Ray Hayden

Ray Hayden

Ray Hayden's Book

Ray Hayden's Book

Cat(s) of the Month:

Bella and Linus

Bella and Linus

Ray's J.D. (Juris Doctor)

First Year Law Students' Exam (FYLSX):

There are a few things you need to know about the FYLSX.

I have not proved it beyond all doubt, but a good number of folks have run the numbers - this is what appears to be what is happening with the FYLSX:
It is being used as a "barrier to entry" against 1L students, to prevent us from proceeding in our law study programs.

The first timer pass rate is 25%, and the repeater pass rate is 16% - this holds true between 2007 through 2012. I have not included the updated information through 2013, but I have more data.

From June 2007 through October 2013:
More people take the June exam than the October exam (this is probably true for all previous FYLSX's as well, I only went back to 2007).

On average - of all FYLSX's - 682 take it, 20% pass it - each administration, on average.

For June exams, 720 take it, 22.24% pass.

For October exams, 644 take it, 17.85% pass.
I think that they allow more people to pass in June than October, then limit the number in October to maintain the 20% overall pass rate average per year.

I believe that they make up the scale for the exam (there is one for the essays, and one for the MCQ's) AFTER they have the numbers, to limit the numbers of those who pass.

With all of that, the exam is passable - you just have to write well enough to get into the top 86% of all folks taking the exam, and you have to out perform those folks efforts.

What the above means is that you are NOT being judged solely on your efforts, but also being weighed against every other person sitting for the same exam as you are!
Unless the California Bar comes clean with the reality of what is going on here - don't count on that happening! - we won't really know the true facts, but the numbers are far too strong in demonstrating the above.

With all of this, people pass the FYLSX and go on to successfully complete their study of law. A good enough number of those pass the General Bar Exam (GBX) as well, and the study of law allowed this way is far more affordable than any ABA accredited program...

So, for now, we have to take the very bad with the somewhat good parts of this scenario.


It just doesn't hurt to know the history of what we are up against, so here is a point which is very important to know.
"The FYLSX is the end result of a 1933 Report of President's Advisory Committee submitted to the Board of Governors of the State Bar.

The report recited pressures in some law schools to secure and maintain enrollment of students not qualified to become members of the bar. It was further reported that because unqualified students were not eliminated in many unaccredited law schools, it was not until such students had failed the bar examination after years of study that they realized they would never qualify for admission to the bar.

Beginning in 1935 the committee required all first year students to take an examination in first year courses, except for those students receiving first year course instruction in schools approved by the committee."

Source: Footnote 6, Bib'le v. Committee Of Bar Examiners, 26 Cal.3d 548, [L.A. No. 31127. Supreme Court of California. February 26, 1980.]
Note two things here, the FYLSX has been around since 1935. I am old and the thing was being used some 28 years before I was born!

Note that the PURPOSE of the exam was to weed out students who would never really have what it takes to become attorneys.

"The Curve":

There is no curve, there are two "scales" though...

The scale for the MCQ's gives you points below what I call the "Zero Point." Once you hit the Zero Point, on the MCQ's, they take points OFF of your score!

The scale for the Essays is the the opposite.

If you score below the Zero Point on the Essays, they subtract points from your score. Once you hit the Zero Point, they begin to reward you with points. If you hit far enough above the Zero Point, they shower you with a lot of points!

It is vital that you score well on the Essays, but you MUST obtain every point you can from the MCQ's as well, because we need every single point that we can get from every single part of the exam in order to pass.

To demonstrate this cold hard fact, I passed the October 2014 FYLSX. I raw scored 260 on the essays - which would average out to four 65's. If you follow my discussions, you know that I consider a 65 to be a low passing score.

If you have followed me for any time - or you glance over my previous scores - you will know that the highest score I had on FYLSX's prior to October 2014 was a 72 (on the MCQ section).

I NEEDED to score 73 or higher on the MCQ's to pass in October 2014, and I ended up scoring a 78. Had I hit the previous top score of 72, I would have failed the October 2014 FYLSX - it is that tight of a grading system, and they do not just give out high scores on the essays.

Passing the FYLSX:

This is a very tough exam to pass. I have read that it is the most difficult bar exam anywhere. Due to the forced failure rate of 80%. I'd have to agree.

Due to the 80% failure rate, I promised myself that as long as I continued to improve, I would continue to sit for the exam. Thus far, I have scored a 441, 505, 506 and a 533 on the FYLSX. My efforts continue to improve - the 505 / 506 scores are deceptive, the 441 / 533 are much more in line with how my performance should have progressed.

NOTE: I passed the 28 October 2014 FYLSX with a raw total score of 572, and a scaled score of 577.

Thus far, I have been able to produce two 70's, three 65's and five 60's. I also had five 55's and a 50 (those had been in the first two exams). On the third and fourth attempt (506 and 533), I have not written any essay lower than a 60.

65's and 70's are where I need to be to pass, and a 75 or two would be helpful.

NOTE: On my passing FYLSX, I scored 70, 65, 65, 60 - in that order.

For me, the big killer has been the MCQ's. For both the third and fourth attempts, I could have passed with MCQ scores of 79 and 73 respectively - and my personal goal is to score higher than an 80 on the multiple choice questions - so this hurts.

NOTE: I NEEDED a 73 on the MCQ's to pass in October 2014, a score that I never had achieved in the past... I scored 78.

My personal goal is to pass and to create a program based on what really worked best for me to get to where I needed to be in order to pass the exam - then make that available for others.

NOTE: I am working on that very program, and it is being published online - on these pages - since January 2015.

Personally, I feel the FYLSX should be more like a drivers license exam than what it is... 100% of us should have the opportunity to pass the exam if we can successfully demonstrate that we "get it" enough to continue our studies... after all, we seem to be held to the General Bar Exam standard here on the FYLSX, but ABA school students do not have to be subjected to the FYLSX (normally, for academic reasons, they MIGHT be subjected to it - and they do not tend to do well in that case).

If the purpose is to be an extra final exam to see if we learned the law well enough to continue - then I am fine with it... if it is a barrier to entry to cut us off at the knees - I have a very difficult time with it.

The original purpose of the exam was to be a consumer protection tool... it seems to have lost that purpose.

The Money:

It costs everyone who sits for the FYLSX (currently) $566 just to sit in the examination. On average, 20% will pass, 80% will fail. Of those taking the exam, 25% of first timers pass, 75% fail and 16% of repeaters pass, 84% fail.

A repeater is worth a minimum of $1,132 to the California Bar (gross, there are some expenses to hosting the exam), because they took it at least twice. A three timer is worth $1,698, and a fourth attempt is $2,264 @ $566 per exam. Those using laptops spend $705 per exam and I am sure that the California Bar makes a few dollars on that deal as well.

Since 2007 (through June of 2012), the California Bar has pulled in $4,378,576 from the 7,736 examinees taking the FYLSX. Each year, the California Bar is grossing over three quarters of a million dollars in exam fees alone.

Again, there are expenses to hosting the exam, they have to rent the space, print materials, grade exams and the like, but the FYLSX is absolutely a cash cow for the California bar.