Review: BarPrepPal’s Ontario Bar Exam Practice Tests

An old post on LawStudents.ca sums up the situation for students preparing to write the bar exams in Ontario: The original poster asks: Has anyone has tried the practice exams available online? If so, what was the experience like, and was it beneficial?

Just like the student who wrote the post, after I graduated I found there was a lack of information about the preparation tools available for Ontario test-takers. I used online practice exams to boost my confidence for the March bar exams. A few weeks later I found out that I passed. Afterwards, I reached out to the test prep companies and asked if I could review their practice test websites. This article is the second in a sponsored series that reviews each practice exam site’s price, questions, usability, features, and feedback.

BarPrepPal’s Bar Exam Practice Tests for Ontario

In one sentence: BarPrepPal‘s bar exam practice tests are the best way to get a complete simulated exam-day experience. Their combined barrister’s and solicitor’s set includes seven hours of barrister’s questions and seven hours of solicitor’s questions, just like the real test. The main drawbacks are (a) the practice exams aren’t accessible right away (you have to wait until May 10, 2015), and (b) you have to email the company to wipe your answers and start fresh, which slightly lowers its “replay value.”

BarPrepPal‘s highlights far outweigh its limits for three reasons: (1) value: it has a colossal number of questions (70+ more than any competitor) for a similar price to its competitors, (2) unlimited review: the exams can be graded and ungraded an unlimited number of times (without worry), and (3) detail: the grading breakdown is granular—for example, it shows you how many real estate questions you answered correctly plus the number of professional responsibility questions within that section you got right.

The BarPrepPal online exams were the ones I referred back to time and time again. The combined unlimited test submissions and massive question bank made it a useful tool to refer back to, despite not being able to wipe out my previous answers. In particular, I liked the emphasis they put on professional responsibility. Ethics was the one section I did not want to struggle with on test day, and BarPrepPal made it easy to pick out those questions.

BarPrepPal's bar exam practice test screen
This is what a BarPrepPal practice exam looks like. The dark navigation bar on the left can be minimized by clicking the icon at the top left.

BarPrepPal‘s online tests aren’t without their flaws, however. The main ones I found are: (1) there’s no question flag feature that identifies questions to return to, (2) you can’t remove the answers you’ve already made—once you select an answer, it sticks (unless you email BarPrepPal to wipe all your answers), and (3) answer explanations are not provided, meaning that you have to look up why the answer is wrong if you don’t understand.

Even though BarPrepPal isn’t perfect, I’d absolutely use it again to study for the Ontario Bar Exams. I wanted an online test I could use to simulate a real seven-hour test day. It was exhausting, but helped prepare me for the physical challenge. Another brand new feature is BarPrepPal’s new in-person course for the June Ontario bar exam sittings. As far as I know, it’s a first-ever for the company. It might be worth checking out if you’re missing class and don’t want to study alone.

For anyone who scans the review and thinks “tl;dr,” here’s a quick-reference chart on BarPrepPal’s features:

Feature Summary Chart

Name BarPrepPal
Website barpreppal.com
Price (CDN tax included)
–        Single practice test $113.00
–        Both practice tests $203.40
–        Discount for buying both? 10%, or 50% with premium in-class course option
–        Individual sections only? Yes, $30 to $60 each
–        Price per Q (barrister) $0.51 (or $0.46 if buying both)
–        Price per Q (solicitor) $0.51 (or $0.46 if buying both)
In-Class Course Available? Yes
Online Course Available? No
Free sample available? Yes
What if you still fail? Free access
Questions
–        Number (barrister) 220
–        Number (solicitor) 220
–        Number per section 30 to 90
–        Multiple Q’s on same case? Yes
–        Additional Q’s available? Yes
Attempts Allowed Unlimited
Available immediately? No (opens May 10, 2015)
Timer
–        Time provided Unlimited
–        Starts When test opens
–        Pauses Must exit test
–        Auto-pause Yes
–        Counts down or up? Down
Features
–        Auto-save Yes
–        Question flag No
–        Unanswered Q’s highlighted Yes
–        Usable offline Yes
–        Returns to last Q answered No
–        Quick keys No
Feedback
–        By section Yes
–        Answers provided No additional explanation provided
–        Filter by section Yes
–        Filter by correct/incorrect Yes, by colour
–        Time per Q provided Yes
Navigation
–        Drop down Q list Yes
–        By section No

Detailed Review

Price

BarPrepPal has more exam set options than most websites out there: it offers a standalone barrister or solicitor test for $113.00 after tax, both for $203.40, or individual practice question sets for $30 to $60. The smaller sets are a nice diagnostic for limited areas you want to focus on. Personally, I opted for the full barrister and solicitor set to simulate the real exam. I didn’t have time to try the additional practice sets, but I could see them coming in handy for areas I was less familiar with like real estate and criminal. BarPrepPal’s individual test prices may seem steep, but the combined barrister and solicitor set offers the best per-question value of any competitors out there.

