Bar Exam Pass Rates

Bar Exam Pass Rates

If you’re staring down the bar exam, it’s natural to wonder what your odds are of passing the bar. Well, bar exam pass rates vary depending on whether you’ll be taking the uniform bar exam, what school you went to, and what jurisdiction you’re testing in. So, let’s take a look at all these factors so you can get back to studying—and passing—the bar!

How the bar exam is scored

First, let’s quickly cover how the bar exam is scored so you can understand what you’re aiming for when you’re studying.

If you’re in a state or jurisdiction that administers the Uniform Bar exam, or UBE, your bar exam score will be out of a possible score of 400. The 400 points are made up of a potential 200 points on the Multistate Bar Exam, and 100 points each on the Multistate Performance Test and the Multistate Essay Exam.

While there are 400 possible points, it’s reassuring to know you don’t need to even get close to a 400 to pass. The UBE passing score for most jurisdictions is somewhere between a 260 and a 280.  For more on how the UBE is scored, check out Bar Test 101: How the UBE is Administered and Scored.

If you’re in a state that still administers a state-specific bar exam, the scoring will vary depending on the structure of the test. If you’re not sure, check now to see if your state is a UBE state—how and when you start preparing for the bar exam depends on this!

Bar exam pass rates by state

Pass rates vary depending on a variety of factors, such as whether you’re a first-time test taker or if you studied at an ABA-approved school. Here we’re going to stick to the basics and let you know the pass rates for first time bar exam takers based on state statistics.  If you’re looking for pass rates for another category of test taker, check out the full passing statistics released by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

The passing rates below are based on the average for the February and July exams for 2016. The table includes those jurisdictions that administer the uniform bar exam as well, so you can get a clear sense of the uniform bar pass rates, too.


StateFirst Time Test Takers – ABA SchoolsOverall Pass Rate
District of Columbia74%57%
New Hampshire73%68%
New Jersey67%58%
New Mexico73%66%
New York81%57%
North Carolina62%52%
North Dakota73%58%
Rhode Island65%58%
South Carolina71%63%
South Dakota55%50%
West Virginia73%63%
Puerto Rico39%36%
Virgin Islands57%58%

As you probably noted, California and Nevada are tied among the states for the lowest bar exam pass rate for first time test takers.

The pass rates by state are helpful to see but remember to keep your focus on studying for the bar. No matter the pass rate, you’ll need to dedicate a lot of time and effort to preparing for the bar exam.

Bar exam pass rates by school

If you’re still in the process of selecting a law school, be sure to check out the bar exam pass rate for the schools you want to attend. While law schools prepare students to be attorneys, they should also prepare students to pass the bar exam.

Let’s take a quick look at some popular law school’s pass rates to give you a sense of how their students fare on the bar exam. Harvard Law and the University of Chicago each boast a 97% pass rate for their law students, while Stanford maintains a pass rate of 88% among its students. Stanford’s rate is likely attributable to the fact that California has one of the hardest bar exams in the country.

As a point of reference, the University of Washington has a pass rate of 80%, and Duke Law with 83%. All schools should make their bar pass rates available, so be sure to look on their website or request the data from an admissions officer.


The bar exam pass rates vary by state, by administration (February or July), and by whether you’re a first time test taker or attended an ABA-approved school. Knowing the bar exam pass rates can be a comfort, or it can be a little scary, depending on the pass rate for the state you’re in. But regardless—no matter the pass rate for your state you’ll need to study for at least two months to pass the bar exam.

So what are you waiting for? Start taking some practice tests today!

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