The bar exam, perhaps the most gruesome testing experience that western society has yet concocted, is a two-day ordeal that determines who gets to be a lawyer. It’s so miserable, in fact, that you could be excused for changing your whole future life course just to take the test somewhere that it isn’t *that* hard. To guide you on our your way, in this post we will take a quick look at the states with the best bar passage rates.

The caveat is that a whole lot of factors besides test difficulty determine whether or not people are passing in a given state. Some states attract more talented candidates, both to their schools and later on to the practice of law, so the composition of bar takers is not the same everywhere. The California bar exam, for example, is known for being incredibly hard. Yet it has a passage rate similar to Mississippi’s, which really isn’t known for being that fearsome.

The other thing factor is that people study to the expected difficulty of the test. The bar exam is a pass/fail test, so no sane person was looking to do anything more than give themselves a comfortable margin of error. Thus, people are generally studying harder for the aforementioned California exam than, say, North Dakota’s.

That said, bar passage rate is the best measure we have, so let’s take a look. Here is where the greatest and lowest percentage of potential lawyers attained entry into the profession. The data below represents a summary for the 2017 calendar year.

Bar Exam Pass Rate By State

StateBar Exam Pass RateTookPassed
Alabama51.83%766397
Alaska53.00%10053
Arizona49.85%971484
Arkansas63.19%345218
California44.42%129855768
Colorado69.17%1103763
Connecticut64.34%544350
Delaware68.54%213146
District of Columbia64.20%16061031
Florida55.40%44152446
Georgia58.27%17181001
Hawaii67.52%274185
Idaho74.48%192143
Illinois68.80%27401885
Indiana61.24%792485
Iowa78.46%260204
Kansas75.00%176132
Kentucky60.61%495300
Louisiana68.47%815558
Maine63.13%160101
Maryland55.33%1605888
Massachusetts63.94%18721197
Michigan63.99%1094700
Minnesota68.36%825564
Mississippi52.29%262137
Missouri79.07%946748
Montana76.51%149114
Nebraska74.19%217161
Nevada58.51%523306
New Hampshire68.38%234160
New Jersey57.59%1351778
New Mexico76.95%308237
New York61.19%140948624
North Carolina52.35%1639858
North Dakota53.98%11361
Ohio64.72%1372888
Oklahoma81.00%421341
Oregon75.26%667502
Pennsylvania67.72%18651263
Rhode Island57.58%16595
South Carolina65.25%682445
South Dakota58.26%11567
Tennessee60.30%1068644
Texas64.88%42082730
Utah76.07%397302
Vermont58.56%11165
Virginia66.15%1226811
Washington67.68%1120758
West Virginia64.58%240155
Wisconsin68.81%218150
Wyoming63.33%9057

Unsurprisingly, California has the lowest passage rate (44.42%) by a wide margin. Take even a great in-state school like UCLA and only 86% percent of students are passing on their first try. That gives you an idea of how hard the CA bar is.

Although no one is close to CA, 15 states had passage rates below 60%. That starts to give you an idea why the bar exam is so feared.

As a good benchmark in the middle, the New York bar exam comes in with a pass rate of 61%. This is known to be a difficult test, likely significantly harder than many that had a lower pass rate. Although the very top programs like Columbia and NYU had 98% pass rates, even strong schools like Fordham hover around 90% pass rates.

Bringing us the rear of the list are states where the passing the bar probably won’t give a diligent student too much trouble. Ten states had bar passage rates above 70% (Nebraska, Idaho, Kansas, Oregon, Utah, Montana, New Mexico, Iowa, Missouri, and Oklahoma).

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For those interested in first-time takers only, here is a state-by-state breakdown of first-time bar examinees’ performance.

First Time Takers – Bar Exam Pass Rate By State

Statefirst time pass %first time takersfirst time pass
California58.31%65503819
Arizona63.78%624398
Alabama69.59%434302
Mississippi63.95%172110
North Carolina65.26%970633
Alaska61.64%7345
North Dakota71.21%6647
Maryland66.44%1019677
Florida67.92%30172049
Rhode Island64.96%11776
New Jersey69.89%950664
South Dakota68.18%6645
Georgia71.80%1071769
Nevada71.30%324231
Vermont68.75%8055
Tennessee74.42%688512
Kentucky69.02%326225
New York75.71%92697018
Indiana72.88%531387
Maine74.38%12190
Arkansas77.49%231179
Wyoming72.73%6648
Massachusetts77.27%1267979
Michigan75.14%728547
District of Columbia70.08%1357951
Connecticut76.37%402307
West Virginia75.00%148111
Ohio75.36%966728
Texas74.55%29672212
South Carolina71.79%514369
Virginia75.53%891673
Hawaii75.71%210159
Washington74.08%841623
Pennsylvania79.56%12871024
Minnesota80.07%612490
New Hampshire75.25%198149
Louisiana76.65%561430
Delaware75.95%158120
Illinois79.03%19891572
Wisconsin77.06%170131
Colorado75.09%879660
Nebraska81.67%180147
Idaho79.33%150119
Kansas81.51%146119
Oregon81.76%477390
Utah82.61%322266
Montana82.61%11595
New Mexico85.71%238204
Iowa85.78%204175
Missouri85.71%791678
Oklahoma86.90%313272

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