How Many Times Can You Take the Bar Exam by State?

Map showing how many times you can take the bar exam by state.

Numbers don’t lie. And the pass rates for the bar exam paint a grim picture: passing the bar exam is no easy feat. Only a few pass the rigorous exam for the first time with flying colors. So, the odds are that you may find yourself needing to retake the bar exam at least one more time. If you are a law student or recent graduate who was unsuccessful on your first attempt, it is natural to wonder how many times you can take the bar exam. This article will segment the states by the number of attempts they allow candidates to take the bar exam.

States With No limits

While there is no limit on the number of attempts in these states, sitting for the bar exam is an emotionally and financially exhaustive process. Most candidates stop appearing for the bar exam after a few tries. See the map below for states with no limits:

States With Discretionary Limit

Some states allow you to retake the bar exam more times than their imposed limit under exceptional circumstances and at the state’s discretion. This is known as a discretionary limit. See the table below for states with a discretionary limit:

StatesDiscretionary Limit
District of Columbia4
South Carolina3
South Dakota3
West Virginia4
Puerto Rico6
US Virgin Islands3

States With Absolute Limits

Some states impose an absolute limit on the number of times examinees can take the bar exam. See the table below for states with an absolute limit:

StatesAbsolute Limit
New Hampshire4
North Dakota6
Rhode Island5

So, there you have it. Now you know how often you can take the bar exam in your jurisdiction and others where you might be interested in practicing law. No matter where you choose to practice law, make sure you research the bar exam details for that jurisdiction to know what to expect. That jurisdiction’s official state bar website is always an excellent place to start. For example, it might help to know which states use the Uniform Bar Exam or offer bar reciprocity.

Preparing for the Bar Exam

While the bar exam is undoubtedly difficult, it is possible to pass it on your first try. But keep in mind that it doesn’t matter how many times you have to retake the bar exam; if you are determined to practice law, you can pass the high-stakes test. With a robust study plan and the right prep provider, you can definitely succeed and not have to worry about retaking the bar exam many times. 

We wish you the best of luck on the bar exam!

Prepare for the bar exam with the UWorld MBE QBank and Themis Bar Review.

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