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Emond Exam Prep: Virtual Bar Exam Diaries: My Advice To Students

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.

 

My Advice To Students

2020 has been a year unlike any other. It has impacted every aspect of our lives, including how we would prepare for and write the Ontario Bar exams.

I had graduated from law school in Spring 2018, and, rather than complete my Articles immediately, I secured a Policy job with the Canadian Federal Government. In 2019, I decided that it was time for me to try my hand at law. I applied for and was accepted to complete my Articles in 2020-2021 with the Federal Government. I was ecstatic.

What I was far less excited about was writing the Bar exams. Not only had I been out of school for two years so I worried that my study skills had vanished, but I would also be writing the exams online. Despite being a Gen Y, my technology abilities left much to be desired.

Thanks to understanding and supportive managers and an excellent employer, I was able to take time away from work and study for the Bar exams full time. The evolving coronavirus pandemic created challenges for the LSO. Specifically, they had to shift the writing dates. Because of this, I had far more time to study than I initially planned for. In fact, I had far too much time to study.

At the beginning of the study period, I was studying six very full days a week. However, before too long, I realized this schedule was untenable. I modified my study schedule so that I dedicated five days a week to studying. My days began at 9am and ended around 5pm. While many people expressed that this schedule was far too relaxed, I managed to read all of the study materials and complete several practice questions and exams. I also managed to stay relatively even-keeled.

There were both positive and negative aspects about writing the Bar exams two years after my friends and classmates. As a positive, countless study aids were shared with me, and I received some very helpful advice—for example, to know the professional responsibility content like the back of your hand. A negative aspect of writing the exams after my colleagues was that I was going through the study and writing experience largely alone. This aspect of the process was incredibly difficult.

I did not anticipate the mental toll that studying for the Bar exams in isolation would have on me. I became withdrawn and temperamental before eventually recognizing that in order to get through this process in one piece, I would need to engage and connect with others.

I did this by returning to my hometown and studying at my parents’ home where someone was always around to chat. I also did this by making my exercise a social outlet as well as a physical one. I am a long-time runner, and, while I often run alone, I recognized that running with others would benefit not only my pace and split times but also my mental health. For anyone planning to write the Bar exams, I cannot express enough the value of establishing a community of support as you partake in the process.

Writing the exams themselves was a fairly mundane experience. Luckily, I didn’t experience any major technical difficulties on the test days. I had spent considerable time before the tests ensuring that my phone and laptop were correctly placed for the proctoring service. Others told me that they did not spend time organizing the placement of their technologies before test days but wish they had. The proctors were wonderful, and when small hiccups occurred, they quickly stopped the timer and provided assistance. Overall, the experience was much better than anticipated.

After writing the Barrister exam, I noted things that had worked well so that I could repeat them when I wrote the Solicitor exam. Included in that list were: (1) Have food prepared so that I wouldn’t need to think about anything other than the test on test day; (2) Take a real break between parts 1 and 2 of the test – I walked around my block, which allowed both a mental and physical break; (3) Organize all of my materials and technologies before test day so that there is no last-minute preparation; and (4) Take the day after writing the exams completely off—your brain and body will need a break!

While writing the Bar exams online certainly created some anxieties, the process was manageable. For all of those who will be writing the exams in the months and years to come, best of luck!

 

My Top 5 Exam Tips:

  1. Create a study schedule that will allow you to cover the necessary materials and do practice questions without causing you to burn out.
  2. Develop a network of supportive colleagues, family, and friends who you can connect with throughout the entire process.
  3. Do as many practice tests and questions as you can before writing the exams. For me, practising was far more valuable than simply reading the materials.
  4. Buy an index—making your own is very time-consuming and takes time away from practising.
  5. Arrange the placement of your laptop and cell phone for monitoring well before test day.

 

Written by: Fiona H

Ontario Licensing Exam candidate

UPCOMING ONTARIO BAR EXAMS DATES


Barrister Exam: June 1-4 and 8-11, 2021  |  Solicitor Exam: June 22–25 and June 29-July 2, 2021