How Much Does It Cost to Study for and Take the Bar Exam?

Expenses don't end when law school is over.

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The bar exam is expensive. Whether you are a 3L looking ahead or you are in the midst of studying, it is important to be realistic about what it takes, financially. Have you thought through the costs of studying for the bar exam? If not, here are some (sobering) realities you want to consider.

1. Paying to Sit for the Exam

It is not cheap to sit for the bar exam! In California (where I live) if you are applying to sit for the bar exam on time (so no late fees), it costs $614 just to sit for the test ($892.

for attorney applicants) plus $139 to use your laptop (and you are foolish not to use a laptop). That is $753 for the exam alone. That is before you pay for a hotel (if you need one) near the exam location, plus other basics like food and transportation. I think a lot of bar studiers are surprised at how much it costs each time you sit for the bar. You need to think ahead about the best way to set aside money to pay for something so fundamental as the test! And don’t wait too long to sign up—late fees can add up and make it an even more expensive proposition. (Note: These numbers are accurate as of June 2014.)

In addition, most jurisdictions also require you to take the MPRE, which has its own costs as well. So be sure to research the cost to sit for the bar exam in your jurisdiction. Doing so will help you plan ahead and feel confident in financially planning for this experience.

2. Paying Additional Filing Fees to Your State Bar

You may also have to pay filing fees to your state bar in addition to the costs to take the test. For example, in California you have to submit paperwork for the moral character application. How much does it cost to prove you have moral character—well, shockingly, it can cost a pretty penny. In California it costs $500.

to file your moral character application. Yes, you read that right, $500. That is just for the privilege of filing the paperwork as part of your bar exam requirements. Add that to what it costs to sit for the MPRE and the bar exam and the numbers get pretty large.

3. Paying for a Bar Review Course

Of course, most folks (having to spend all this money just to sit for the exam) need to buy some sort of bar review course. These can greatly differ in costs. There are higher-end commercial courses such as BARBRI and Kaplan. These costs  take your breath away. As of June 2014, BARBRI’s  California program costs $4350.00. Kaplan’s full bar review program for California costs $3965.00. But a beautiful thing about the Internet revolution is that bar prep options have expanded in recent years. You can now do full online courses like Themis Bar Review costing $1595.00 for the complete California course. Or you can run bar prep from your iPad and use a course like BarMax, which goes for $999.00. There are also MBE specific programs like AdaptiBar, which retails for a few hundred dollars, though it is not a comprehensive program for the writing and MBE portions.

These are just a sampling of the types of programs that are currently available.

There are also bar review tutors out there who can help you get one-on-one help for the bar exam. From the above paragraph you can see that you do have choices when it comes to bar preparation. If money is tight, you can still get comprehensive bar preparation. You just need to shop around, try out different tools, and decide which one is the best for you.

4. Living Expenses

Lastly, don’t forget what is it going to cost to live and to study for the bar exam. If you are not working while studying, you may have to take out additional loans (sometimes called a bar loan) to help pay for the realities of day-to-day life. Before you run up credit card bills or take on more debt, be sure to calculate how much money you actually need to survive bar preparation. You don’t want money headaches to distract you from your studies.

These are just a few of the financial realities of studying for the bar exam. It’s important to be thoughtful about your financial situation going into bar preparation and to develop a plan that will help you prepare while not breaking the bank. 

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Burgess, Lee. "How Much Does It Cost to Study for and Take the Bar Exam?" ThoughtCo, Jan. 29, 2016, thoughtco.com/bar-exam-cost-2154774. Burgess, Lee. (2016, January 29). How Much Does It Cost to Study for and Take the Bar Exam? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/bar-exam-cost-2154774 Burgess, Lee. "How Much Does It Cost to Study for and Take the Bar Exam?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/bar-exam-cost-2154774 (accessed January 17, 2018).