Although many of your peers may be starting off the year with several #3LOL posts, it is important that you take some time to start thinking about a strategy to pass the Ontario Bar exams. The goal of this post is to provide you with three strategies to passing the Bar exams. I have developed these strategies based on my experience writing the Bar exams this past summer and reflecting on what I thought was helpful and what I would have done differently.
STEP #1: PREPARING AN INDEX
My first piece of advice to you is to not get stuck on the indexing portion of your preparation. During your second semester, it is likely that indexing groups will naturally start to form among your peers. These groups will usually update an index that was passed down to a student from a recent graduate to ensure the content in the index matches the revised page numbers of the new Bar materials. I have found that these groups are inherently flawed because you either choose to work with a small group of trusted peers (e.g., 5-20) and take a week out of your preparation time to complete the index, or work with a larger group (e.g., 21-50) and face the risk of errors being made and some people not completing their assigned portion of the indexing. Either way, you will be investing valuable study time on a tedious task that does not really help you retain knowledge for the Bar exams.
That being said, having an index is necessary to do well on the Bar exams, and so my recommendation is to purchase indices from a reputable Bar indexing company (e.g., Ontario Law Exam), which costs around $150 for both the Barrister and Solicitor indices. Another benefit of purchasing indices is that they will usually come with a practice exam, which I found to be the most effective tool for study preparation. I had the opportunity to compare a purchased index against the one my group created and it was clear that the purchased index was more detailed.
STEP #2: USING A STUDY SCHEDULE
I would first suggest taking some time to rest and relax after finishing your final exams – you’ll need the rest to make it through the marathon of studying ahead! When creating your study schedule, my advice is to set realistic weekly goals. You may also consider finding one or two study partners and committing to follow the same study schedule so that you are able to encourage one another to stay on track. Keep in mind that preparing for the Bar exams is not a race or a competition, so try not to get distracted by your peers sharing how many pages they are reading a day or how much material they have gotten through; instead, remain confident with the schedule you have created for yourself and find comfort in reaching your weekly goal. Below is the study schedule that I created, which required me to read an average of 300 pages per week and left me with five days of review before writing each exam:
WEEK 1 (May 3 – 10) – Business
WEEK 2 (May 11 – 17) – Estate Planning and Rules of Professional Responsibility
WEEK 3 (May 18 – 24) – Family and Criminal
WEEK 4 (May 25 – 31) – Civil Litigation and Public Law
WEEK 5 (June 1 – 5) – Review for Barrister exam
JUNE 6 – Barrister exam
WEEK 6 (June 7 – 14) – Real Estate
WEEK 7 (June 15 – 19) – Review for Solicitor exam
JUNE 20 – Solicitor exam
Remember that there will be days that you do not finish as much reading as you had intended, which is why it is helpful to set realistic weekly benchmarks. If you follow my study schedule, you should be left with five days before each exam for review.
STEP #3: REVIEWING THE MATERIAL
To make the most of the few review days in your study schedule, I would start by working with a partner to review the detailed table of contents in the bar materials – you will be amazed at how much material you retained!
Once you are finished, I suggest spending a day to complete a practice exam and using the remainder of your time reviewing the questions you struggled with. When working on your practice test, I recommend using a hardcopy of your index as you will not have access to an electronic version during the Bar exams. I found that using the index on the practice exam was helpful because I started to feel comfortable referencing key terms and I became familiar with where material was located.
Lastly, I would advise working with a partner to create a chart with relevant dates, times, and appeal routes to cut down on the amount of index referencing you will need to do on the Bar exams.
FINAL ADVICE: BE COMMITTED!
Studying for the Bar exams will be one of the most psychologically and physically draining experiences most of you will have faced at this point in your life. However, remember that getting to this point in your academic journey required a great deal of hard work. To pass the Bar exams you need to apply the same level of commitment – you have it in you!
Julian Franch – Articling Student.