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Bar exam prep: for those who did not read/barely read the Ontario bar materials and passed on your first try, what was your approach to studying?


Garfield
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Garfield
  • Law Student

After looking around the Internet, I am getting the sense that it is possible to pass both exams on the first try with either no or minimal reading if you practice with the indices or the detailed table contents (thereby familiarizing yourself with where things are located). I also read that having a handle on the Professional Responsibility/ethics material can save you time on the day of the exam.

If you did not read or barely read the Ontario bar materials and still passed on the first try, could you share your experience/strategy/approach?

Asking because I would rather spend my time being happy.

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PulpFiction
  • Lawyer
Posted (edited)

I skipped over big chunks of both exam materials and passed on my first try. I'd say I read half of the barrister materials and a quarter of the solicitor materials, if that. I did read the PR and ethics section a couple of times, but I found a lot of the questions to be based on common sense and gut feeling and rarely referred to the materials to find an answer on the exams. 

I spent most of my time getting familiar with the index, detailed toc, and then doing practice exams. I bought 3 exams for each. If I recall correctly, I would do one exam untimed, just testing out my ability to navigate the index and materials, and then for the other two I would do timed sections (40-50 questions at a time or something). I didn't know the material well going into the exams, but I had a general idea of what the major topics were. I think I studied about 2 weeks for barrister and 1 week for solicitor. 

This was a risky move and at times I was moving slow on the exams. I would find that key word in the question, jump to my index, jump to the relevant page, and then I would be reading something for the first time. Sometimes I had to do a double take and reread the section because I wanted to make sure I read it correctly and properly understood what it meant. Or I'd read the paragraph before and after the 'relevant' paragraph to see if I was missing something major. Essentially I ended up doubting myself on the less straight forward questions because I was seeing most of the content for the first time, with the added time crunch and anxiety of writing such an important exam.  If I had read the materials beforehand, I wouldn't have had to spend that extra time on certain questions. 

You should read the materials if you have the time. Even if it's skimming over them, it's not a bad idea to be familiar with what you're being tested on. I took a risk which could have backfired big time. You don't want to find out you failed because you didn't even put in the minimal effort to read the shit you're being examined on. 

Edited by PulpFiction
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OntheVerge
  • Lawyer

I didn't make it through all the Solicitor material, maybe half? And on Barrister, my strategy was to guess on any math questions unless the math was straightforward. I can't do math quickly, I panic, and my brain doesn't recover. It was a risky strategy, but I figured time saved on those math questions would be better spent on the others. 

I did mostly practice exams in the 2 weeks heading into solicitors. I found it way more helpful when I did them 3 days before barristers, and I regretted spending so much time on skimming/reading the material as it ended up  not being as helpful as actually flipping through and using the indices in an exam type situation. So I changed strategies totally and it paid off.

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Judgelight
  • Lawyer
Posted (edited)

Read everything at least once. Get a good nights rest before the big day.

EDIT: Might have skipped the tax section.

Edited by Judgelight
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Dream Machine
  • Lawyer

I skipped all the reading except for PR. Did maybe 4 hours (at most) of practice tests for both exams (total time spent, not each) and passed both the first time.

Barrister though I thought I failed. Solicitor however felt very easy.

Whatever you do, don't be the person that reads the materials twice.

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yunglawyer
  • Lawyer

Reading the materials is good for building your confidence and allows you to gain a broad knowledge of all of the subjects on the bar exams. But as mentioned by others, practicing is far more important. They’re weird exams, unlike any other exams you’ve ever taken. You’ll need to practice working through your indices or detailed table of contents, which can only be done via practice exams.

So, if you have time to read the materials, do it. It helps a bit. But if you don’t have time to read, I would carefully skim and practice as much as you can. 

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Brisingr1502
  • Articling Student

I just "read" (most) of the material once, just to have an idea of where each section was. I did skip a few sections, especially in Business Law, and did not read any of the Estate material. I never used any indices, the table of contents is more than enough to navigate the exam and find the answers. Never opened a practice exam either.

I never felt pressed for time and actually exited the barrister exam 30-45mins ahead of time.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Dood
  • Articling Student

All these responses are super helpful. It almost feels like the bar exam is a hazing exercise.

Although in some ways, the Ontario exam is more similar to actually practicing (i.e. being able to understand the question and then research and apply the answer). In the U.S. I had to memorize everything for both days of closed-book testing. The burden was high even though no new attorney would say that by studying they now “know the law.” Maybe the tests in the US just need to be more difficult given the extremely low barrier to entry into law school here compared to Canada - the primary concern at some lower ranked schools here seems to be just whether the applicant has a pulse and is eligible for student loans.

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There is nothing similar to practice in the Ontario bar exam. It's an open book multiple choice exam and it doesn't involve application, nor do you really need to understand the questions. You just need to find the key words in the question and find where they appear in the text and look for the end of the relevant sentence.

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Dood
  • Articling Student
12 hours ago, Rashabon said:

There is nothing similar to practice in the Ontario bar exam. It's an open book multiple choice exam and it doesn't involve application, nor do you really need to understand the questions. You just need to find the key words in the question and find where they appear in the text and look for the end of the relevant sentence.

I meant in the sense that it’s open book compared to having to memorize the law. I haven’t otherwise even looked at any of the practice questions yet, but I also assumed the questions were similar to the multiple choice MBE portion of U.S. bar exams. But what you’ve described sounds more like a straight recitation of the law with no application.

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Rashabon
  • Lawyer

I think the idea that you have time to research every question and don't have to memorize the law in practice is itself a wrong impression of practice. Some questions need to be answered very quickly and if you have to look it up each time, you're doing it wrong.

But yes, the bar exam is often word for word out of a particular sentence in the materials. It's a test in being able to read to the end of the sentence, not think or process. The only difference is the professional responsibility questions, which are almost always "talk to your client".

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realpseudonym
  • Lawyer
1 hour ago, Rashabon said:

I think the idea that you have time to research every question and don't have to memorize the law in practice is itself a wrong impression of practice. Some questions need to be answered very quickly and if you have to look it up each time, you're doing it wrong.

You also need to understand the law well enough to be able to spot issues, ask the client questions, and know to look things up in the first place.

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On 6/3/2022 at 2:42 AM, Garfield said:

After looking around the Internet, I am getting the sense that it is possible to pass both exams on the first try with either no or minimal reading if you practice with the indices or the detailed table contents (thereby familiarizing yourself with where things are located). I also read that having a handle on the Professional Responsibility/ethics material can save you time on the day of the exam.

If you did not read or barely read the Ontario bar materials and still passed on the first try, could you share your experience/strategy/approach?

Asking because I would rather spend my time being happy.

1. I'm a volunteer tutor through the LSO for people who've failed the exam. Some really smart people at top-tier firms have failed and not because they didn't know the law. I've given a short summary of general advice on this forum.

2. It's irresponsible not to prepare and a poor start to the practice of law. However, I'll agree with you that preparation is not simply reading and rereading the materials, this is not for most people the best way to prepare. Most people find time management a problem, figuring out what works for them to efficiently answer enough questions matter (e.g. answering questions you probably know the answer to without wasting time looking up, and figuring out answers to other questions efficiently with having prepared and tested your own index, charts, etc.).

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