How Many Times Can You Fail The Bar Exam?
If you are in the unfortunate position of having failed the bar exam and are preparing to take it again, you may be wondering whether there is a limit on the number of times you can fail the bar exam. Although some states do not limit the number of times you are permitted to fail the bar exam and still be eligible for licensure, others cap the number of times you may fail the exam. This is an important piece of information to be aware of because it can affect whether you should consider re-taking the bar exam right away after finding out that you failed.
How Many Times Can You Fail The Bar Exam?
If you are taking the bar exam in a state that limits the number of times you can fail the bar exam, you should make sure that you are ready to take the exam so as not to “waste” an attempt. For example, in Kansas, an applicant to the state bar is only permitted to take the bar exam four times. So, if you have already failed the Kansas bar exam three times, you need to ensure that you are absolutely prepared for your next attempt at the bar exam as it could very well bar your ability to practice law in Kansas if you do not pass.
If you are in the position of being limited in how many times you can take the exam, factors to consider in determining whether you should sit for the next bar exam include: Will you have more time to study if you wait another administration? Are the conditions better for the February bar exam versus the July exam? (Some states offer the exams in different locations or conditions.) Do you actually feel prepared for the upcoming exam? If you are unsure whether you are truly prepared to take the exam, and are limited on how many times you are able to fail the exam, you should consider postponing until you feel ready.
There are two types of limitations that states have placed on the ability to take the bar exam multiple times: some states have a hard limit where, once that limit is reached, you cannot take the bar exam again for any reason. Other states have discretionary limits, where, after having reached the state’s limit on number of times you can fail the bar exam, you can seek permission or complete additional requirements for potential permission to take the exam again. The remaining states do not limit the number of times you can fail the bar exam.
Note that states may change their eligibility requirements, particularly as they decide to adopt the Uniform Bar Exam. You should check with the state to ensure whether there is a limit on the number of times you may fail the bar exam in that state.
States With Hard Limits
The following states have hard limits on the number of times you can take the bar exam, meaning that once the limit is reached, an applicant may not take the exam again for any reason:
• Iowa (5)
• Kansas (4)
• Kentucky (4)
• Nebraska (4)
• New Hampshire (4)
• North Dakota (6)
• Rhode Island (5)
• Texas (5)
• Vermont (4)
States With Discretionary Limits
The following states have a limit on the number of times an applicant can fail the bar exam but provide some additional steps that may be undertaken for special consideration:
• Arizona (6) – an applicant may submit a written request “stating the additional study and preparation that the applicant has made to qualify for further examination or other good cause or change in circumstances that would affect the applicant’s performance on the examination.”
• District of Columbia (4) – after taking the exam four times, an applicant must show “extraordinary circumstances” to take it another time.
• Idaho (6) – after six attempts, an applicant cannot sit for the exam again unless he or she establishes “that there has been a substantial change in the degree of the Applicant’s legal learning which makes it probable that the Applicant will pass the bar examination.”
• Montana (3) – after three unsuccessful attempts, an application can petition for the opportunity to sit for another exam, and must “include a study plan and an explanation of the steps taken and to be taken by the applicant to improve the likelihood of the applicant’s successful completion of the examination.”
• South Carolina (3) – after failing the bar exam three times, an applicant must wait one year before sitting for the exam again. The applicant may also have to complete additional education requirements before being eligible to sit for the exam again.
• South Dakota (3) – after three failed attempts, an applicant cannot take the exam unless he/she can show “the reasons for previous failures no longer exist and there is a reasonable likelihood the applicant will pass the exam if allowed to take it.”
• Utah (6) – an applicant cannot sit for the bar exam after six failed attempts unless the applicant submits a petition establishing clear and convincing evidence of “good cause.”
• Virginia (5) – after five unsuccessful attempts, an applicant cannot sit for the exam again unless “the applicant has shown mitigating circumstances which constitute good and sufficient cause for the applicant’s failing the prior examination.”
• West Virginia (4) – an applicant must show “good cause” and receive permission from the Board of Law Examiners in order to sit for the exam again after four failed attempts.
• Puerto Rico (6)
• Virgin Islands (3)
States With No Limits
The remaining states do not have a limit on the number of times an applicant can fail the bar exam and remain eligible to sit for the exam again:
Northern Mariana Islands
If you failed the bar exam, don’t panic. Check out these FAQs for those who failed the bar exam. In it, we address 12 frequent questions and concerns that come up for many bar exam takers. Also, be sure to check out this post and YouTube video with a detailed guide on creating an action plan!
Looking to Pass the Uniform Bar Exam?
Free or discounted resources
- A five-star UBE course (for as low as $1249.99!) that provides you with the best instruction, outlines, and questions. Preview our course for free here!
- Our new Free Bar Exam Resource Center, which includes our most popular free guides, posts, webinars, and more!
- Free popular bar exam guides (on the MBE, MEE, how to pass the bar exam, and what to do if you failed the bar exam) written by bar exam experts!
- A free Early Bar Prep Course for law students
Our most POPULAR and highly rated bar exam resources are:
- Our On Demand and Premium Bar Exam Courses
- Bar Exam Private Tutoring by bar exam experts
- MBE One-Sheets and MEE One-Sheets—rated five stars! Our customers love these supplements!
- Real MBE questions—the best practice questions available!