Statistics on the last bar exam in Jun 2012 state the passage rate percentage for CA Accredited was 31% for first time takers, repeaters 10% and all takers 19%. For all takers in the unaccredited category - 15%, not much difference between CA Accredited and the Unaccredited and the repeaters for unaccredited was 12% HIGHER than the accredited 10%. Feb 2012 - first time takers - same percentage 33% in both categories. I don't know seems to me the CA ABA pass rate not anything to boast about either at 68% and 53% on the same respective tests. Tightening standards will mean what? No more distance learning or correspondence schools? We shall see.
If you look at other years, the numbers do fluctuate quite a bit.
I've been doing a lot of research into this because I am seriously considering transferring to a CBE. The cost of ABA is just getting to be ridiculous even for those with some scholarships. The massive amount of debt and the fact that there are no more subsidized loans from the government is making CBE appear to be a better choice. However, it may be wise for the CBE schools to require a bit stricter admissions requirement. When I went to visit the school I'm interested in, only one of the six prospective students had a bachelor's degree and none of them had taken the LSAT yet. Some had the required 60 hours of college, but for the most part, they hadn't fully committed to going to law school, which was the complete opposite of the prospective students at the ABA open houses I attended. Most had already applied with a decent LSAT score and, of course, a bachelor's degree. And while someone should certainly do their research before making the commitment to go to law school, it just seemed odd that none of them had even attempted the LSAT before visiting the school.
As far as online school bar pass rates being similar to CBE, the online schools weed out students who may not pass the bar because of the FYLSE. http://admissions.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/4/documents/fyx/FylsxStatsOct2011.pdf
Since only about 20% of online students pass the First Year Exam, the remaining number of students moving on to 2L is much smaller. Cal bar students are not required to take the FYLSE, which could explain the lower bar pass rates.
What concerns me the most is that the number of repeaters taking the bar exam is significantly higher than the first-time takers for both CBE and online schools compared to ABA, which has a significantly lower number of repeaters. Trinity law school had 55 repeaters compared to 19 first timers, and UWLA had 60 repeaters compared to 10 first timers. Abraham Lincoln and Concord had similar numbers.http://admissions.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/4/documents/gbx/JULY2012STATS.122112_R.pdf
So even though some of the ABA school's bar pass rates may not seem impressive, they are doing something right. The bigger question is, is it worth the money you save if you end up having to take the bar three or four times? Or is passing the bar largely based upon the individual? I would love to hear feedback from those of you who have taken the bar exam.