Jun 5, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

For the first time since 2000, Connecticut's pass rate for the bar exam fell below 50 percent, to just 38 percent this year.

The Connecticut Law Tribune released exam results that showed 74 of 195 students passed the exam, a 12 percent decline from the February 2017 test, in which 82 of the 163 students passed. In 2016, 63 percent passed.

What accounts for the drop-off?

Legal experts aren't sure, and Jessica Kallipolites, administrative director of the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee described the results as "surprising." Some academic advisors speculate that, due to rising tuition costs and current economic issues, prospective law graduates may be burning the candle at both ends.  Justin Dion, who directs the Bar Success Program at one Connecticut law school told CLT that "preparing for the bar exam needs to be a full-time job."

But with law school tuition often exceeding $40,000 more students are working while completing law school, which could be leading to the lower pass-rates.  According to the National Jurist, successful bar applicants normally spend about 400 hours studying before the exam and they recommend starting the study process at least nine weeks ahead of the exam date. While the National Jurist suggests that part-time students start the study process 15-20 weeks before the exam, that still equates to 20+ hours of study per week on top of work and family life.  

The average pass rate fluctuates between 65 percent for the February exam and 74 percent for the July exam since 2000. 

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Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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