Access

One downer about BarPrepPal is that its exam question sets don’t open up right away. The scheduled date on its website predicts the questions will be available May 10, 2015. The reason is that BarPrepPal boasts brand-new questions—something I don’t think many companies offer.

The delay still leaves plenty of time to prepare for the June barrister sitting. However, by that time most June test-takers will be knee-deep in their first pass through the materials. It’s not a perfect time to do an initial diagnostic to see what you already know before reading anything. For that reason, BarPrepPal falls behind some competitors in this area—it’s really designed as a final review tool to solidify knowledge after you’ve indexed it.

Number of attempts allowed

BarPrepPal’s unlimited attempts means that you can use the tool in incremental steps, or as a lengthy one-time mock exam. You can also check individual answers on the go if a question has you stumped by quickly submitting and un-marking your test. I liked this kind of live feedback. While using competitors’ tools I found it annoying to carefully plan out my “submit date” because they offered only one.

The knock that I have against BarPrepPal’s unlimited attempts is that there is no “reset” option to wipe away old answers. I tried clicking back through answers to see if there was a way to remove them, but to no avail. That means that guessing on a question means it will forever count as “answered.” This makes the navigation a little tricky, as I’ll discuss next.

Flagging questions to answer later

Every multiple-choice test strategy I’ve ever read says that it’s better to guess and return to a question later than to skip it entirely. Accordingly, I like to mark questions to return to later after taking a guess. In the paper bar exam, I did a complete run-through of each test without looking anything up. I circled and dog-eared the pages that had questions I wanted to look up later. On BarPrepPal’s virtual exams, I couldn’t easily do that.

That’s because only the unanswered questions are highlighted in the BarPrepPal question menu. Sure it’s easy to navigate to previous questions you skipped. However, I found it irritating that I couldn’t guess at a question and then “flag it” to return later. Clicking any answer makes it the same colour as every other completed question. As a band-aid solution I kept pen and paper beside my laptop. Every time I guessed at a question, I wrote down the question number. Not a huge deal, but annoying nonetheless.

Timer and pause feature

BarPrepPal’s timer counts down from an actual simulated test time, just like the real bar exam. It does not have a manual pause feature. That is also just like the real test. To stop the timer you have to exit the test. The lack of a pause feature adds a real-deal element to the test, but it wasn’t a huge loss. If you’re like me, you’ll likely use parts of the test for a slow “look up every question” run-through and other parts for a live “see how fast I can do this” practice. That meant I used my own timer for small parts of the exam instead of the BarPrepPal one.

Questions

Perhaps BarPrepPal’s greatest strength is its question-sets: there’s a lot of them. The site offers brand new questions every year. The options to select smaller specialized packages are a bonus, too. You will not run out of practice sets if you go with BarPrepPal. I also liked the high number of “stacked” case-based questions nested in their exams. The long fact patterns followed by multiple related questions were great practice for the real tests.

Feedback

Of the competitors I used to write the March 2015 bar exams, BarPrepPal had one of the most comprehensive feedback dashboards out there. If you use the timer properly and finish a whole exam, it even records the time spent per question. (However if you’re like me and do small parts of the exam multiple days in a row, the time per question score may not be as accurate. That’s because it includes the questions you didn’t even attempt in the estimated time per question.)

From the feedback screen you can choose which areas to “step through” to see how you did. BarPrepPal earns a gold star here for breaking out the professional responsibility scores from each section. Above all else, I spent a lot of time on ethics because I thought that the law society would be harsh on low ethics scores. Seeing my ethics scores above 80% bolstered my confidence.

One thing missing from the BarPrepPal feedback is an explanation section. It’s unnecessary for the purpose of the test, but sometimes it’s nice to know why something is correct–especially when BarPrepPal’s answer is “more correct” than another seemingly valid answer. At least one other competitor provides a concise explanation for why the other answers are wrong. BarPrepPal doesn’t, but it didn’t bother me enough to stop using it.

