How Much Does It Cost to Take the Bar Exam?


The bar exam is a test issued by the government that every law student in the United States is required to take in order to legally practice law.  After completing your law classes in college, the bar exam will be your last step in becoming a lawyer.  The price, schedules, and specifics of this test are going to vary greatly depending on the state you live in.

Old Court Room by Ed Bierman, on Flickr
Old Court Room” (CC BY 2.0) by Ed Bierman

How much does it cost to take the bar exam?

On average, the bar exam can cost as little as $500 to as much as $1,500+ for just the exam.  This won’t include additional fees such as the application charges, traveling fees or deadline charges.  Refer to the table below for your state’s cost.  When everything is factored in such as the registration fees, background checks, study guides and crash courses, the total can easily surpass the $3,500 to $5,500 range.

Lee Burgess at About.com said in California, you will have to pay $614 to sit for the test plus $139 to use your laptop.  That brings the total to $753 alone.

StateBar Exam Cost
Alabama
$475 - $1300
Alaska
$800 + fees
Arizona
$395
Arkansas
$325
California
$520 - $770
Colorado
$425 - $825
Connecticut
$450
Delaware
$500
Florida
$850 to $3,000
Georgia
$500
Hawaii
$300
Idaho
$500
Illinois
$4540
Indiana
$225 to $550
Iowa
$325
Kansas
$500 to $825
Kentucky
$625
Louisiana
$550
Maine
$700 to $900
Maryland
$200 to $250
Massachusetts
$850
Michigan
$600
Minnesota
$500
Mississippi
$625
Missouri
$400 to $1,300
Montana
$400
Nebraska
$550
Nevada
$500
New Hampshire
$400
New Jersey
$500 to $725
New Mexico
$400 to $800
New York
$250 + fees
North Carolina
$600 to $1,300
North Dakota
$150
Ohio
$330 to $1,000
Oklahoma
$300 to $1,000
Oregon
$500
Pennsylvania
$500 to $1,400
Rhode Island
$450 to $800
South Carolina
$400 to $750
South Dakota
$300
Tennessee
$300 to $900
Texas
$300 to $1,200
Utah
$425 to $625
Vermont
$255 to $600
Virginia
$175 to $350
Washington
$450 to $750
West Virginia
$375 to $1,000
Wisconsin
$450 to $900
Wyoming$200

What are the extra costs?

Most colleges and exam centers are going to charge an application fee, which is usually around $25 and $175.  For example, registering in California can cost $119.

Notary and postage fees will be necessary in order to send out your results.  This will be an additional $20 to $50.

In some states, applicants may have to submit additional paperwork.  For example, in California, applicants have to submit a moral character application; this costs $500.

Late registration fees can be more than double than the regular registration fees.

Fingerprints will cost anywhere from $30 to $60.

If you want to use the laptop during the exam, additional fees will apply.  This is usually about $150 to $200.  The laptop will have to be approved ahead of time in order for you to use it.

Course material, as well as study guides and flashcards, will be necessary to prepare for the exam.  While college will teach you a fair majority of these materials, the study guides will focus more on the examination process.  Bar review classes can cost $1,500 to more than $3,500.  BARBRI, for example, has courses that can cost $2,000 to $4,000.  Study guides, textbooks and flashcard sets can all cost anywhere from $30 to more than $110.

Some exam centers may not be located near your home, and travel expenses are going to be an additional expense to think about.

Tips to know

Students are encouraged to apply as early as possible because some testing centers can fill up quickly.

16 states accept the bar exam scores from other states, but in order to transfer, you will have to pay a transfer fee, which can be anywhere from $250 to more than $1,000 depending on the state you transfer to, and students may have to meet additional requirements such as taking a local law class.

To find bar exam dates, deadlines, subjects tested, MPRE information, grading and results, visit abaforlawstudents.com for a directory of states.

Most students will start studying for the exam about one to two weeks after they graduate.  Successful students stated they studied for eight to 10 weeks before they felt comfortable taking the exam.

The bar exam will vary on what’s included but on most exams, it will have some sort of legal/research writing assignment, short essays and multiple choice questions.  In Texas, for example, it includes a simulated legal writing assignment, 40 short answered questions, 200 multiple choice and 12 essays.

How many times can you take the bar exam?

Most jurisdictions don’t limit the number of times you can take the exam, but some will impose some limits.  Some states will a have a set amount of times you can take the test, while others allow a certain amount of attempts.

The following states have no limit and you can take the bar exam as many times as you’d like:  Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana*, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

The following states have limits to the amount of times you can take the exam without any special permission:  Arizona (three times), District of Columbia (four times), Idaho (six times) Iowa (two times), Kansas (four times), Kentucky (five times), Maryland (three times), Montana (three times), New Hampshire* (four times), North Dakota (six times), Rhode Island (five times), South Carolina* (three times), South Dakota* (three times), Texas (five times), Utah (six times), Vermont (four times), Virginia (five times), West Virginia (four times).  In some states, have you fail a certain amount of times, there may be a time limit imposed.

How can I save money?

Consider purchasing used study materials online since newer textbooks are usually going to cost around 40 to 50% more.

Try and find the closest exam center near your home so you can save on unnecessary travel expenses.


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