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How Many Times Can You Take The Bar Exam?
By Carson Lang Updated on June 10, 2024
John Ross, JD, CPA John Ross, JD, CPA

How Many Times Can You Take The Bar Exam?

Whether you failed the first time, or you are simply nervous, many law students often wonder how many times they are allowed to take the bar exam

Passing the bar exam is no simple feat, especially the first time around. The passage rate for the bar exam varies from state to state, and depends on a large variety of factors, such as the population of law students and the number of law schools in each state. Nonetheless, to put it simply, passage rates are low. As such, many students wonder how many times they can take the bar exam. We will address that is in this detailed guide.

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Can You Take the Bar Exam Multiple Times?

The short answer to this question is that it depends on the jurisdiction. It is important to understand the state requirements for the bar exam and how many attempts they allow, so law students can form better studying strategies according to their own capabilities.

There are instances in which law students are prohibited from retaking the exam and require special permission to do so. Knowing this information early on is important, especially for those students who may have already been unsuccessful in passing the exam.

How Many Times Can You Take Bar Exam
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It is important to realize that if you have already taken the exam 2 or 3 times in your jurisdiction, you should be as prepared as possible before you give another attempt.

However, in certain states, the bar exam can be taken an unlimited number of times. Law students in these states have the privilege of giving as many attempts as possible and perhaps even take an exam to assess their abilities, get a feel for the testing format, and get over the initial intimidation of sitting for an important exam.

Each state employs one of the three strategies mentioned below in terms of their approach towards the bar exam:

  • No Set Limit: Most of the states in the country have no limit on the number of attempts a student can give to pass the bar exam. There is no set number defined, and it does not affect the candidate’s eligibility in any way.
  • Discretionary Limits: Some states in the country have imposed certain limitations on the number of attempts allowed by a single candidate. These fall between the range of 2 to 6. However, these are discretionary limits, and candidates can give another attempt if they obtain special permission from their state’s bar.
  • Hard Limits: There are a few states that have defined hard limits on the number of attempts a single candidate is allowed. These limits are not negotiable, and students cannot get around them.

Passing the state bar exam is a prerequisite for all foreign or domestic lawyers before they can start practicing in the US. Since there is no single bar association, each jurisdiction has its own regulations and creates its own rules for admission.

New York Bar Exam

The New York Bar Exam is conducted by the NYSBA, which was established in 1876. About 182,000 lawyers have been admitted into the bar since then. New York is one of the states that has adopted the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), starting in July 2016. The last known passing rate of the New York Bar Exam was 66% in July 2022.

California Bar Exam

The California State Bar was found in 1927 and currently has over 250,000 members. The State Bar of California conducts its own bar exam, which makes use of the Multistate Bar Examination or MBE. It is a multiple-choice test that is conducted nationally. To get admitted into the California Bar, the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination is also required.

Illinois Bar Exam

The Illinois State Bar Association was started in 1877 and currently has about 65,000 lawyers. It is a voluntary organization with over 28,000 members. Beginning in July 2019, the state of Illinois also adopted the Uniform Bar Examination for their state bar review. The passing rate in Illinois in July 2022 was about 68%.

Michigan Bar Exam

The State Bar of Michigan was established in 1935. To get admitted into the bar, law students must pass the state’s own exam, which also employs the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). Furthermore, they also require candidates to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). The passing rate in Michigan for the July 2022 bar exam was 66%.

Texas Bar Exam

The State Bar of Texas was established in 1939, which now has over 100,000 members. For aspiring lawyers in the jurisdiction, beginning in February 2021 and onward it will be mandatory to pass the Uniform Bar Examination. The overall passing rate of the Texas Bar exam in July 2022 was 67%.

Florida Bar Exam

The Florida Bar was established in 1950 and now has over 100,000 practicing lawyers admitted. Florida is also one of the states that conduct its own bar exam, which makes use of the national multiple-choice test, i.e., the Multistate Bar Examination. Candidates are also required to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam. The overall passing rate of the Florida Bar exam in July was 51%.

States That Limit How Many Times You Can Take the Bar Exam

Overall, 21 states have defined the limits for the number of bar exam attempts that law students can take. Some states are more lenient than others.

The following states have discretionary limits on the amount of times law students can sit for their bar exam. The states, along with the limits, are listed below:

  • Arizona (3)
  • Idaho (6)
  • Montana (3)
  • District of Columbia (4)
  • Iowa (2)
  • Maryland (3)
  • South Dakota (3)
  • South Carolina (3)
  • Utah (6)
  • West Virginia (4)
  • Texas (5)
  • Virginia (5)
  • Wyoming (4)
  • Virgin Islands (3)
  • Puerto Rico (6)

The states that have imposed absolute limits on the number of times the bar exam can be taken are listed below:

  • Kentucky (5)
  • Kansas (4)
  • North Dakota (6)
  • New Hampshire (4)
  • Rhode Island (5)
  • Vermont (4)

Some states have no imposed limit on the number of times the bar exam can be taken. Candidates in the following jurisdictions can sit for the bar exam as many times as necessary:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • California
  • Florida
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Indiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • New York
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Tennessee
  • Pennsylvania
  • Wisconsin
  • Washington
  • Guam
  • Palau
  • Northern Mariana Islands

Law students are responsible for checking the requirements of their own jurisdiction before they create their study plan. Keeping in mind the number of attempts you are allowed can help you define how hard you need to study and the amount of time you need to dedicate towards passing the bar.

However, it is not about the number of attempts you give but rather your willingness and commitment to become a practicing lawyer in the US that matters.

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How many times can you take the bar exam?

The number of times you can take the bar exam is directly tied to your jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions have no limit on the number of times, while other states have soft limits (retake with permission), and even others have hard limits.

Can you retake the bar exam?

Yes, no matter what jurisdiction you are in, all states and territories allow at least some number of retakes. Some states have hard limits, but even the most conservative number is four retakes.