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 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
|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|
|– Number (barrister)||220|
|– Number (solicitor)||220|
|– Number per section||30 to 90|
|– Multiple Q’s on same case?||Yes|
|– Additional Q’s available?||Yes|
|Available immediately?||No (opens May 10, 2015)|
|– Time provided||Unlimited|
|– Starts||When test opens|
|– Pauses||Must exit test|
|– Counts down or up?||Down|
|– Question flag||No|
|– Unanswered Q’s highlighted||Yes|
|– Usable offline||Yes|
|– Returns to last Q answered||No|
|– Quick keys||No|
|– 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|
|– Drop down Q list||Yes|
|– By section||No|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.