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How Many Times Can You Take The Bar Exam?

January 25, 2024
3 min read


Reviewed by:

David Merson

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 1/24/24

How many times can you take the bar exam? We’re here to give you the information you need about where and how many times you can retake the bar! 

If you are wondering what to do after failing the bar exam or are just feeling extreme pre-exam nerves about passing, we’ve got you covered! 

No matter what your reason is, we’ve put together lists of states that have no limits, flexible limits, and hard limits on the number of times you can take the bar. 

How Many Times Can You Take the Bar?

Most states allow 2-4 attempts of the bar exam, but about 35 states, including California, New York, and Florida, don’t have any limits on the number of times you can take the bar.

21 states limit it to 2 to 4 attempts, 15 of which have discretionary limits and 6 with absolute limits. 

All in all, you can take the bar exam at least twice across all states before you need to worry about potential bar restrictions. The number of times you can retake the bar exam depends on the state you’re in. 

Close-up Photo of a Wooden Gavel

States With No Limits

The good news is that most states do not have limits on how many times you can take the bar exam. States that do not have any limitations are: 

  • 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 
  • Wyoming
  • Guam Northern Mariana Islands 
  • Palau 

Fortunately, there are tons of states you can choose from that do not limit the amount of times you are allowed to take the bar. 

States With Discretionary Limits

There are quite a few states that limit how many times you can take the bar exam without special permission. If you exceed the number of times you can take the bar, these states may allow you to retake the exam if you are granted special permission. 

Below is a table of each state that has discretionary limits. 

State Discretionary Limit
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
Puerto Rico 6
Virgin Island 3

Most of these states allow people to take the bar exam at least three times before acquiring special permission.

States With Absolute Limits

The following states have absolute limits on the number of times you can take the bar exam. This means that you can no longer take the bar exam after you reach the number of times the state allows, and no exceptions will be made:

State Absolute Limit
Kansas 4
Kentucky 5
New Hampshire 4
North Dakota 6
Rhode Island 5
Vermont 4

Luckily, there aren’t many states that have hard limits to retake the bar!


Still have questions about retaking the bar exam, and which state allows you to retake the bar as many times as you need? Keep reading as we answer some of your frequently asked questions below. 

1. How Many Times Do People Usually Fail the Bar Exam?

According to the American Bar Association, over 88% of people who take the bar within two years of graduating from law school pass the exam

2. How Many Times Can You Take the Bar Exam in Texas?

You can take the bar exam five times in Texas. Note that according to Texas’s Board of Law Examiners, if you sit for any part of the exam, it counts as one of your attempts

If you need to retake the bar exam more than five times, Texas is a state that allows you to take the bar exam again with special permission. 

If you’re considering taking the bar exam in Texas, check out the top law schools in the state

3. How Many Times Can You Take the California Bar Exam?

So, how many times can you take the California bar exam? You’re in luck! There is no limit to the number of times you can take the bar exam in the state of California. 

While it may come as a relief to many students who are planning to take the bar exam in California that there are no limits, California’s bar exam is known for being one of the hardest exams in the U.S.

Final Thoughts

The bar exam is notoriously difficult for any law student, but it is the last (and perhaps most important) step to becoming a practicing lawyer. 

While the bar exam is no easy feat, building an effective study plan for the bar is key to doing well. Practicing consistent and continuous review in preparation for the bar exam will increase your chances of doing well. 

If you do not pass the exam, you do have other options to explore, including the possibility of retaking the bar. 

Good luck!

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