How Do I Interpret MPRE Scores?

Terry Masters

Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) scores are interpreted by taking a scaled score received as part of the notification of test results and comparing the score to the cut off number established in the jurisdiction where the examinee will be taking the bar exam. If the scaled score is higher than the cut off score, the examinee is considered to have satisfied the minimum level of proficiency in the subject matter. A scaled score that is lower than the cut off requires the examinee to retake the test to obtain a better mark.

The Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam consists of 60 multiple choice questions.
The Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam consists of 60 multiple choice questions.

In the U.S., law school graduates must take and pass a bar examination to receive a license to practice law. Each state has its own judicial bar that sets the requirements for legal licensing in the state. Although certain parts of the bar examination process have been standardized across states, it is still under the purview of each state to determine whether it will use the standardized tools or its own tools, and to determine how those tools are applied to the state’s unique qualifications for admission to the bar. The MPRE is one of the standardized exams used as part of the licensing process.

An aspiring lawyer must take and pass the bar exam.
An aspiring lawyer must take and pass the bar exam.

Most states use MPRE scores to determine whether candidates have the knowledge of ethical professional conduct needed to practice law. The exam consists of 60 multiple choice questions, but only 50 of the questions are used to compute a test-taker’s score. Each state sets a different cut off point for passing MPRE scores. A score may be adequate to satisfy the MPRE requirement in one state but inadequate to satisfy the requirement in another.

Interpreting MPRE scores also entails an understanding of the way a scaled score is derived. The examinee receives a raw score that is equal to the number of questions answered correctly. Each question is then given a difficulty rating by the examiners that supposedly corrects for test difficulty across test sessions. The theory is that by taking into account the relative difficulty of the questions, the scoring process evens the playing field, eliminating any advantage of a test given in any one session being harder or easier than another.

Assigning difficulty levels to questions results in a scaled score that goes from a low of 50 to a high of 150, with an average scaled score of 100. The statistical formula applied to establish the scale is not released to the public. On a year-to-year basis, examinees will have a general sense of the raw MPRE scores needed to achieve certain scaled scores, but will not know their scaled score for certain until official test results are received.

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