The bar exam is a test that every lawyer must pass in order to practice law in their desired state. This intensive and comprehensive test contains 200 multiple-choice questions, six 30-minute essay questions, and two 90-minute exams. It takes two days to complete and is only available to take twice a year; only 27 states accept the Uniform Bar Examination as the standardized test for practicing law, while the other 23 issue their own versions of the bar exam (though they’re generally similar in content and format as the UBE).

 While every aspiring lawyer must take the bar exam to legally practice law in the United States, some states allow people to take the bar exam without having gone to law school beforehand. Here’s how that can be done.

 1) Location

 Since only certain states allow people to take the bar exam without attending law school, it’s vital to choose a location that will allow you to bypass this requirement. Washington, Vermont, California, and Virginia are the only four states that don’t hold law school as a bar exam requirement, but it’s possible to take the bar exam in Wyoming, New York, and Maine without a Juris Doctorate degree so long as you have some law school experience. In some cases, a legal apprenticeship can substitute for one or two years of law school.

 2) Legal Apprenticeship

 Working as a legal apprentice will give you vital, hands-on experience in the legal field. Though this used to be a common route for aspiring lawyers in the early days of the United States, it was mostly replaced in favor of law school. Apprenticeships usually require apprentices to work a certain number of hours each week under the supervision of a practicing lawyer while completing a set number of study hours. Not any practicing lawyer can take on an apprentice; though each state’s requirements vary, these practicing lawyers typically need anywhere between three and ten years of experience.

 3) First-Year Law Students’ Examination

 Those who plan to practice law in California must pass the First-Year Law Students’ Examination as part of their apprenticeship. This is also required for first-year law students who attend unaccredited law schools. California requires this examination because of the difficulty of its state bar exam—it had the lowest passing rate of the entire country between 1995 and 2014. This exam, also known as the “Baby Bar,” is a one-day examination covering matters such as community property, business association, evidence, remedies, criminal law and procedure, and more. 

 4) Bar Exam

 Once your legal apprenticeship requirements are met, you can buckle down and start preparing for the bar exam. The exam varies depending on the state you plan to practice in. It’s important to know that the pass rate for legal apprentices is roughly one-third the rate of those who have completed law school, so preparing is something that should be taken seriously and done as much as possible. Use every advantage you can: online materials, practice tests, study materials, and a set study schedule to increase your chances of passing the bar.