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What to Bring to the Bar Exam

May 27, 2024
3 min read


Reviewed by:

David Merson

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

Reviewed: 5/27/24

Not sure what to bring to the bar exam? Below we’ll outline our bar exam checklist to make sure you’re on track. 

Now, that you’ve finished law school, you’re on your way to becoming a fully-fledged lawyer. Just one more obstacle lies in your way: the bar exam. It’s one of the most important steps in becoming a lawyer and is well-known to be highly challenging

In addition to rigorous studying, it’s important to be well-organized. Understanding exactly what to bring to the exam (and what not to bring) can set you up for success. Having all of the essentials at your disposal will help you focus on acing the bar. 

Whether you’re traveling to take the bar exam or staying local, there are certain essentials you need to bring to make sure you have a smooth test day. We’ve put together a comprehensive bar exam checklist to help you keep track of everything. 

Bar Exam Packing List

Bar exam applicants should be sure to bring their admissions certification and photo ID, a selection of pens, pencils, and highlighters, along with an eraser and manual pencil sharpener to the bar exam. 

Don't forget a plastic bag for your writing utensils, blank paper (if allowed), and if you're taking the exam online, remember your laptop, charging cord, and extension cord. Lastly, adhere to any dress code requirements set by your jurisdiction.

Before packing your bag for the bar exam, you should confirm which items your jurisdiction will allow you to bring. You can reference the National Conference of Bar Examiners for a summary of bar exam information and specific test day policies. Keep reading for a list of everything you need. 

Essential Items

There are certain items that you need to bring to the bar exam. They’re the most important part of your bar exam checklist. 

  • Your admissions certification and photo identification: you may need to bring both primary and secondary forms of ID (e.g. Valid or expired, undamaged U.S. passport book or passport card in conjunction with a Student ID)
  • A collection of good-quality pens, pencils and highlighters: confirm how many are allowed and which colours are required
  • An eraser and handheld manual pencil sharpener
  • A plastic bag: to store your writing utensils
  • Blank pieces of paper: confirm beforehand that it’s permitted at your testing location. 
  • Your laptop, charging cord and extension cord: only applicable if you are taking a portion of the bar exam online
  • Clothes that accommodate the dress code, if applicable: jurisdictions like Virginia have strict requirements on attire 

Set yourself up for success by packing these essential items in advance. This will help you make sure you have everything you need to be well prepared. 

Travel Items

If you are planning to stay in a hotel close to your testing location, your bar exam checklist will require more travel-oriented items. The following items will guarantee you’re as comfortable and prepared as possible:

  • Cash/credit card
  • Toiletries
  • Medicine, if needed
  • A relaxing activity for the evenings
  • Weather-appropriate, comfortable clothing: try to get some fresh air and exercise in your spare time 

It’s important to de-stress before the bar exam, which can look different for everyone. Make an effort to do something that relaxes you - whether that’s going for a leisurely walk, watching a movie or exercising. 

Other Important Items 

It’s key to look after your physical and mental health before and during the bar exam. Try your best to nourish yourself, drink water, and sleep restfully. Minimizing distractions and prioritizing self-care will help. On test day, consider bringing:

  • Nutritious food: Eat well before the bar exam, as most jurisdictions don’t allow snacks in their testing locations
  • A transparent water bottle
  • An alarm clock: in addition to your phone alarm
  • Eye mask: to ensure you get a good night's rest
  • Unpackaged earplugs
  • Eyeglasses, if needed: without the case
  • A sweatshirt, sweater or layers: some jurisdictions prohibit hoods

The items you pack for the bar exam will depend on your specific needs and your jurisdiction’s requirements. So, be sure to take the time out to consider what you’ll need to make things as seamless as possible for you on test day.

Other Things to Consider Before the Exam

Along with understanding what to bring to the bar exam, it’s important to plan effectively. The goal is to be as efficient as possible and prevent any unnecessary stress before and during the bar exam. 

Get Organized 

The majority of states have bar exams that span two days. On the first day, test-takers undertake the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). The second day is reserved for the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE).

It’s critical that you pack all of the essentials for both days. Check off your bar exam checklist as you pack your bag, and make sure you’re well-prepared for two days of rigorous test-taking! Having everything you need organized well ahead of the bar exam will help you reduce pre-test stress. 

Travel Considerations 

If your testing location isn’t conveniently located close to home, it’s wise to book a hotel. This is a common practice that can help reduce stress and save time. Try to book your hotel as soon as you receive notice of your testing location to make sure you secure a room. Be sure to confirm your hotel reservation before the bar exam. 

Some jurisdictions, such as California, even offer resources to help you find a hotel close to their testing locations and offer rates to make your stay more affordable. 

Plan how you’ll commute to and from your testing location. This applies whether you’re travelling or staying home. You need to ensure that you arrive at the testing location ahead of schedule each day. Confirm your method of transportation and the route you’ll need to take. 

Digital Preparation 

Many bar exams include a portion to be taken on the computer. If this is the case for you, the last thing you want is for your computer to cause you stress during the bar exam. You also don’t want it to prevent you from taking a portion of the bar exam. 

If you will be taking a portion of the bar exam on your computer, follow your jurisdiction's instructions to register your laptop beforehand. It’s also important that you make sure it will operate effectively throughout the test. Charge it beforehand and install any updates to help it run smoothly. 

Confirm whether exam software is required and that it’s compatible with your laptop. Download it ahead of your exam. Remove all of your study materials from your laptop. Eject any USB flash drives, CDs and DVDs prior to your exam. Following these steps will help ensure your computer is in tip-top shape for the bar exam. 


If you have any more questions, read on to learn more.

1. What Should I Bring to the Bar Exam?

It’s crucial to bring proof that you’re entitled to take the bar exam. While this generally includes photo identification and an admissions certification, be sure to double-check your state’s requirements. Make sure your photo identification matches the ID with which you submitted your application. 

Bring writing materials you can count on. Also, remember your laptop, charging cord, and extension cord. 

2. What Should I Wear to the Bar Exam?

Wear clothing that is both appropriate and comfortable. Confirm if your jurisdiction has a dress code prior to planning your outfits. If it does, it’s important that you plan multiple outfits that adhere to it. If you have a tendency to get cold, don’t forget to bring a sweater or sweatshirt! 

3. Can You Bring Water to the Bar Exam?

Water bottles are generally allowed at all testing locations nationwide. Many jurisdictions require water bottles to be transparent. 

4. Can I Wear Jewelry to the Bar Exam?

Most jewellery is generally not allowed when taking the bar exam. The reasoning behind this is to limit all unnecessary items during the bar exam. Some jurisdictions do allow you to wear your wedding bands/rings, though.

Final Thoughts

After reviewing this bar exam checklist, you hopefully have a good understanding of what to bring to the bar exam. Each item listed above is intended to make your bar exam experience more organized and comfortable. 

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