Mobile

A bonus feature for anyone studying on their commutes (or on park benches) is that BarPrepPal is mobile-friendly. I was surprised to find that it fit perfectly on my iPhone 5S screen. Sure, the text was small, but I didn’t find I needed to scroll left or right. Honestly I didn’t use the mobile functionality when I was actually studying–but if studying on your phone is your thing, go for it.

Conclusion

I would absolutely purchase BarPrepPal’s barrister and solicitor set again. I thought it offered great value—I just wish I had cracked it open sooner. There are so many questions that I didn’t have time to finish them all before the actual bar exams. Their sets offer great value and the unlimited attempts make it worth coming back to. Sure, it has some weak points like later access, no flag feature, and no explanations, but I think it was still well worth the price-tag.

Thanks for checking out my review. If you have questions, study tips, or any different opinions on test prep, please tell the world in a comment below!

Please note that this is a sponsored post. Sponsored posts are still in my own words and written based on my personal experiences. I use sponsored posts to help pay for the costs of running this website. If you have any questions about what that means, please contact me here.

 

19 thoughts on “Review: BarPrepPal’s Ontario Bar Exam Practice Tests

  1. Hey Ivan! Thank you for the helpful reviews regarding the different Ontario Bar exam practice tests. Out of curiosity, does the BarPrepPal also offer indices like the Emond exam prep? Thank you once again!

  2. BarPrepPal is highly unreliable. I paid for the access to questions, and the website is down. They never gave me or posted any contact info, so there is no way to complain about it. It is friday today, so i’m afraid i won’t be fixed in time before the weekend. Looks like my plans for studying this weekend has been ruined.

    Stay away from BarPrepPal.

    • Further to the previous comment:
      BarPrepPal responded to my email soon after I posted this (I finally found their email address on the cached page on Google search).

      They offered an apology for the technical glitch. In the end, their website was back online later that day, and they gave a free access to additional questions for the Professional Responsibility section.

      I have to say their customer support is top notch, and they make up for their mistakes.

  3. I hope you are being paid for this review. Otherwise I sense ill-placed faith in their rigour. Did you notice the featured PPSA question you used has a typo?

  4. Their website is down. Do you know of anyway of getting in touch with barprepPal as I want to purchase a solicitors exam.

  5. I am disappointed with BarPrepPal as well. I feel as though I was misled by your review. You say that “BarPrepPal‘s bar exam practice tests are the best way to get a complete simulated exam-day experience”. I sure hope that is not true. In many instances, the questions have two right answers. In many other instances, the answer is incorrect. I have spent more time trying to figure out where I went wrong just to discover that I was right. It is frustrating.
    I wrote to BarPrepPal to complain about how their product is the most expensive one available, which created an expectation (along with your review) that the product would be excellent. It is not. It is poorly and sloppily put together.
    I would strongly advise that anyone looking for a practice exam BUY ANY ONE OTHER THAN THIS ONE.

    Also, this review was paid for by BarPrepPal and is therefore not objective. It should be considered an advertisement.

    • Robin,

      Thanks for your feedback. I’m sorry you felt misled by my article. I’ve notified BarPrepPal about your complaint that some questions have multiple right answers.

      When I was preparing for the bar exams I did not have that issue. However, I do remember that in the actual exam, there were some questions (especially in ethics) that appeared to have multiple correct answers. That tends to happen in any challenging multiple choice test.

      If you made a note of these questions, please share them here or through my contact page and I’ll forward them to BarPrepPal.

      I hope I was forthright enough about this article being sponsored. To be fair, I did reach out to all the testing companies I was aware of with the same offer to write a sponsored review. Only Emond and BarPrepPal responded. The sponsorships helped pay for the costs of my website and writing the bar exams.

      I hope that the comment thread can continue to be a place to raise issues and suggest improvements. Thanks for taking the time to comment and please use my contact page if you’d like to get in touch.

      Best regards,
      Ivan

  6. Hi Ivan, I’ve tried to email them to wipe my answers but they haven’t responded since yesterday evening. How quickly did they respond to your requests to wipe answers, in your experience? I feel like this time lag is a bit unacceptable given the exam is so soon.

    • Tal,

      Thanks for commenting. I did not write BarPrepPal’s exams more than once (since I also purchased the Emond exams) so I can’t comment on their responsiveness. I have sent an email to them highlighting the issue. I hope that helps.

      Best regards,
      Ivan

  7. Hi Ivan, it looks like they wipe the exam answers without notifying customers of the change. My exam has been “wiped”. So I’m glad they did it (I’m not sure when it was done…immediately or after my post here) but it would have been nice if they had let me know that the answers have been wiped. Thanks for your help and for this review.

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