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dwigt

PLTC: Poor exam-taker? Learn from my mistakes

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Long post alert, but I'm a paper-writer not an exam-taker, what can I say?

I just received my result for my re-write of the PLTC Barrister exam. Thank you sweet baby jesus that I don't have to go to my principal once again and utter the words "I failed". Don't get me wrong, you will absolutely get through it, but that doesn't make that pit of your stomach gross feeling any more enjoyable.

So, if you're like me and a consistently poor exam-taker who never fails to struggle with timing, here is a little story of what I learned by passing the exam I thought I failed (Solicitor) and failing the exam I thought I passed (Barrister).

The two PLTC exams are a mixture of multiple choice, short answer and medium-short answer questions with bite-sized fact patterns. Some fact patterns are intended for multiple questions for a combined 5 or 6 points, while the rest are single questions worth 2 or 3 points each. There are anywhere between 30ish and 45ish questions, and as you will find out in PLTC, each area of law covered is allocated a certain number of points. 

Long story short (ha), I did not finish the Solicitor exam and was 100% sure I had failed.

I was already insecure about my grasp of the material and left a large chunk of points behind by failing to answer some longer questions. I had skipped through a lot of questions in order to answer the ones I knew I could do quickly, came back to as many as I could, and had to sacrifice the others. I knew that I had taken far too long answering most of the questions, and often elaborated until I ran out of characters permitted. Suffice it to say, I walked out of that exam tipping my hat to my traumatized friends thinking, see you at the next one.

Two days later came Barrister, and obviously I was going to finish that exam if it was the last thing I did. Yep, finished it, felt like a champ having confidently answered all the questions with what I thought were the right, albeit to-the-point, answers, and with time to review at the end.

My strategy failed me. And I'm pretty sure you can put two and two together as to why.

The combined points I lost in unanswered questions on Solicitor was not enough to fail me outright, and the fact that I answered the others FULLY, and I emphasize that, allowed me to pass.

The combined points I lost across the entirety of Barrister, with very few questions totally wrong (2, maybe 3), was the reason I am here today.

Those exams FLY, and unless you're some evil genius who remembers everything from the neverending reading materials, you WILL be insecure and you WILL flip madly through your binders, using up precious time and making you rush through your answers.

Don't make my mistake. Today I passed the Barrister re-write with, yet again, an unfinished exam. Just make sure your answers cover off everything: name the legal concept, cite and briefly explain the applicable rule(s)/legislation, briefly apply the facts, give your opinion.

After getting my results, I attended a session at the Law Society where they let you review your failed exam. My mistake on Barrister was a lack of detail and missed opportunities for full points.

In other words, finishing your exam does not make you more likely to pass, and I promise, they make it pretty bloody hard to fully answer AND finish.

This time around, I passed the Barrister using the same strategy I used on Solicitor. This is my nugget of experience to you slow exam-takers out there. Take it or leave it, but I hope you crush PLTC so you never have to think about it ever again :)

Edited by dwigt
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I respect the fact that this advice is based on your particular experience but I want to make clear to anyone who is reading this that there is enough time to diligently answer all the questions. I don't think the exam is supposed to be a massive time crunch. I had enough time to look up the answer for nearly every question on both the barrister and solicitor exam. I also had time to go back and ponder for 5-10 minutes the few questions I still wasn't sure about.  I do agree that diligently answering the questions is important for success--I completely fucked up the practice exams because I was too brief in my answers.

Also: I hand-wrote both exams and was a bit anxious about it slowing me down but it turned out to be a non-issue, so I don't think people should be dissuaded from that if they are more comfortable with hand-writing.

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My experience with the PLTC exams was quite different, in about half the allotted time I was able to answer all of the questions looking substantially every question up (and hitting the character limit for most questions since I pulled exact quotes from the materials that directly answered the question). I then spent another 45 minutes tweaking the wording and reviewing the materials to perfect my answers. I left each exam about 30-45 minutes early. 

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In other words, finishing your exam does not make you more likely to pass, and I promise, they make it pretty bloody hard to fully answer AND finish.

I think this is pretty misleading, while there may be a trade-off between answering each question fully and each question, for most people finishing the exam does make you more likely to pass. My PLTC instructor repeatedly stated that it was more important to finish than to complete since they will try to give part marks where they can.

The vast majority of people pass all assessments and exams (between 75-90% of students pass on the first time on everything: https://www.lawsociety.bc.ca/Website/media/Shared/docs/publications/ar/2018-Annual-Report.pdf). These exams simply aren't that difficult. 

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Not going to comment on difficulty, but I will say that one thing that helped me was studying my indices. Time spent flipping around is greatly reduced when you are confident in your indices and can quickly find what you're for looking within them. By this I mean that if "X" issue comes up, you know exactly how it is worded in your index so that you aren't spending time hunting around for the proper heading. 

This helped my stress level during the exams. I also spoke with others following the exams who expressed to me that they wish they'd spent a bit more time studying the indices rather than the outright content. Of course, YMMV depending on your learning style. 

Edited by spicyfoodftw

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I didn't use our Index and literally just looked up  each answer I didn't know off hand in the table of contents. 

Finished with time to spare.

TBH, I don't even see the point of an Index for the BC exams.

Edited by QuincyWagstaff
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On 12/11/2019 at 12:08 PM, Mal said:

My PLTC instructor repeatedly stated that it was more important to finish than to complete since they will try to give part marks where they can.

This is the only thing I can remember about the PLTC exams as well.

On the other hand, I have heard that more people are failing the PLTC exams in the past year or so, in a percentage to my surprise (i.e. more than 30% of the class). I don't have a source but I wonder if something has changed with PLTC.

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