Monday 25 September 2017

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year… No, Not the Holidays!

The Ontario bar exam is a stressful time for law students. It’s a massive commitment and getting through all the material can be a challenge. Before I started studying for the bar exam, I called all my friends who wrote the exam in previous years to see if they had any study tips that would help me pass. I even searched Google to see if there were any blogs on the topic. I was really looking for anything that would alleviate the stress of the unknown prior to diving straight into thousands of pages of material. I was surprised to find that there weren’t many *blogs on the subject and decided I should write something to help those who will be writing in the future.

... once you are done highlighting your books, they will look like a piece of art.

Organizing your time is one of the most important aspects to prepare for the exam. I suggest you break up your materials into smaller chunks to make them more manageable and to create a sense of direction. I personally found that 50-pages per day was a reasonable goal and it allowed me to take a few days off before writing. Unlike some of my peers, I decided to read through the weekends and bank my days off to do practice tests and relax in the days leading up to the exam. Regardless of your study choices, I suggest you leave the last day to prepare snacks and relax. Nothing is gained by cramming the night before a seven-hour exam.

Use Highlighters
Highlighters are your friends! With so many pages to read everything starts looking the same. Nothing puts me to sleep more than reading about corporate taxation and insolvency. That being said, the act of highlighting and using bright colours will help keep you awake and will give you something to do during those less than exciting chapters, whatever they may be for you.

I personally only used three colours: yellow, blue, and green; yellow was to highlight anything I thought was important, blue for all legislation, and green for dates. No matter what colours you choose, I would suggest using only three or four colours maximum. Even though highlighting keeps you awake, you don’t want to become distracted by drawing during your study time. Plus, too many colours on a page will be hard to decipher on exam day. Most importantly, be consistent and use the same colour-coding strategy throughout. Nothing is more stressful than not understanding your own technique when you need to the most.

Trust me, once you are done highlighting your books, they will look like a piece of art. You will not want to abandon your materials after the exam or relinquish them to the LSUC proctors.

Below are more tips for tackling the bar exam from my fellow articling students:

Make a reading schedule with enough time for practice tests and revision of difficult concepts. Also, make sure you have a good index; a good index is crucial! While reading the materials, try to search for the terms in the index to ensure it is comprehensive and add terms that are missing. Personally, making time to go through as many practice tests as I could, assisted me in preparing more than reading the materials several times.

The bar exam is expensive. On top of buying the LSUC materials, you’re going to spend a lot of money buying an index, binding the materials, travelling to the testing site, etc. Your goal is to write and pass the exam on the first try, so spend the money on a commercial index. That way you don’t waste valuable time making one yourself or with a study group.

Set a realistic study schedule and stick to it. Maintaining a study schedule made the process manageable and allowed for zero guilt when enjoying some hours, a day, or even a weekend off from studying.

I used colour coding highlighting for cases, statutes, and dates. Also, I found it useful to tab the chapters with the chapter names to become familiar with the content in each chapter. Don’t forget to read professional ethics multiple times and make sure to get loottsssss of sleep (8-10 hours per night). Last but not least, start studying early.

Time yourself while taking practice exams. This will help you learn how to use your index so you are comfortable on the big day. Oh and be sure to bring lots of snacks, but make sure they aren’t too noisy or else the proctors will be all over you.

I started studying right away. Getting a head start on my studies helped me feel prepared and more at ease once it came time to write the exams. Also, four words: chocolate-covered coffee beans.

Good luck!

Mark B.

p.s. Previous MB Blog Reference: *Tips For the Bar Exam