Easiest Bar Exam to Pass in the U.S.


What State has the Easiest Bar Exam to Pass in the Country?

If we look at bar passage rates alone the answer is South Dakota, which had a 93% pass rate last year. However that may not be the full story.

Professor Robert Anderson of Pepperdine has blogged on this subject: “There is a tremendous difference among the states in the difficulty of their bar exams,” he says. “Some bars are so easy you could accidentally get admitted to them by walking too close to the testing center. Some bars are so difficult that the former Stanford Law School dean could fail them.” (That’s something that apparently actually happened.) [source]

While we can look at the bar passage rates for various states, that alone doesn’t tell us the full story because there are considerable differences in the talent pool lining up to take the bar in each state. Recognizing this, Professor Anderson used data of passage rates where the LSAT score average for that same pool of students was was known, to determine a “Bonus Percent” by which other bar exams are easier than the hardest one, California.

I freely admit that I don’t understand how regression analysis works, but the assumption here is that students who scored better on the LSAT are more likely to pass the bar all things being equal. At any rate, it gives us something nice to look at that probably approximates the relative difficulties of various states’ bar examination. I’ve certainly always been told California’s was the hardest so I guess the numbers back that up.

Rank State Bar Examination BonusPercent Calculated Average LSAT Calculated Passage Rate Overall Passage Rate
1 California 0 160.68 76.85 73.41
2 Louisiana 0.91 154.79 72.07 68.23
3 Washington 3.90 158.12 78.27 74.54
4 Oregon 5.05 158.83 80.11 77.96
5 Nevada 5.19 158.09 79.53 74.28
6 Virginia 5.56 162.82 84.47 78.73
7 Arkansas 5.60 154.45 76.43 77.35
8 West Virginia 5.72 153.22 75.36 77.56
9 Maryland 7.02 159.85 83.06 80.08
10 Vermont 8.44 155.02 79.82 82.24
11 New Jersey 8.98 158.65 83.86 83.12
12 New York 9.14 162.89 88.13 86.49
13 Rhode Island 9.28 151.53 77.29 78.90
14 Colorado 9.88 159.64 85.72 82.58
15 Florida 10.02 154.40 80.80 78.44
16 South Carolina 10.29 156.01 82.62 80.41
17 Arizona 11.27 159.26 86.74 80.83
18 Utah 11.39 160.97 88.52 87.56
19 Hawaii 11.43 155.99 83.74 83.30
20 Indiana 11.46 156.78 84.54 83.01
21 North Carolina 11.88 156.56 84.74 78.18
22 Texas 12.27 157.86 86.38 84.38
23 Idaho 12.56 154.32 83.26 82.31
24 Wyoming 12.93 153.32 82.67 72.83
25 Kentucky 13.57 156.59 86.46 84.61
26 Georgia 14.36 160.39 90.93 85.99
27 Illinois 14.86 159.68 90.74 89.97
28 Connecticut 15.32 157.32 88.92 86.64
29 Pennsylvania 15.49 157.20 88.97 84.61
30 Tennessee 15.82 158.31 90.38 84.83
31 Ohio 16.00 155.54 87.88 86.69
32 Maine 16.06 155.29 87.70 86.58
33 Massachusetts 16.07 158.30 90.62 90.16
34 Kansas 16.40 155.49 88.23 89.22
35 New Hampshire 16.76 153.29 86.47 86.09
36 North Dakota 17.18 151.00 84.67 83.23
37 Mississippi 17.31 152.64 86.39 85.35
38 Minnesota 18.27 157.27 91.82 91.46
39 New Mexico 18.51 155.56 90.41 87.26
40 Michigan 18.67 151.57 86.72 84.98
41 Montana 18.97 154.54 89.89 90.73
42 Iowa 19.81 156.69 92.81 90.96
43 Missouri 20.18 157.30 93.76 91.20
44 Oklahoma 20.73 154.49 91.60 89.85
45 Nebraska 20.79 155.27 92.41 88.90
46 Alabama 21.13 157.33 94.75 87.16
47 Wisconsin 23.51 159.66 99.37 91.83
48 South Dakota 28.00 150.51 95.02 93.08


I hope commenters can provide some idea about how this chart matches up with local perception of bar exam difficulty. Two things I know are that my classmates considered the Illinois bar relatively easy. Generally we thought it was far and away more easy than the bar most other students took, which was New York. What shocks me here is that New Jersey, which is high on the difficultly list on this chart, is supposed to be incredibly easy from what I’ve heard. This information comes to me from people studying for both NY and NJ at the same time, so it seems possible that this chart isn’t really telling the full story. I am told you need to do nothing much beyond your study for the multistate bar to pass the NJ bar exam.

