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Practical Tips on Preparing for Licensing Examinations

5 minute read
Also authored by: Minki Jeong

Congratulations! You have completed law school and now you are one step closer to becoming a lawyer. With the bar exam marking the second last hurdle on your journey to becoming a lawyer, you are nearing the finish line. As a current articling student who went through the Law Society of Ontario’s licensing examination process in the summer of 2023, I would like to share a few practical tips on preparing for the examinations.

Before we begin, it is important to understand that there is no one right approach to preparation. For instance, some people enjoy studying together in groups whereas others prefer to study alone. As you likely expected, anything I share is based on my experience and what worked for me. I hope that you can use my approach simply as a reference point and this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to preparation. As well, please ensure to always consult the relevant Law Society’s rules. With this caveat in mind, let’s jump right in.

1. The Big Picture: Know Your Test

Though it may seem obvious, it is critical for you to have a solid understanding of what you are being tested on. For lawyer licensing candidates, there are two examinations: the Barrister Licensing Examination and the Solicitor Licensing Examination. As the names suggest, the former will involve subjects including, but not limited to civil litigation, public law, family law, and criminal law. The latter contains subjects such as real estate, business law, and estate planning. Importantly, ethical and professional responsibilities questions are interspersed between all subjects for both the Barrister and the Solicitor examinations.

As you should know by now, the examinations are open-book. Unless you are like Mike Ross with eidetic memory[1] from the infamous TV series “Suits”, you will certainly need to refer to the Law Society’s study materials during the examinations. The fact that the examinations are open-book in no way means you can “take it easy” with studying the materials. You must remember that you will be under strict time constraints. Unless you have thoroughly studied the materials in advance of the examinations, it will likely be difficult for you to locate the appropriate contents within the materials.

For more information on the examinations, including format, you should consult the Law Society of Ontario’s website.

2. Create a comprehensive study schedule and stick with it

The examinations were unlike any other tests I have gone through partly because of the voluminous reading materials, but mostly for the broad subject areas that had to be covered. In light of this, I knew that I needed to create a comprehensive study plan, accounting for contingencies such as sick days. I treated the preparation as a 9 to 7 job; I gave myself enough time to review the Solicitor exam contents, then the Barrister, and then re-reviewed the Solicitor materials after the end of the Barrister examination.

Understanding that it would be difficult to make substantive changes to my study schedule later down the road, I “invested” two full days in developing a sound schedule. This may seem extreme, but I even came up with a meal plan where I essentially consumed the same type of food for a few months until the lead-up to the Barrister exam.  The point is, that it would serve you well to come up with a plan you can stick to.

3. The Seemingly Trivial but not so Trivial: Training Ground & the Arena

Understandably, many of us are so focused on reviewing the examination materials that we undervalue the importance of logistics. I have heard horror stories of candidates not being admitted to their examination centre because they were late. As one can imagine, there are hundreds of candidates taking the exam at a given location. Usually, the place of examination will be large enough that you may find yourself lost on your big day; mine was in an airplane hangar and a convention centre. In order to preclude any foreseeable game-day disaster, I visited the exam locations about a few weeks before each exam. I ensured to know where to park and some restroom locations. Although I did not know exactly which room or area I would be placed in, this was not a significant concern; on examination days, there were some wonderful on-site proctors who directed me where to go.

You should choose your training ground wisely and by this I mean where you take your practice exams. Reflecting on my LSAT days, I figured it would be helpful to take some practice exams in less-than-ideal settings. Though I worked on many of my practice questions in my law school’s library, I visited loud areas such as coffee shops to train for the unexpected. Fortunately, this was a sound decision. On the day of one of my exams, a fellow test-taker around me brought some consumables, including but not limited to a sandwich, protein bars, and other snacks. Also on that candidate’s table were a bottle of water, juice, and coffee. As you can imagine, the noise was quite distracting, but I was prepared enough to work through it.

4. Post-Examinations

It is easier said than done, but once you have completed the examinations, forget about everything and take some time off. You have worked diligently in getting to this step and you should celebrate, regardless of what you think the results may be. Personally, I found peace in knowing that I have given my best in preparing for the exams.

I hope that you found these practical tips helpful and I wish all candidates the best in their upcoming examinations.

[1] I sincerely apologize for this spoiler for anyone who has not watched Suits yet, but were planning on doing so.

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