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Emond Exam Prep: Virtual Bar Exam Diaries: My Apprehensions and Writing Experience

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 Apprehensions and Writing Experience

I wrote my Barrister Exam back in March 2020 but was impacted by the cancellation of the Solicitor exam a few days after the COVID-19 outbreak in mid-March. I was so frustrated when this happened as I was only days away, and I spent the new few months worrying that they would never reschedule and that I would never be called to the Ontario Bar. Eventually, the LSO scheduled the exams online, and I sat my Solicitor exam in June 2020.

In the lead up to my exams, I was really anxious and apprehensive about how the exams would be delivered, wondering if my internet would crash, would the exams be harder, what if my answers weren’t accepted and they ended up somewhere in the Cloud, all of which was on top of the usual stresses you have when writing such an important exam.

Preparation

To prepare for my Solicitor exams, I printed Emond’s indexes and tabbed them alphabetically and by section. I read the notes in depth twice, marking and highlighting important points and sections that I expected would come up. I know many candidates spend hours poring over notes, trying to memorize as much as they can. Whilst I agree with everyone having their own study technique, my advice is simply to have good indexes and be able to find information quickly. I prepared for the exam with the view that it was more of a muscle memory and information-finding test, as opposed to a knowledge or memory test.

If you can identify the key word from a question and find the relevant section in your index, you can find the answer to any question, no matter how difficult the question may seem.

Overcoming My Apprehension

Sitting my exam online was the last thing I expected, and, given the additional stresses that came with COVID-19 like working remotely, financial pressures and the inability to see friends and family, it’s safe to say I was more stressed than I’d ever been when I booted up the exam software. To ease my fears, I completed the internet connectivity test that the LSO sends out in advance and logged on several times to check that I knew where all of the login buttons and the “help” button was located. I insisted no one in the house could use the Wi-Fi that day, and I tried to focus on the task at hand, passing the exam, and not the change in the delivery of the exam. A lot of slow, deep breaths later, and after a review of my desk and surrounding area by the proctor, I clicked the exam button and started.

Exam Experience

I had no issues when taking my exam with the software or internet connectivity. I used my laptop to write the exam, and the camera was on throughout the entirety of my exam. In addition, my cellphone camera was placed to my right so that the proctor could see my desk and my notes.

Overall, I found it to be a very smooth process. I was in the comfort of my own home and there weren’t 400 people around me rustling their notes. The proctor didn’t interrupt me at all, only prompting me with a reminder towards the end of the exam.  The software had a really helpful tool which allowed you to bookmark a question if you didn’t know the answer or wanted to come back to it. This meant that at any time you could sift through your bookmarked questions (i.e. when I found the answer when looking for something else!). You also have the opportunity to review all of your answers before you hit submit, and there is a giant warning that reminds you that once you submit you can’t change your answers, so there’s no worry of you accidentally submitting your answers when you’re not finished. The exam was split into two three-hour sessions on separate days, so it gave you more time to focus on the remaining sections after the first part.

In hindsight, the adrenaline of sitting in a giant hall is missing, but this was better than waking up hours before, travelling to the testing centre, nervously writing, and then making the long journey home when your brain is totally fried. Once I was done, I went for a quick nap and was awake before I would have been back home had I been travelling on public transit. In fact, remote testing even allowed you to select the time you wished to sit the exam, so if you’re not a morning person like me, it’s a huge plus!

In summary, I sympathize with all candidates scheduled to write their exams remotely.  It’s a huge change to the way we’re all used to, and it comes with challenges and fears. In my experience, as long as you know your indexes, check your internet connection, and have a quiet place to write your exam, you’ll be done before you know it and be well deserving of a good nap and a nice cup of tea.

Now that I’ve been called to the Ontario Bar, I accepted a job with the Government, and I’m loving it for now. In terms of future plans, I’ve decided that family law is for me. Wishing all the candidates in 2020 and 2021 good luck in their exams.

 

My Top 3 Exam Tips:

  1. If you have connectivity issues, take a screenshot and contact the LSO.
  2. The software is really good and comes with features like the bookmark tab so you can come back to selected questions.
  3. The proctors aren’t scary; they just check your surroundings, and then you don’t even notice them for the rest of the exam.

 

Written by: Elisha Hale

Ontario Licensing Exam candidate

UPCOMING ONTARIO BAR EXAMS DATES


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