How Much Does It Cost to Take the Bar Exam

Written by: Will Bond

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How Much Does It Cost to Take the Bar Exam

Ever wondered about the financial toll of pursuing a legal career? Taking the bar exam is a crucial step on this journey, and will represent one of the most significant expenses as you prepare to become a licensed attorney.

This How Much Does It Cost to Take the Bar Exam article will cover the main costs associated with the bar exam, giving you a clear picture of what to expect financially.

Recommended: Interested in getting started? We recommend Kaplan’s bar exam preparation materials, which come with a free retake guarantee, interactive and flexible learning, and lawyer-led tutoring. 

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Bar Exam Cost

In the three tables below, we’ve detailed the main costs to be aware of associated with registering for the bar exam in each state.

Alabama – Kentucky

StateRegistration FeeLate Filing Fee
Alaska$850 ($550 for repeaters)$125
Illinois$950-$1,450($500-$850 for repeaters)N/A
Iowa$800 ($550 for repeaters)N/A

Louisiana – New York

StateRegistration FeeLate Filing Fee
Louisiana$850-$975($975 for repeaters)$850
Missouri$560-$1,400 ($560-$850 for repeaters)N/A
New Hampshire$725N/A
New Jersey$950$250
New Mexico$500 ($750 for repeaters)$500
New York $250-$750N/A

North Carolina – Wyoming

StateRegistration FeeLate Filing Fee
North Carolina$850$250
North Dakota$150$150
Oklahoma$125-$650($650 for repeaters)$50-$150
Rhode Island$975N/A
South Carolina$1,000$500
South Dakota$450N/A
Tennessee$625 ($450 for repeaters)N/A
Texas$300-$490($225 for repeaters)N/A
Washington State$585$300
Washington DCFebruary Exam: $232July Exam: $405N/A
West Virginia$500$200

Additional Costs for Bar Admission

In addition to the exam registration fee, candidates are also required to pay a variety of other — often overlooked — expenses associated with preparing for and taking the bar exam.

Bar Exam Prep Courses

While there’s no universal approach for studying for this exam, many students choose to use bar exam preparation courses. These will typically represent a big portion of the total cost of taking the bar exam, but come with significantly varying price tags.

Generally speaking, a comprehensive review course costs several thousand dollars, with additional expenses for supplemental study materials.

For example, Kaplan’s bar prep courses start from around $1,699, which is on the lower end of the scale.

Competitors like BARBRI and Themis Bar Review cost approximately $2,599 and $2,795, respectively.

Fortunately, some employers assist with these costs; regardless, it’s crucial to factor in this expense when calculating the overall cost of taking the bar exam.

Recommended Course

Interested in getting started? We recommend Kaplan’s bar exam preparation materials, which come with a free retake guarantee, interactive and flexible learning, and lawyer-led tutoring.

4.7 out of 5 starsKaplan ($1,699+)


If you opt to avoid paying for a bar prep course and instead get ready for the bar exam independently with bar preparation textbooks, it’s important to note that this can still represent a significant cost.

With new books easily costing $300 or more each, obtaining all the necessary materials you’ll need to successfully prepare for your state’s bar exam can set you back anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000.

While cheaper options like renting or buying used books do exist, we generally don’t recommend this to our readers because there’s no way to know if the books are outdated. If that is the case, it can lead to wasted time, money, and energy.

Tip: If you opt for a bar exam preparation course, you’ll often receive these textbooks as part of the overall cost.

Bar-Related Expenses

Beyond your exam registration fee, you’ll need to budget for a number of other bar-related expenses in order to successfully complete your application to the bar.

While the exact fees you’ll need to cover ultimately depend on your state’s specific rules, you’ll typically need to pay for:

  • A Character and Fitness Investigation (typically handled by the National Conference of Bar Examiners)
  • Criminal History Records
  • Driving Records
  • Registration for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)

These expenses can vary widely, but, on average, you should expect to pay between $500 and $1,000 to fulfill these additional requirements.

Exam Software

Many students taking the bar exam choose to use a laptop for the essay portion.

If you’re interested in this option, you’ll need to purchase a license for software specific to your state.

While the exact fee will vary depending on the jurisdiction in which you sit the bar exam, you should expect to budget between $100 and $200 for the cost of this software alone.

While this is an optional expense, it’s important to mention because it’s becoming increasingly popular among bar exam candidates and may be worth investing in to ensure you’re on par with other applicants using this tool.

Note: One way to find out the cost of this in your state is to look up the “laptop fee” on your state bar examiners website.

Exam Accommodations

Accommodation and food expenses are another often-overlooked set of costs associated with taking the bar exam.

If you live far from the exam venue, you’ll need to arrange hotel stays for at least two nights — sometimes three — in addition to covering your meal expenses during your stay.

Depending on your mode of transportation, you also may incur fuel or air fare costs. Surprisingly, many students fail to include these expenses when budgeting for the bar exam, yet they can significantly inflate your overall expenses by several hundred dollars or more.

Time Off Work

Another potentially hidden expense associated with taking the bar exam is the time you may need to take off work in order to sit the test(s). Because the bar exam typically takes place on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July, you’ll be required to take this time off work in order to attend (if applicable).

If you’re unable to take any paid time off, you should consider the wages you’ll lose by not working these days to get an accurate idea of how much taking the bar exam will cost you holistically.

While sabbaticals are rare for non-executive employees, securing a paid sabbatical isn’t impossible. You may need to find ways to cover your expenses during unpaid leave and demonstrate to your employer how your time away will be mutually beneficial.

Recommended: Interested in getting started? We recommend Kaplan’s bar exam preparation materials, which come with a free retake guarantee, interactive and flexible learning, and lawyer-led tutoring.

4.7 out of 5 starsKaplan ($1,699+)

How Much Does the Bar Exam Cost FAQ

Why does it cost so much to take the bar exam?

The costs include bar exam fees, bar review courses, study materials, and potential lost wages during preparation. Additionally, there are expenses for travel, lodging, and miscellaneous fees associated with getting to the testing center. To get an idea of the full list of bar exam costs associated with taking this exam, check out our How Much Does It Cost to Take the Bar Exam Cost article.

Is the bar exam harder than law school?

Obtaining a passing score on the bar exam is typically considered more challenging due to its comprehensive nature and the high stakes involved. While law school tests a candidate’s knowledge, the bar exams of each state assess their ability to apply that knowledge under pressure within a limited time frame.

How many times can you fail the bar exam?

The number of attempts allowed varies by jurisdiction — some states have no limit while others restrict the number of retakes. It’s essential to check the rules of the state in which you intend to practice law to understand the limitations. Make sure to confirm this for both the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) and Multistate Bar Exam (MBE).

Do I need to take the bar exam?

In most jurisdictions, paying the bar exam fee and passing the bar exam is a requirement to practice law. However, there are exceptions. For example, the California bar exam is optional and may be substituted by fulfilling other requirements. As a law student looking to take the bar exam in your jurisdiction, you can check out our What is the Bar Exam guide to help you get started.