Hardest Bar Exams (Meaning, California Bar Exam, Study tips, Pass rate)7 min read

Preparing for one of the hardest bar exams is a lengthy and difficult process that can cause anxiety and stress.

Moreover, it is important to consider the level of difficulty of each state’s bar exam, not to mention which state is best to practice law in.

In reality, there is no greater joy than passing the Bar exam, although it is one of the most difficult exams candidates will face. 

Hardest Bar Exams

What is a Bar Exam?

A bar exam is an exam that a lawyer must pass before being admitted to the bar in a particular country.

It is normally administered by the bar of that jurisdiction. In countries such as the United States of America, bar exams are held by agencies of states and territories independently.

Roughly all US states and territories require the bar exam to call a lawyer to bar.

The examination in most jurisdictions lasts two days and is composed of multiple-choice questions, essay questions, and “proficiency tests”, which depict particular types of legal writing.

Usually, a law school degree (or less often a law firm training) is enough for the bar exam. 

Which State has the Hardest Bar Exams?

According to most experts, California has the hardest bar exam in the country. If you pass the exam, you will be able to work as a licensed attorney in the state.

Why is California the state with the Hardest Bar Exams?

The California bar test is difficult because it can be stressful to take.

Generally, the bar exam is a multi-day event consisting of hundreds of multiple-choice questions and other parts that request open-ended answers.

Previously, the California bar exam consisted of three busy days of morning and afternoon sittings; it is now reduced to a two-day event, comprising of:

  • Five 1 hour essay questions.
  • A 90-minute proficiency test.
  • The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), which consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, taking six hours.
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Notwithstanding all of the changes made, this hardest bar exam still has the lowest pass rate of any exam conducted in the United States.

The main reason for this is that candidates can take the bar exam in California even if they didn’t graduate from an ABA-accredited law school.

That is, anyone can take the bar exam without graduating from law school.

The reason is that California is one of many states that do not restrict applicants from receiving legal education from a law firm.

On the other hand, obtaining a legal education from a non-accredited school equates to a lower success rate.

Therefore, graduates from a renowned law school have better chances of passing the California bar exam with a higher than the average score.

Read this: DC Bar Exam (Meaning, Application, Study tips, Benefits, DC Exam tips)

Other difficult bar exams apart from the California bar Exam:

Louisiana Bar Exam:

The Louisiana bar exam possibly differs from most other bar exams in the country.

It does not include any of the normal testing options like MBE, MEE, or MPT.

Yet, candidates must know the Common and Civil Law or Traditional law in France and other parts of Europe because Louisiana Law schools teach these aspects.

Hence, lawyers that wish to practice in Louisiana must school in Louisiana. There is no transferability of scores to Louisiana.

The test lasts 21 hours long and includes an essay, a short answer, and multiple-choice questions.

Presently, the pass rate for the Louisiana bar exam was around 65% in 2016.

Hence it is not thought of as one of the hardest bar exams because of its statistics. It is considered amongst the hardest because of the ingenuity of its material and the rigors of the format.


Delaware is listed as another hard bar exam because of the score needed to ace it.

Students have to score at least 145 points to pass. This is the highest in the country.

Delaware also holds the exam once per year. This means that students who fail have to wait a long time before they can retake it.

It tests very limited subjects that few schools in the country teach. Apart from the bar exam, Delaware is very selective about who can practice law in the state.

Moreover, there are many obstacles to overcome. It was recorded in 2016 that Delaware had a 66% pass rate, and only 69% of first-timers aced the bar exam, which is considered one of the poorest in the nation.

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Nevada Bar Exam:

The Nevada bar exam expects candidates to know various unique laws. Nevada also expects a high score of 140 to pass, which is the fourth-highest in the country.

Its pass rate was just 52%, while its first-timers pass rate was 60%, alongside California’s, the lowest in the country.

Though it has embraced the MBE and MPT nationally, it has a hard state essay section.

Nevada’s bar exam is well-known for having very long sample parts for the essays making one of the hardest bar exams. This means that candidates will have a lot to identify and discuss.

Virginia bar exam:

Due to its wide range of subjects, the Virginia bar test is among the most difficult.

It is another state exam that incorporates the MBE. It evaluates candidates in 24 distinct areas of the law.

This is far higher than in most other states. Students are compelled to learn a lot more material as a result of this.

The majority of what they read, will not be published.

Although Virginia’s pass percentage is reasonable, only candidates who are willing to put up a good effort have a fair chance of succeeding. The Virginia bar test requires candidates to sit in a suit.

Arkansas Bar Exam:

The Arkansas bar exam is conducted in two days. Candidates must be familiar with a variety of state, local, and federal legislation.

Despite the fact that it comprises MBE, MEE, and MPT, which are commonly utilized by various countries, grades are assigned differently.

As a result, to pass the Arkansas bar exam, candidates will require a slightly higher score.

Read this: Kentucky (KY) Bar Exam (Format, Grading, Study tips) 

What to expect on the Hardest Bar Exams?

The California Bar Exam comprises these main areas:

Performance test:

This part of the exam checks the candidate’s ability to control legal challenges faced as they work with a client; 

Essay questions:

Candidates are expected to tackle five essay questions, where each one taking an hour. These questions are supposed to evaluate their knowledge of the law and how to apply them;

Multistate Bar Examination:

This section is a regularized exam involving 200 multiple-choice questions.

Its questions are derived from the civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, evidence, real property, and torts.

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Hardest Bar Exams: What is the bar exam pass rate?

A bar exam pass rate is the number of students who pass the bar exam on their first attempt, based on a percentage.

When viewed from the state perspective, a bar exam pass rate shows the percentage of successful students in a particular state.

According to schools, the bar-exam pass rate shows the percentage of students from a particular law school that passed.

How to study for a bar exam?

Getting set for a bar exam is dependent on the candidates learning style, available time, etc. Candidates can use these tips:

The first is to know their learning style, like listening to audio records of their lectures.

They can also interact with their materials to encourage active learning, like summarizing their bulky notes to flashcards and asking themselves questions.

The second tip is to pay attention to highly examinable topics and use valid practice questions from the NCBE.

Lastly, candidates should take very good care of their health and reduce stress.


The bar exam is very challenging regardless of the state it is written in.

As a result, students who intend to take the test in many districts must be well-versed in the bar exam pass rates in order to determine which exam to take.

Candidates should also choose the appropriate study resources for the state in which they plan to take the bar exam.

Nonetheless, the bar test is challenging due to the difficulty of the law. Surely, passing the bar test is just the beginning of an exciting career with endless potential.

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