Can Anyone Take the Bar Exam?

The bar exam is in your future, and you’re wondering, can anyone take the bar exam?

The short answer is no, not everyone can take the bar exam. That’s right—some people, no matter how much they want to take a two day exam, are not allowed to do so. Most states require that you complete law school before being eligible to sit for the bar and have requirements regarding everything like residency status and moral character and fitness.

Can Anyone Take the Bar Exam?

We’ll go over the basic requirements that almost all states require here, but bar exam requirements do vary by state, so be sure to also check out your state’s specific requirements.

Let’s take a look at the most common requirements to sit for the bar.

Legal education requirements to take bar exam

Almost all states require that you complete law school before you’re allowed to sit for the bar. However, there are a few exceptions. A few states, such as Arizona and Texas, allow you to sit for the bar exam even if you’re a certain number of credits shy of graduation. In these instances, you may be able to take the bar exam before your final semester of law school.

Also, a handful of states—California, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington—allow people to “read law,” or complete an apprenticeship instead of attending law school. In these states, individuals can sit for the bar exam after a certain number of years apprenticing with a judge or licensed attorney. That sounds pretty appealing, but, honestly, who would want to miss all those all-nighters in the library during your 1L year?

Residency requirement to take bar exam

The majority of states do not require you to be a resident of their state to take the bar exam. The only states that do require you to be a resident are Arkansas, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. If you’re interested in taking the bar for any of the other states, you’re all set whether you live there or not. So, dream big—study for the Hawaii bar while you watch the snowfall in the Northeast or study for the Washington bar while you wait out another Arizona summer!

Character and fitness requirements to take bar exam

All states have some requirements regarding the character and fitness of individuals who wish to be lawyers in their state. However, not all states have codified standards regarding their moral and character standards. You will likely have to provide information about your criminal history and debts to your state’s board of bar examiners. Again, be sure to check with your state for the specific requirements.


Every state has different requirements regarding who’s eligible to sit for the bar exam. Generally, you have to be of good moral character and fitness and have completed most, if not all, of law school in order to sit for the bar.

Now that you know whether you can take the bar exam, it’s never too early to start studying! Be sure to check out UBE Exam Prep Tips to help you get started on your path to passing the bar!

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