What is the Bar Exam Pass Rate at Different Law Schools?

If you’re looking to pass your bar exam on your first try, you’ll want to know the bar exam pass rate at different law schools. This will help you to determine how good your chances are of achieving your goal.

While it’s true to say that all law schools accredited by the ABA (American Bar Association) teach from a standardized syllabus, it’s important to realize that the various ways in which they transfer that knowledge to their students may not be equally effective. It’s also true that the way in which they prepare their students to enter law school varies, too.

Since each law school differs in terms of education quality, there is a huge difference in the bar exam pass rate between the various law schools nationwide. As an example, Harvard and other law schools of a similar caliber have over the years managed to maintain a pass rate for the bar exam of nearly 100%. On the other hand, less illustrious law schools such as the Thomas Jefferson School of Law have a pass rate for the bar exam of under 30%.

What Does the Term Bar Exam Pass Rate Mean?

When we use the term “bar exam pass rate” we are referring to the percentage of the law school’s students who are able to pass this rigorous examination at the first attempt. If you look at each state’s pass rate for the bar exam, you’ll see how high the percentage of all students in that state who passed the bar exam is.

Alternatively, you can also look at the pass rate for each law school. This tells you the percentage of all students attending that particular school who were able to pass the exam first time.

When you know each state’s bar exam pass rate, you can easily identify which of the states’ bar examinations are hardest to pass. You can also see at a glance which states’ students find it easier to ace the exam on their initial try.

Meanwhile, the bar exam pass rate for each specific law school helps you to spot which schools in each of the states can prepare their students most effectively for this important test. Most of America’s top fifteen law schools consistently maintain a bar exam pass rate of over 90%.

Yet, it’s vital to remember that the bar examination is an extremely challenging test with no middle ground. Either you pass the exam or your fail it – there is no in-between. However, even though the exam presents a tough challenge, if you use every opportunity and tool available to you during your preparation for the test, you’ll have a much better chance of passing on the first attempt.

In order to assist you in achieving your goal of passing on the first try, we’ve drawn up a comprehensive list of states and law schools that have the best (and worst) pass rates. This helps you to work out which schools and areas of the country to avoid (and seek out) if you’re determined to nail your bar exam first time.

Which Law Schools Have the Highest Bar Passage Rates?

The U.S. law schools that have the highest bar exam pass rate overall are:

  1. 100% – Concordia University School of Law
  2. 98% – Yale University, the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania
  3. 97% – Harvard University, Columbia University, New York University, Duke University
  4. 96% – University of Michigan
  5. 65% – Liberty University School of Law
  6. 95% – University of Alabama, Stanford University
  7. 92% – Baylor University

Note, though, that the pass rates for the bar exam change constantly. The schools outlined above have been selected because they have consistently had pass rates of over 90% throughout the years. This is something that few law schools are able to claim.

Which Law Schools Have the Lowest Pass Rate for the Bar Exam?

Now that you know which law schools are reliably getting the best results on the bar exam year-on-year, which ones have the lowest rate of passage?

These nine law schools are at the bottom of the rankings:

  1. 20% – Arizona Summit Law School
  2. 21% – Whittier Law School
  3. 24% – Atlanta’s John Marshall
  4. 25% – Thomas Jefferson School of Law
  5. 33% – University of San Francisco
  6. 34% – University of La Verne
  7. 39% – Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico School of Law
  8. 43% – Inter-American
  9. 44% – Appalachian School of Law

Due to its consistently low pass rate for the bar exam over a number of years, the Whittier Law School finally decided in 2017 that the legal program it had been running would be discontinued and would no longer be accepting new students. After many years of consistently poor performance in the bar exam by its law students, the Arizona Summit Law School was also closed down.

Even though the above figures look bad, there’s no need for undue concern if you attend one of the schools mentioned here. You don’t have to worry that attendance at a school whose students traditionally perform poorly in the bar examination will be the death knell of your career in law. If you put in plenty of hard work, it’s still possible to ace your bar exam on the first try, regardless of which school you attend.

Which States Have the Highest Bar Passage Rates?

If you’re ready to increase your chance of passing your state bar examination first time, you should consider taking the test in one of the states you’ll find outlined here:

Pass rate of 79% – Missouri

The pass rate for the bar in Missouri stands typically around 80%. Again, 2016 saw a dip, but in Missouri’s case it only fell to 78% which is higher than the majority of other states are able to claim. Candidates here aren’t tested on state-specific laws, however, before taking the bar exam, applicants are required to take the Missouri Educational Component.

Pass rate of 78% – Iowa

Over the past decade, the pass rate for the bar in the state of Iowa has stood at around 80%. The only exception was in 2016 when the pass rate fell to 68%. It rebounded back, however, the following year. This state’s examination is fairly straightforward and this makes it a top choice for any student keen to pass first time.

