I Passed the Ontario Bar Exams. How Many Failed? We Don’t Know

This week I found out I passed the Ontario barrister’s and solicitor’s exams. It was fantastic news. I started law school back in 2011, graduated in December 2014, and had been studying for about three months before the March sittings. I wrote about the actual exam experience here.

The best part was being able to get in touch with old friends after sharing the news:

Friends, I’m happy to report that I passed the bar exams. Thanks to everyone who supported me throughout the process. Special shout-out goes to MC, DM, ML and VE for their help.

Posted by Future Lawyer, Ivan Mitchell Merrow on Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How much should I be celebrating, now that I know I’ve passed? The truth is, I don’t know.

There are some opinion articles out there that say the Ontario bar exams are easy, while others talk about what it’s like to fail. It’s difficult to know how challenging it really is, because anecdotal evidence doesn’t tell the whole story.

The main problem is that stories cannot currently be confirmed or denied by statistics. The Law Society of Upper Canada (Ontario’s governing body for lawyers) doesn’t publish the exams’ failure rates.

That’s unfortunate. It makes it difficult to prepare or use diagnostic tests to predict success. It also avoids an obvious way we could be measuring Ontarian law schools’ effectiveness: by measuring graduates’ bar exam pass rates. That practice is common in the United States.

Why doesn’t the LSUC make this information public? Greater transparency would help new graduates prepare to meet a known standard, and assure the public that their new lawyers are meeting a difficult standard. Until then, we can only celebrate our success quietly, not knowing what odds we’ve really overcome.

7 thoughts on “I Passed the Ontario Bar Exams. How Many Failed? We Don’t Know

  1. In Nova Scotia the failure rates are released every year. They’re all over the map – as low as 1.5% for some sittings and upwards of 33% for others. It reflects badly (at least in my opinion) on the test to have such variation, but at least the information is out there and is subject to public scrutiny.

    It’s disappointing that Ontario would hide this information. Hard to imagine what the motivation would be, unless the numbers really are just that embarrassing.

  2. Thank you Ivan for raising this matter. I took the bar exams and was astonished to find out that there is no pass grade. I went to the exam manager and asked for this information and was informed that there is no pass grade. This is not only a matter of transparency – holding an exam without setting a pass grade is unfair practice that could bring to bias in the exam results. The formal explanation I received from the LSUC is that they are not sure about the effectiveness and correctness of each exam question and therefore decide after the fact, along with the LSUC statistic consultants, how many will pass and what questions will be considered. I looked at the 1000 future legal minds of Ontario taking the exam with me in astonishment and asked myself – do they know or even care that there is no pass grade?! Is there a bigger absurd than that?
    Since I have taken the bar exam in other comma law jurisdiction, I can tell you that this is a very odd situation that should not happen. Moreover, there is no clear guidelines regarding disqualifying exam questions (at least no public guidelines) and the only way participants can challenge a question is through the feedback sheet that should be used during the exam and while taking time from the actual exam. In other jurisdictions it is clear and known that if certain percent of the participants fail a specific question, this question is disqualified.
    The lack of transparency in the bar exams is serious and harms the integrity of the entire process. It does not align with the LSUC Act however, this issue is not the only LSUC conduct that does not comply with the Act (e.g., licensing fees).

  3. Hi Ivan,

    Do you mind sharing the actual date that you found out your results? The LSUC says 6 – 8 weeks after the exam and I wanted to confirm.



    • Kilgore,
      I believe I heard back around April 21, 2015. I hope you get good news. Thanks for reading.
      All the best,

  4. An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who had been conducting
    a little homework on this. And he actually bought me breakfast simply because I found it for him…
    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanx for spending some time to talk about this subject here on your blog.

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