After taking the bar exam in several different states, I can confidently say that the California Bar Exam is the most difficult bar exam to pass. It’s not that the subject matter is any harder than any other state, but California is one of the very few states that is three (3) days long. Most state bar exams last only two (2) days. Additionally, California has two (2) three-hour long performance tests. Most state performance tests last only an hour and a half. California is twice as long. Furthermore, California requires a scaled MBE score of 144. It is one of the highest scaled scores needed to pass that portion of the bar exam (even though you can score lower than a 144 and still pass the exam). However, California essays are relatively less difficult than other states. Nevada, for example, can have a three-page fact pattern for one essay question. Arizona gives you twelve essays in one day. Washington has three days of written exams. California’s essays are clearly laid out and the calls of the question are pretty specific so there is no guessing at what the examiners are looking for. Finally, California is an “exclusion” state, whereas states like New Mexico are inclusive. This means California is not looking to add new attorneys. New Mexico, on the other hand, will do its best to admit any applicant sitting for its bar exam. It goes to follow that New Mexico’s pass rate averages around 90% whereas California’s pass rate is approximately 68%.
So to answer the question, California is likely the hardest bar exam in the country.