How Many Times Can You Take the Bar?

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Are you a law student preparing for the almighty bar exams? Do you wonder what your chances of passing the exams are? Here’s the answer: passing the bar exam is not an easy feat, and that’s evident in the number of people that fail the exams yearly. But don’t be scared; you can pass the exams with flying colors if you pay attention to the right preparatory steps.

Understanding how the exams work and applying the best study techniques can help you pass the exams. Besides, you can take the exams more than once. But how many times can you take the bar exam? We’ll find out in this article.

Can You Take the Bar Exam More than Once?Can You Take the Bar Exam More than Once?

The short answer to this question is yes, you can take the bar exam more than once, although the exact number of times you can take the exam would depend on your jurisdiction (more on that later). In fact, many people will need to take the bar exams more than once, considering the exam structure and how complicated the bar exam requirements are. Perhaps, the first step to doing well in the exam is to realize that it’s one of the hardest exams out there. Another step is to prepare well for it.

However, don’t be too hard on yourself if you fail the first time. The pass rate is usually very poor, and many people will want to retake the exam like you. The good news is that you can take it a second time, and once you’ve taken it the first time, you know what to expect and how to prepare.

How Many Times Can You Take the Bar Exam in Each State?

How Many Times Can You Take the Bar Exam in Each State?

“Is there a limit to taking the bar exams?” Here’s one question we often see in forum discussions and debate groups. As we’ve established above, you can take the bar exam more than once. But the maximum number of times you can take the exams depends on your jurisdiction.

For starters, it’s important to understand your state’s requirements for the exams and how many times you can take them before registering for the exams. This way, you can create better studying strategies that suit your capabilities. Some states allow students to take the exams as often as they want, while others place different caps on how many times you can take the exams. That said, here’s a broad classification of states by how many times students are allowed to take the bar exams.

States With a Limit on the Number of Bar Takes 

Again, states are still classified into two groups under this category:

  • States with a discretionary limit
  • States with absolute limits
  • States with a discretionary limit

Although states in this category limit how many times you can retake the exams, they still usually allow some students to exceed this number in exceptional circumstances and at the state’s discretion. States in this category include:

States With a Discretionary Limit

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

States With Absolute Limits

States in this category typically have absolute limits on the number of times law students are allowed to take these exams. Such states include:

Kentucky 5
Kansas 4
New Hemisphere 4
Vermont 4
Rhode Island 5
North Dakota 6

States Without Limits on the Number of Bar Takes

The good news is that many states are without limits on the number of times you can attempt the bar exam. Unfortunately, that doesn’t take anything away from the fact that the bar exam involves a financially and emotionally draining process. So if you can, try to pass the exam in as few sittings as possible. Here are states without a cap limit on how many times you can take the bar exams.

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

Which States Have the Hardest Bar Exam to Pass?

Which States Have the Hardest Bar Exam to Pass?

While deciding where and when to take the bar exams, one popular question people often ask is about bar exam requirements. The truth is that requirements vary from state to state. Since requirements vary from state to state, you can expect the difficulty level of the exam to also vary from state to state. But what states have the most difficult exams to pass? Here’s a list of states with the most difficult bar exams based on pass rate. The data below was curated from a 2023 statistics by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.


Duration: Two days

Pass rate: 33%

Number of test takers: 3765

Most United States law students are familiar with the famed “impossible” California bar exams. Thus, it’s not surprising to see questions like “Does California have a bar exam limit” pop up every time. But the real question should be why the exam is so difficult here. The simple reason is the high cut-off score of 1390/2000 (40 points above the national average).


Duration: Three days

Pass rate: 42%

Number of test takers: 190

The Louisiana Bar exam is not just one of the longest bar exams in the country; its material is also unlike any other. The state’s exam is unique compared to other states’ exams and is based on the material taught in the state’s law school. Therefore, studying in Louisiana is always a great idea if you intend to write your exams there.

Here, the cut-off score is 650/900, and the exam is divided into two parts and spread across three days.


Duration: Two days

Pass rate: 48%

Number of test takers: 99

Apart from its relatively low pass rate, Arkansas is also considered one of the most difficult states to write bar exams in because of the amount of information you’ll need to cover before and during the exams. Here, the cut-off score is 270, with the exams spread across two days. Note that this cut-off score equals 135 on the MBE’s 200-point scale. Residents can register and sit for the exams any of the two times it is administered annually.


Duration: 2.5 days

Pass rate: 53%

Number of test takers: 199

Although this pass rate has been rising recently, Nevada’s bar exam is still considered one of the toughest for good reasons. The exam includes the nationwide MPT and MBE sections. It also includes a state essay section, and students often complain about the difficulty level of this section.

The cut-off score here is 140/200. However, its two and half days spread makes it one of the longest bar exams on this list.


Duration: Two days

Pass rate: 47%

Number of test takers: 264

Although the last on this list, you shouldn’t underestimate the difficulty level of Washington’s bar exam, considering how significantly more difficult it is compared to the average US bar exam. The exam consists of sections like the MEE, MPT, and MBE. Perhaps the main reason for its difficulty level and the relatively poor pass rate is the volume of subject matter that’s usually covered in the exam. Here, the cut score has always been 270. However, it was recently cut down to 266 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Which States Have the Easiest Bar Exam to Pass?

Which States Have the Easiest Bar Exam to Pass?

While some states have reputations for the difficulty level of their bar exams, others have exams that come very close to the proverbial walk in the park. South Dakota holds the ranks as the easiest state to write the bar exam in the United States. The second easiest state to write the bar exam in is Wisconsin, which is famous for allowing graduates of Wisconsin law schools automatic entry into the bar. The policy is generally referred to as diploma privilege.

Other easy states to write the bar exam in are:

  • Nebraska
  • Montana
  • Iowa
  • Wyoming
  • Oklahoma
  • Michigan
  • New Mexico
  • Missouri

Wrapping Things Up: How Many Times Can You Take the Bar?

Let’s face the fact – the bar exam is quite complicated and many people will find it difficult irrespective of state. However, different states have different difficulty levels, so if you intend to take the exam in a different jurisdiction, it’ll make sense to research the bar pass rate and the exam’s content in the state. This way, you can know how to begin preparations. However, the general rule of thumb is to study hard, irrespective of your jurisdiction.

There are tons of commercially-prepared outlines, study books, and past questions available online for this test. Find the most suitable ones and use them for your personal studies before the exams.

How soon can you retake the bar exam? There’s no waiting period when it comes to the bar exam in the U.S. You can take it the next time it is offered, usually after six months. You can also decide to wait a few circles before taking it again. The goal is to choose what suits your study pattern better.

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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