Emond Exam Prep: Virtual Bar Exam Diaries: Be Prepared, Not Scared!

Presenting the Virtual Bar Exam Diaries: A series specifically written for students, by students. Each article outlines the author’s personal experience writing the Ontario Licensing exam virtually, and is full of insights and advice. Learn from their experiences and write the exam with greater confidence.


Be Prepared, Not Scared!

I wrote the Barrister and Solicitor licensing examinations in July and August 2020, respectively. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing restrictions, I wrote both exams from home on my personal computer. The exams were different from prior years in the way that they were administered and in the way that they were presented. Instead of sitting in a large conference room with other writers, I sat on a plastic table in my parents’ basement. Instead of filling in a scantron sheet, I clicked on the multiple-choice answers on my computer. Instead of answering hundreds of questions over the course of seven hours, I answered 160 questions over the course of four hours. At first, I was apprehensive about these changes, thinking that they would be to my disadvantage. My experience, however, was the opposite.

I had a very positive experience writing both the Barrister and Solicitor exams, despite having significant technical difficulties. I appreciated the opportunity to set up my own writing area in advance, choose my preferred time for writing the exams, and reduce interactions with other nervous exam writers. On the day of the Barrister exam, I downloaded the pertinent software on my 2014 Apple laptop and was ready to start. I logged in to the proctoring software and was matched with a proctor. The proctor verified my identity and asked me to show them a 360-degree view of my writing area using my phone. Finally, I was ready to start. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I encountered technical difficulties right away. For reasons that neither myself nor the proctor could understand, my computer refused to open the software that held the Barrister exam. The proctor reassured me that I would not lose the writing time I was using to find a solution to my technical problem. Not wanting to reschedule my exam, I suggested using my sister’s laptop computer to write the Barrister exam. The proctor agreed, and I quickly downloaded the software on her computer. Luckily, it worked. The rest of the Barrister exam progressed smoothly, though it was difficult to shake the nervous feeling following a forty-minute delay due to technical difficulties.

At the end of two hours, the software automatically saved my answers for the first 80 questions and I took a 30-minute break. The proctor offered to allow me to start before my 30 minutes were up, but I took all 30 minutes to relax, drink water, use the bathroom, and meditate. I did not have to stay at my writing area during the 30-minute break. When I returned to my writing area, refreshed, I logged back into the exam software and answered the remaining 80 questions. At the end, I called to the proctor (whom I could not see but could hear) that I was done. The proctor confirmed that my answers had been submitted, and that was the end of the exam. At the end, I was not prepared for how exhausted I would feel. The exam is intellectually strenuous and coupled with an average case of nerves, I felt spent. I gave myself the next day off from all studying, and this was a great technique for not burning out before my Solicitor exam.

Overall, I think that the Barrister and Solicitor exams are not the worst exams in the world, but nobody would care to write them twice. In order to be prepared for the exams, I suggest the following: have contingency plans for as many worst-case scenarios as you can imagine. On the technical side, I recommend having an Ethernet cable plugged in to your computer – even if you are using WiFi to write your exam. Also, learn from me and use a newer computer to write the exam. If you don’t have a newer computer, contact the Law Society of Ontario; they lend out laptop computers in advance of the exams. On a personal note, I recommend having a conversation with your family, roommates, and neighbours about your exam times, with a respectful request that they stay quiet and/or avoid the writing area on the given days. It’s impossible to account for every possibility, but I find that the more contingency plans I had in place, the calmer I was. As the COVID motto goes, “be prepared, not scared!”


My Top 3 Exam Tips:

  1. Have an Ethernet cable as a back-up to WiFi.
  2. Have the sound on your computer on so that you may communicate with the proctor.
  3. Have your phone and laptop plugged in at all times.


Written by: V. Grinfeld

Ontario Licensing Exam candidate


Barrister Exam: March 2–6, 2021  |  Solicitor Exam: March 16–20, 2021