Studying for the Ontario Bar Exams presents unique challenges and pressures. With the added stress and uncertainty of COVID-19, these challenges and pressures may seem amplified, particularly as the exams have migrated to an online platform for the first time. To demystify the new process, Bar Exam Crackers has put together the following overview of what to expect for the online exams.

Online Bar Examinations: General Information

The Law Society of Ontario (LSO) is administering the Ontario Bar Exams online until the end of December 2020. The 2020-21 examinations are written on two different days and candidates have 4 hours to complete each exam. The online Bar Exams take place on a digital platform called “MonitorEDU.” It is a secure, browser-based platform that locks down candidates’ computers so that only the exam can be accessed during the examination period. Prior to each exam, candidates will be contacted by MonitorEDU and connected with a Proctor who will verify candidate identification and monitor candidates through audio and two cameras: the computer’s webcam and a smartphone camera. Candidates receive fulsome instructions on how to connect with their Proctor and set up their computer and smartphone prior to each exam.

Information about the configuration of the exam can be found on the LSO’s website, here: https://lso.ca/becoming-licensed/lawyer-licensing-process/licensing-examinations/online-exam-delivery#why-would-the-law-society-reduce-the-length-of-the-2020-21-licensing-examinations-taking-place-this-6

An overview of the online delivery model, the accompanying technical requirements and the scheduled dates for the upcoming Bar Exams can be found on the LSO’s website, here: https://lso.ca/becoming-licensed/lawyer-licensing-process/licensing-examinations/2020-21-licensing-examinations

An overview of the rules and protocol for the exams can be found on the LSO’s website, here: https://lso.ca/getdoc/d8c5aa9e-f501-41d9-9561-dd0fa9f93b72/rules-and-protocol

Preparing for the Online Ontario Bar Examinations

  • Scheduling the Bar Exams:
    Candidates will be contacted by the LSO and receive instructions through their licensing portal on how to sign up for and schedule their examinations. It is likely that there will be a period of at least two weeks between examinations. Candidates will have several date and time slots to choose from. If you wish to write in the late morning following your coffee, for example, you have that option.

  • Tech and Infrastructure:
    The Law Society and MonitorEDU require that candidates use particular technology, such as a computer with sufficient bandwidth and a smartphone, to take the exams. In addition, the room in which the candidate takes the exam must be silent, accommodating only the candidate, and free of clutter and wall decoration to facilitate effective proctoring. The complete rules and protocol are outlined on the LSO’s website (see the link above). The link provides a list of:

    • Computer and technology requirements;
    • Requirements for the testing room;
    • “Permitted” and “Non-Permitted” items; and
    • Procedural steps that must be completed prior to the exams.

    Candidates preparing for the online exams should promptly check the LSO’s publications regarding online exam-writing and carefully read all the rules, protocols, and guidelines. Candidates should confirm that they have the required technology and either purchase or borrow any required technology well in advance of their scheduled exam dates. Candidates should also ensure that all required technology is up-to-date.

  • Studying:
    Preparing for the online Bar Exams is not dissimilar to preparing for the in-person, written exams. Bar Exam Crackers has published several blog posts to help candidates in their preparation. The posts can be found here: https://barexamcrackers.com/ontario-bar-exam-blog/.

The Examination Day

  • Set-Up:
    Candidates should show up to their exam at least 15 minutes in advance to get set up. First, candidates will be connected to their Proctor via live chat with MonitorEDU. Candidates will receive different links to click: one to connect to their Proctor, one for MonitorEDU to access their computer webcam, and one for MonitorEDU to access their smartphone camera via phone app.

    To access the online exam, candidates will receive a secure access code from their Proctor to access the exam, which is uploaded by the LSO. If there are any issues accessing the exam, or if the exam did not upload properly, candidates are encouraged to remain calm and to speak with their Proctor to resolve the issue or to use the chat feature provided by MonitorEDU. The timer does not begin to run until the candidate opens the exam and starts the examination.

    The Proctors will provide instructions to candidates, assist them with setting up their devices and test, and indicate how the candidates should position their smartphone camera, which should be facing the computer screen at all times. Each Proctor will also examine the room in which the candidate is taking their exam via the cameras. Candidates will have to give the Proctors a “tour” of their room and point out the location of the desk and door. It is a good idea to advise the Proctor who else is in the house during the exam to account for any possible background noise.

    Note that through the exam, the Proctor is not visible to candidates, but will be speaking through speakers (audio only). However, the Proctors will be able to see and hear the candidates at all times during the exams. It is possible that the Proctor will check on you at some point(s) in the exam or request that either camera be adjusted, so be aware that possible interruptions may occur.

  • Candidate Agreement and ID Verification:
    Prior to commencing the exam, candidates must sign a “Candidate Agreement” that is sent in advance of them accessing the exam documents and links. Candidates must also ensure to have their ID ready so that their Proctor can verify their identity.

  • Exam Timing and Structure:
    The timing on when to commence the exams is lenient to account for varied set-up timing and for candidates to read all instructions. Candidates can start a bit early or a bit late without penalty between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. EST/EDT. The timer will not begin to run until the Candidate Agreement is signed, the MonitorEDU software is activated, and the candidate starts the examination.

    The 2020-21 Bar Exams have been shortened to 4 hours in length with two parts separated by a thirty-minute break. Candidates have approximately 1 minute and 30 seconds to answer each question. For an updated timer chart to track your progress during the exams, please check out the free resources referred to by Bar Exam Crackers at: https://barexamcrackers.com/2020/06/07/free-community-resources/. The exam features one question per page and candidates must answer directly on the question’s page (there is no Scantron or Scantron-equivalent).

    Candidates can bookmark or flag questions and return to them with the use of a “filter system” at the bottom right corner of the screen. This filter indicates if a question has been left unanswered or if a candidate has put a note on it to return to it later. MonitorEDU’s system features several other “gadgets” to help candidates during their exam, including a calculator.

    When taking the exam, candidates will know what section or theme they are in (for e.g. Real Estate) by way of “tabs” at the top of their screen. However, Professional Responsibility is woven throughout the exam without an explicit reference. Candidates must ensure that when studying, they can recognize these types of questions.

  • Use of Study Materials and Aids:
    Candidates may have a notepad or scrap paper, their Bar materials and indices, any charts or study aids, and writing utensils. The complete list of “Permitted Items” and “Non-Permitted items” can be found on the LSO’s website. Any notes on scrap paper taken during the exam must be destroyed in front of the proctor after the exam. But, unlike in the in-person Bar Exams, candidates will retain their study materials.

  • Breaks:
    During the 4-hour exam period, there is one thirty-minute break. Throughout the examination period, candidates are also permitted to take breaks of up to five minutes to stretch or use the restroom. Candidates must call out loud to their Proctor and announce that they intend to take a quick break or pause. Proctors may take a few moments to respond to the announcement and provide approval. Keep in mind that the examination clock will continue to run during breaks.

Ultimately, Bar Exam Crackers understands that this is a challenging time for licensing candidates. Our tutors are well-equipped and available to provide support and assistance while you navigate your exams. In addition, practice makes perfect and for access to updated online 2020 practice questions and tests broken down by individual topics, please check out www.barexamcrackers.com.

To all candidates, see you on the other side and all the best with your Ontario bar exam preparation!