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Top 10 Things You Should Know For the Bar

Note, this blog is for the Ontario Bar Exam

There may or may be overlap with other provinces/states.

We know that preparing for the bar is a stressful time. We aim to make your life easier by offering 10 pieces of advice that every writer of the bar should know.

10. The length.

The Bar exam is 8 hours total, broken down into two 4 hour sections. It’s mentally exhausting to be “on” for that amount of time, so be ready. You can go to the bathroom if you need to, but it will cut in to your working time. And that’s why you should…

9. Have a plan.

– Give yourself a time limit for each section, and stick to it. If you do not know the answer to a question, instead of wasting time figuring it out, narrow the options down as best you can, make your best guess, and come back later if there is time.
– Bring charts to help you save time (for example, mapping what level of court a particular issue goes to).
– Instead of reading everything twice, read it once and highlight, and then go back and read the highlighted portions.

Having a plan for the exam is important. You should be able to move effortlessly and quickly through your materials, which you will be able to do because you’ve taken care to…

8. Prepare materials properly.

You are allowed to bring in notes for an entire section. Anything that you need for the morning section is accessible all morning long, which means that you can go back and redo sections. This is why it is important to stick to your timing.

It can be a good idea to trade materials with a friend. That way if there is something you’ve forgotten, their notes might have it. It can also be a good way to have alternate phrasing of concepts, for easier search depending on how they are addressed on the exam.

The most important thing is to bring materials in a form that is comfortable to you. If you are comfortable with a series of binders, use binders. If you want everything to be bound separately, bind it all separately. Whatever you are comfortable with is best for you. You’ll know the answer to that because you’ve been sure to…

7. Practice.

The purpose of practice exams is not so much for the material (you’ll get better by reading and re-reading it). Practice exams are useful so that you get used to flipping through your notes and finding things. You need to make sure to do practice exams with enough time left before the exam to fix anything that doesn’t work for you. But the most important thing you can do in a practice exam is get used to your index. In general, Practice exams are really helpful, notably Ontario Law Exam, the first and premier provider. To learn more go to Ontario Law Exam.

6. Index.

When you are writing the bar, every second counts. Make sure that you have a good index for your notes, and know where everything is. When you read a question, you have to understand what it is looking for, yes, but also where information on it is contained in your index so that you can answer the question.

This is another reason that sharing with a friend beforehand is a good idea – they may phrase things differently in their index, and you might be able to make a quicker match between the required materials on the exam and where they are.

It’s far easier to build a good index when you know what materials you will need. And that’s why it’s important to know about…

5. Questions.

The majority of the questions on the bar do not require you to be able to analyze exactly how things work, but rather to know about the material. However, there are certain areas that will require you to be able to perform specific calculations. These areas include:
– Family law
– Property law
– Real estate law
– Tax law

You’ll be ready to answer these specific types of questions as long as you make sure you have flawless…

4. Preparation.

Before the day you should scout the test location to make sure you know where to go. This may seem ridiculous, but anything you can do to reduce stress on the day is worthwhile.

Be sure to read the bar exam website so you know exactly what you are and are not allowed to bring in. This will ensure that you can bring the right food and drink in, and stay energized. You should also bring ear plugs in case the room is noisy. Restrictions include digital devices – but you need a calculator! So make sure you have a non-graphing one. You should know that preparation of materials is important for another reason: you have to leave them all behind. So make sure you aren’t bringing anything expensive in.

Your study time should include enough time to read the material as many times as you need. Make a plan, and stick to it. When working out your plan, it should be based on…

3. Grading.

Here’s the thing: of course you want to do well on the bar, but you don’t need to. You only need to do as well as other people. So it’s not about knowing everything, it’s just about making sure you know as much as other people do. It’s good to study in a group, so you can gauge your knowledge against other people’s. But don’t forget, you just need to pass. In fact, you won’t even know your score unless you fail.

If you do fail, they will tell you your score and areas that you did not do well on so you can improve. But that won’t happen, since you’re so well prepared for…

2. Ethics.

It’s not just the first part of the study book, it’s the most important part. This is because ethics, unlike every other topic, can be interspersed through the whole test. There can be trick questions which are actually about ethics and not about whatever section they are in.

Ethics refer to the rules of professional conduct and the materials on the LSUC bylaws – essentially anything in the first section is material which is fair game to come up at any point in the exam. We highly recommend reading this material at least twice (and plan accordingly).

It’s not that having ethics anywhere is unfair, it just means that…

1. It’s hard.

The bar exam is not meant to be easy. Different people will find different sections more difficult, but you are not meant to get through it easily. Stay focused, and don’t get discouraged. Remember, it’s not about getting everything right. You won’t even know your grade unless you don’t pass.

Make sure to make a plan in preparation for the bar, and another plan for how best to go through the exam. Prepare your materials properly. You can do it. And if you can’t, you can always try again.

Good luck!