Make no mistake, preparing for the Ontario Licensing Exams can be a daunting task. However, don’t believe everything that you hear. These are 5 widespread myths that you may come across while gearing up for exam day.
1. You only need a week to study
Although some people may be gifted with brilliance and a photographic memory that allows them to remember things after a single glance, this is not the case for most of us. Furthermore, the bar exams do not test memory. They require you to locate information within the given materials and then apply that information to the question being asked. On the exams, you have roughly 1 minute and 45 seconds to answer each question. Being able to pull off the search and application in less than 2 minutes per question requires more than just memory — it requires an engagement and understanding of the materials. With 1600 pages of materials, it is going to take more than a week to reach a meaningful level of engagement and understanding.
2. While studying for the bar exams, you can say goodbye to work and any form of social life
Although dedication and time commitment are key to preparing for the bar exams, taking study breaks is important for your physical and mental well-being and can help improve test results. In reality, you need social support even more when you are under pressure. Find time to connect with your family and friends, or take some time for an activity you enjoy. Doing so will give your brain a chance to recharge and help to relieve stress. Getting enough exercise and sleep during your preparation time will help you to stay physically and mentally fit, enabling your brain to consolidate your memories and take into account all of the relevant information.
Also contrary to popular belief, it is possible to study for the bar exams while working. Life happens, and not everyone can afford to stop working while taking months to prepare for these exams. There is no doubt that doing both will require discipline, sacrifice, and hard work, but it can be done! Having to balance a work schedule with studying may even force you to develop more organized and proactive work habits.
3. You have to write the bar exams before you start articling
There is no LSO requirement that you have to write the bar exams before you start articling. Many students want to get the exams out of the way before they start articling, while others write the June examinations, believing their odds of passing will be higher when more people are writing the exams. However, this is not obligatory, and you can write your exams after or during articling if you prefer. The only stipulation the LSO makes is that the exams must be written and passed within 3 years of the start of the licensing process. It might be nice to get the exams out of the way sooner so that your articling principal can be confident in hiring you back, but this is not the be-all and end-all. Whichever dates you decide to sit the exams, make sure that you have enough time to prepare, review, and become familiar with the materials and your tools.
4. The last week before your exam, you should spend most of your time focusing on your weaknesses
Although it is important to study all of the materials provided and to spend extra time on the areas that you are less familiar with, the week before the exam is not the time to get bogged down in the most challenging material. Try to tackle challenging subject areas earlier in the study process so that you can spend your final week or two focusing on reviewing, writing practice exams, and bolstering your strengths before writing the exams. You want to enter the exams with confidence, not mired in self-doubt because you don’t fully grasp the particulars of tax law (in reality, there will be only a handful of questions that even touch upon tax law).
5. Everyone passes
Perhaps the greatest myth of all, this misconception is heavily based on hearsay. The LSO does not publish any information about the pass or fail rates for the licensing exams. Once annually, the LSO publishes data about the number of individuals that were called to the bar that year. What this data does not specify is how many times each individual had to write the exam before they passed. Most people who fail their exams do not publicize this news, while those who do pass happily broadcast it, leading to a skewed perception of the pass rates. But make no mistake: the bar exams are no walk in the park. They measure not only your knowledge of the material, but also your efficiency in locating information within thousands of pages of materials, and your ability to interpret and apply that information. Being proactive, utilizing study resources, and developing effective study habits will help you greatly increase your chances of success.