  It is within your power to achieve that goal. Your strength lies in your tenacity. Your own determination to succeed will be the difference-maker.  The School’s mission is to help you succeed. But the secret of getting ahead is getting started. Use your time to begin now to prepare for the bar exam. In the words of tennis champion Arthur Ashe, “Start where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can.” We will be by your side every step of the way.