The Hardest Bar Exams: Which Bar Exam Is Right For You?

By | February 13, 2024

The bar exam is the ultimate test of your law school training. Find out how to pass it on your first try by checking out our bar exam pass rates and studying tips.

How well do you know your bar exam pass rate? The answer to this question can help you choose the best law school based on the percentages.

You’ve finally decided to take the bar exam. The next step is signing up for a bar-exam pass rate course. That’s when it hits you: what’s the hardest bar exam?


The Bar Exam

(photo by rzawka on Unsplash)

Bar exam pass rates aren’t that straightforward. They vary greatly based on the bar exam course and state. You can access more detail on states by following the links below:

However, even with that research, it’s not a simple task to figure out which bar exam pass rates will be right for you. There are significant differences from state to state, as well as variations in pass rates.


To make your bar exam journey a little more manageable, we’ve worked with the American Bar Association to analyze and categorize the different bar exam pass rates in every state. We’ve also got a great video for you, which we’ve embedded below. You can watch it below, or click here for a direct link.

The Pass Rate

You may not think too much about the pass rate. After all, who cares what pass rate they’re talking about when you’ve only paid $700 to take it? But the numbers in the form below can be quite informative.

As it turns out, of those who have passed the bar exam, only a small fraction — less than 5 percent — have a perfect score of 50 percent. That’s why many schools have a minimum pass rate of 50 percent or higher, to prevent potential non-genuine candidates from taking the exam.

There are no class-size requirements, and you can take the bar as early as you are ready for it.

Is the 50 Percent Pass Rate The Hardest?


The hardest, to me, is the 50 percent pass rate. Why? Because even though the bar exam is fairly well-teaching, it’s also pretty tough. It’s not easy to break 50 percent.

How to Choose a Law School

Even though the average passing rate is 60% or so, some schools have particularly poor pass rates. Maybe your school has a 70% passing rate or even worse. How do you know which bar exam to take?

You might want to avoid certain schools for a variety of reasons. If you want to prepare yourself for the worst case scenario, your next step is to look for a low bar pass rate school. It doesn’t have to be the absolute worst. Take the list of schools with the lowest passing rates from the Association of American Law Schools and remove the ones that have a 70% or worse passing rate. Put all the schools in a hat and draw one out at random. This is the easy way to choose the hardest bar exam pass rate, since it will vary from school to school.

What’s the Hardest Bar Exam?

Is it 1st? 2nd? 3rd? 4th?

The answer is … the one for the people who pass. No. It’s actually the hardest exam you’ll take. Bar-exam pass rates are the most precise number of the four.

The information below comes directly from the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which publishes and maintains a list of pass rates for every state. The average bar-pass rate for 2015 was 81%. That means that 0.2% of people failed each state bar-exam.

Some states have a very small number of cases to practice the pass rate calculation. Georgia has a pass rate of .005%. Minnesota has a pass rate of .005%. Illinois has a pass rate of .005%.

By the way, about 80% of students take the bar exam the first time around. (See Chart 2.

The California Bar Exam

The test you’ll be taking is the California Bar Exam. It’s also known as the CSET and is offered three times a year.

Note that there are two new bar-exams which are scheduled for 2017: the New York Bar Exam and the Ohio Bar Exam. The pass rates on these two new exams will be substantially higher than the rest of the bar-exams.

The Big Three Bar-Exams

It’s important to remember that the pass rates for most bar-exams are much higher than the state passing rates for law school applicants.

In other words, if you take the test just once you can theoretically earn a passing score without studying. But, as we know, the odds are against you.

The New York Bar Exam

The NY BAR’s test is the toughest of all, but only 30% of the candidates pass it on the first try. All other states’ exam is harder.

The Washington DC Bar Exam

The DC BAR takes the very first quarter of your law school degree. If you pass it on the first try, the chances are 30% that you’ll pass all five sections. If you don’t pass, that’s the last time you’ll see the D.C. bar, because it’s the hardest to pass.

Some Potential Pass Rates

With an estimated 800,000 people taking the bar every year, 70% is a very big chance. The average success rate is less than 30%, so what are the chances of passing the NY and DC tests?

Here are some potential success rates for the NY and DC exams:

Rate # State Bar Exam passed # All five sections Minimum score Approx.

The Texas Bar Exam

Texas is known as the “toughest” state bar exam and some applicants say it is the toughest bar exam in the nation. The test consists of only three subjects: constitutional law, property law, and torts. If you take the LSAT multiple times you’re likely to see the same kinds of questions, so focus on learning the Texas bar exam questions.


The MPRE is also a three-subject test consisting of six subjects: Texas law, Canadian law, California civil procedure, and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. If you’re able to ace the MPRE, you should be able to ace the Texas bar exam.

The California Bar Exam

The California bar exam is both a three-subject and a two-subject test. The California California Bar Exam is divided into two sections: California subjects and federal subjects.


The two major bar exams, the Washington State Bar Exam and the California Bar Exam, are divided into three parts: a written section, a legal reasoning section, and a problem solving section. These three sections can determine whether you pass, fail, or do a little of both. The numbers you see when you’re checking your results will refer to your performance in the first two parts of the exam. You don’t have to worry about the third part.

Written exam: The Washington State Bar Exam

Chapter 4.01

The first section of the Washington State Bar Exam consists of four 20- to 30-minute writing sections, in which you will examine court decisions, legal standards, statutes, and the Constitution.


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