How Many Times Can You Take The Bar Exam?

The bar exam is a stressful process. It involves months of studying, and two days of testing. It is something you hope to only do once. But what happens if you fail the bar exam?  Can you retake the bar exam? And how many times can you take the bar exam?  You can retake the bar exam, and the answer to how many times you can take the bar exam depends on what state you are in. 

States that allow unlimited attempts

Most states allow you to take the bar exam an unlimited number of times. So, if you don’t pass, you can retake the bar exam again and again until you do.  However, it’s important to remember that the bar exam is a financially and emotionally draining process. Each time you take the bar exam, you need to pay the registration fee.  Then you will likely want to take time off work to study, and possibly purchase bar prep materials.  Studying for the exam is also a time-consuming process, which will take time away from your friends and family. If you fail the bar exam, even if your state allows unlimited attempts, you’ll want to have a plan moving forward so that you don’t need to do it more than one additional time. 

Below is a list of states that allow you to take the bar exam unlimited times:

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


States that Have Discretionary Limits

There are certain states that will allow you to take the bar exam a finite number of times but may allow for additional times at the discretion of the state.  A state with a discretionary limit will have its own criteria for allowing an examinee to take the exam additional times. Some states require a showing of extraordinary circumstances, while others have a lower standard.  Below is a list of states with discretionary limits. 

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


States that Have Absolute Limits 

There are a handful of states that limit the number of times you can take the bar exam. It is important to know if you are in one of those states so that you can make an informed decision about whether you should go forward with taking the bar exam if you don’t feel ready.  If your studying is not going as planned, if you are not seeing improvement, or if you are getting close to exam day and you are still performing poorly on practice exams, knowing that your state limits the number of times you can take the bar exam is important.  You might choose to postpone the bar exam and wait until a time when you are more prepared, so that you don’t use up one of your chances when you are unlikely to pass.  This is a difficult decision to make, and one you should consult an expert for help with. Speak to the academic support person at your law school, your tutor, or your contact within your bar prep company. Below are the states that have absolute limits on how many times you can take the bar exam. 


  • Kansas - 4
  • Kentucky - 5
  • New Hampshire - 4
  • North Dakota - 6
  • Rhode Island - 5
  • Vermont – 4


If you are in a state with a limit on how may times you can take the bar exam, and you have reached that limit, all is not lost! You may be able to take the bar exam in another state and use your score for admission into your state or apply for admission on motion or reciprocity.  The rules for being admitted on motion and reciprocity vary from state to state. 


The bar exam is hard. No matter how many times your state allows you to take it, your goal should always be to pass it on the first try.  Make sure to set yourself up for the best chance of success the first time! 

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