Pass rate of 76% – Utah

The pass rate in Utah went up over the past few years and this makes the state one of the most attractive choices for students keen to embark on a legal career. Whether or not those high pass rates will hold in the future, however, still needs to be determined.

Pass rate of 75% – Kansas

Just like Iowa, the state of Kansas also saw its pass rate dipping during 2016, however in this state the dip was only slight – down to 72% which is still very impressive. Generally, Kansas’s pass rate for the bar is over 80% and this makes it a front-runner if you want to pass first try. Also, because this exam never tests candidates on state-specific laws, there’s no need to do any additional research or studying about these laws in order to pass.


When you’re keen to pass your bar exam with no need to actually take an exam, Wisconsin is the state for you to attend law school. So long as you’ve attended one of the state’s ABA-accredited law schools you’ll be licensed by simply making an application to practical law – there’s no need to take a bar exam. On the other hand, if you obtain your JD (Juris Doctor) in one of the other states, the state’s bar exam will still need to be taken.

Although South Dakota was once one of the states to have a higher pass rate however in recent years the decline in those pass rates has been significant.

Which States Have the Lowest Pass Rates for the Bar Exam?

Some states have made it mandatory to pass that state’s bar examination before you’re permitted to practice law there. This means that, just because you’ve passed the exam in your home state, it doesn’t mean you automatically have license to allow you to enter legal practice in any of the other states, except those in which you’ve passed the examination.

It’s also important to note that, even if you breeze through your bar examination in one of the states, you may not have an identical experience elsewhere. This is due to the fact that the bar examination you’ll face in one state can be extremely different from the one you’ll take in another. Each state’s pass rate for the bar exam is, therefore, the most accurate indication of how difficult its bar exam truly is.

Here, you’ll find some of the U.S.’s states that have the lowest pass rates for the bar exam. This means that if you want to pass this important examination in those states, you’ll need to put even more time and effort into your preparation to ensure your success.

Pass rate of 44% – California

It’s unanimously agreed that the bar examination you’ll take in California is, without doubt, the toughest of all. The low pass rate for this state certainly doesn’t help to dispel this idea. Due to its numerous components, the exam in California takes 2 days. It includes 5 essay questions and a performance test together with the MBE (Multistate Bar Examination).

Pass rate of 58% – Nevada

Nevada’s bar exam isn’t just tough, but the pass rate here isn’t too confidence-inspiring. It’s among America’s longest bar examinations taking 2 ½ days for it to be completed. It also requires you to have familiarity with the state’s many unique and unusual laws. To add even more challenge to the mix, the lowest score you can achieve here and pass is 140 out of 200. This is one of the country’s highest minimum bar exam pass rate scores.

Pass rate of 63% – Arkansas

Many people believe that the bar exam in Arkansas is second to California in terms of its toughness. Just like the exam in California, it is taken over 2 days. The reasons that it is so difficult is because of the vast number of local and state laws that exam takers have to know, and this means you’ll probably need to study more material to pass this test that is required for the bar examinations in most other states.

Pass rate of 66% – Virginia

Virginia’s bar exam is also very tough. The reason for its challenging nature is down to the sheer number of different topics that this exam addresses – up to twenty four different legal areas. If you take Virginia’s bar exam, you’re also required to take the examination wearing a suit.

Pass rate of 67% – Washington

In Washington, the bar examination also takes 2 days. Again, it is a challenging test. While the pass rate here isn’t quite as low as you’ll see in California and Nevada, it’s far below that you’ll see for most other states.

Pass rate of 68% – Delaware

The thing that makes the bar exam in Delaware especially difficult to pass is not the pass rate itself, but rather the minimum score you need to achieve to pass. When compared with the bar exam in most other states, exam takers in Delaware have to achieve a much higher score. They must get at minimum score of 145 in order to pass, and this compares unfavorably with most other states where the minimum score required to pass is just 132.

How Do I Pass the Bar Exam on My First Try?

If you attend one of the highest-ranked law schools in a state that has a high pass rate for the bar exam, there’s still no guarantee of passing your bar examination first time. It’s possible to fail on the first attempt whichever law school you’re attending.

Nevertheless, if you attend a reputable and well-respected law school, your chances of receiving the highest standard of education to teach you everything you have to know to pass your bar exam with flying colors are higher.

At the end of the day, though, the only thing that will determine whether you fail or pass is how prepared you are for your exam and how committed you are to succeeding. It’s therefore always wise to take lots of practice bar examinations so you can determine whether or not you’re truly ready to take the real test. We wish you good luck!