 Bar Exam Survival Kit

Is a looming bar exam giving you panic attacks? Here are some life-saving guides to ensure you pass on the first try:

41ItFWMIjTL._SY300_The Bar Exam Is Easy: A Straightforward Guide on How to Pass the Bar Exam with Less Study Time and Save $3,000

Strategies & Tactics for the MBE, Fifth Edition

MBE Flash Cards (Law in a Flash)

Bar Exam Mind: A Strategy Guide for An Anxiety-Free Bar Exam

View All Bar Study-Aids in An Amazon Shopping Cart

This leads me to consider the possibility that there are just a few truly difficult bar exams out there. The rest are considerably easier, but still are failed a lot because of the numerous reasons people have for failing bars. My thinking is that very few people probably study as hard for the NJ bar as they would for the NY bar, but they still fail because they studied less than was necessary despite the lower amount of study required.

In the end, all one can do is theorize about the objective differences between the bars, because it’s not possible to have the same group of people take all of them as if it was their first time taking the bar. Still, the clear take away from looking at the chart is that some bar exams are incredibly easy compared to others.

Just so we all know, by far the easiest bar is Wisconsin’s bar, provided you went to law school in the state. Wisconsin has a “diploma privilege” such that these students don’t even have to take the bar to pass and become full lawyers!

However, after all that analysis it appears that the South Dakota bar is still the easiest one to take if you actually are forced to take one.



  1. Wisconsin students that complete law school in Wisconsin are not required to take the bar exam. That is why the pass rate appears to be so high on the chart above. It is called Diploma Privilege.

  2. Marybeth Chugg, Esq. on

    The MBE is the issue, especially, if your jurisdiction weights the total score by a person’s MBE score. The MBE is a very difficult exam. A bar examiner has 1.8 minutes per question to read and answer each question. Two of the answers get thrown out but the remaining two split microscopic hairs. The question can run 1-2 pages in length. It is mentally and physically grueling. All of the local days for a bar exam are easier than the MBE. Forget the LSAT comparison and correlate data for the score on local day only or MBE score vs. local day score and whether or not the jurisdiction weights the total score by the MBE score. In NY, they give more weight to the MBE score and weight the total score by the MBE score. If a bar examiner does not do well on the MBE, it is highly unlikely they will pass the bar. The NCBE is disingenuous when they blame the quality of the law students instead of it’s exam. Hogwash. The students are super bright. The MBE is a mean-spirited exam. Couple this with the idea that there are only so many lawyers a jurisdiction will license because they are afraid of the competition. Frankly, the NCBE and the Bar Examination Committees should stop the paranoic nonsense and start treating the legal profession with respect. Compare too the treatment of a student accepted tip medical school. Once a student is accepted into medical school absolutely every effort is made by medical schools and everyone in the student’s formation to ensure the student becomes a licensed medical doctor. The same should happen for those choosing the legal profession. The vetting and screening happens before a student enters the professional school, not after. Once in the professional school, then everything should be done to help the student become the professional they signed up to become. The legal profession’s licensing and failure to have 100% reciprocity nationwide is a disgrace.

  3. I think the pass/fail rates used in this analysis must be old… The Michigan pass rate is now quite low, whereas this analysis makes it look like the 9th easiest one.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Want to increase your LSAT score?

Smart Choice. I'll send you a free copy of my ebook to help get you started.

"Getting Started on the LSAT: A Complete Guide to Prepping the Right Way"

Cool. I'm sending an email your way...


Check your inbox & shoot us an email at support@lawschooli.com if you have any questions!