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Hello everyone!

I wonder if anyone has had any experience with the NCA examinations recently and could possibly provide any insight. I have moved to Canada from the U.K where I studied law both at undergraduate (LLB) and masters (LLM) levels. I have been assigned the 5 mandatory NCA examinations and looking at the syllabus I am curious as to the level of study required and the difficulty of these examinations. I have seen on forums and elsewhere that if you have 'good access to notes' many people claim to not have bought the reading material books required and others claim that if you found law school examinations straight forward or scored highly then it shouldn't be an issue. 

Ideally I'm trying to gain some information on how onerous sitting the exams would be while working a full time job (and of course trying to have a life) and if I could sit all 5 in one sitting. Any insight into the most efficient way to revise and any other useful tips would be greatly appreciated.


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I am in the same position as you, trying to study for NCAs while maintaining life.  I have heard Canadian foundations is the most difficult one, but have to give the exam myself.  

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How are you studying? Did you acquire all the books or notes? I'm curious as to how people typically go about revising for the examinations.

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I just recently finished my NCA exams (I had to write 7).  I received my law degree in the UK as well so hopefully I can be of some help.

I wouldn't say that the NCA exams are too onerous - but they should be taken seriously.  I've always been of the opinion that not buying the materials is kind of shooting yourself in the foot because you're learning summaries of other people's understanding.  In saying that, I did buy summaries, but they were more used as a tool for the exam once I knew the material.

If you got through your UK degree I wouldn't see why you would struggle with these.  Examiners seem to be looking for similar application (IRAC/IPAC).  Since they're open-book (which UK usually was closed-book for me), you won't be spending as much time memorizing, but you need to know the material to be able to apply problem questions.

I hate to say it, but the level of investment is pretty subjective.  For me, I found 2-3 per session to be most reasonable while working for me.  But I also know someone who wrote 5 at once and passed.  But equally, I also know someone who wrote 4 and failed one.  Definitely up to you to figure out, but I would imagine writing 5 at once while working full-time and trying to maintain a social life would be tough.

As for preparation, I found following the syllabus the best place to start (shocker).  Once I finished the material, I would do the practice exams on the NCA website, or go to UBC's prior law exams for insight into how an examiner might ask a question (https://law.library.ubc.ca/exams/).

Let me know if you have any more question, and I'd be happy to answer.




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Hey thank you so much for your reply! I suppose my main thing with the NCA examinations is that I don't really know anyone here in Canada who has taken a similar path so it's a bit of an unknown to me.

Did you find the summaries helpful and worthwhile? I was thinking a good set notes or summaries would be a helpful foundation to go off. This would be topped up by reading the materials and making my own set.

Did you find that you relied back on your materials much during the examinations? I have never sat an open book examination and I don't like the idea of scrambling through notes to find something I could have easily learned. I suppose a well referenced set of material brought in or some straw-man structures for potential questions could alleviate  the stresses of memorizing material.

Thanks again for your help!

p.s you mentioned UBC so I take it you are in B.C? I am too!


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I took the NCA in 2018 after graduating law school in the US. I too had to take the mandatory 5 exams, which I did in a single week. Further, I too had a full-time job as a business manager (not in the legal industry). So I think our circumstances are somewhat similar.

I will try to answer all the questions you asked, but feel free to add more questions.

"I am curious as to the level of study required"

If you have recently completed law school and were an average or better student, then I think the level of study required for each subject would be slightly less than what you would put in for a subject for your law school year-end exam. I studied for the 5 exams over a 2-3 month period, but not on a hardcore basis. I would study most workdays between 7 pm to 9 pm in my local library, and one day a weekend for 5-6 hours at the UBC library (yes anyone can use the library even without signing up but I recommend getting a community card so you can borrow books).

"...difficulty of these examinations."

Not any more difficult than a typical law school exam. Remember these are open book, which is unlike the majority of the law school exams I took. I truly don't see how anyone who went to a UK or US law school can have a lot of trouble with the NCA. Of course, I repeat my caveat above that my assumption is based on someone who is an average or above-average student.

"I have seen on forums and elsewhere that if you have 'good access to notes' many people claim to not have bought the reading material books required and others claim that if you found law school examinations straight forward or scored highly then it shouldn't be an issue."

I did not buy or borrow any notes at all. I simply referred to the books recommended by NCA. Because I did not want to invest a shit ton of money buying the books, I took out a community membership to UBC and borrowed the books to study and take to the examination. In some cases, the 2018 edition was reference-only in which case I borrowed and read from older editions. Shit, this is law not technology, nothing changes except on a decadal time scale (unless its a case like Dunsmuir/Vavilov). As to the examination itself, I don't remember having ANY TIME at all to look at my notes. The exam is really more about application and less about knowing the exact letter of the law. 

"...how onerous sitting the exams would be while working a full time job (and of course trying to have a life)"

Wasn't onerous for me with a full time job, a partner, a kid, and a house move during the study period. For context, I am not a badass student at all, but my grades were always slightly above average (B or higher) in law school.

"and if I could sit all 5 in one sitting."

I did it and many, many students do it. I also know that many, many students are extremely intimidated and I even know someone who took 2 exams per year and spread out NCA over 3 years. Don't let anyone tell you what's right for you...you have to decide which club you are fit to join.

"Any insight into the most efficient way to revise"

Don't waste a ton of time trying to remember all the rules. DO take the time to look up any sample questions that NCA provides or you may find elsewhere. The key is to really to be able to apply the the rules to the facts in a short amount of time. Don't waste a ton of time preparing extensive notes. I didn't find myself having the time to refer to notes. It is a fast paced exam and all your time should be spent on clever application of the rules to the facts. 

"and any other useful tips would be greatly appreciated."

All my law school exams were administered on laptops. I hadn't written so much since a long, long time. Get some hand-writing practice.



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I did find the summaries useful, especially as reference during the exam.  I usually used the notes rather than the textbooks during the exam.

Like the other person who commented, I wouldn't get too intimidated with these exams and the fact that they are open book.  It will definitely help develop your skills in preparation for the Bar!  Your game plan definitely sounds like a good one - be confident, know your stuff and you will do fine!


Ps. No I'm in the GTA, I just read a blog post one time that recommended the UBC prior exams.


Pps. I used these notes for my 5 required exams, they worked great! https://nca-tutor.com/ncanotes

Edited by mp3g

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