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.

 

Tech Review: Emond’s Ontario Bar Exam Practice Tests

Updated March 10, 2016 to reflect improvements to Emond’s online practice tests

This past March I wrote the Ontario bar exams. To prepare, I read the materials provided by the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), updated indexes provided by friends, and tested my performance using online practice exam software. After writing (and passing) both bar exams, I wanted to review the various practice exam tests available online.

This article is the first in a sponsored series that reviews each practice exam site’s price, questions, usability, features, and feedback. I hope it helps other students decide what resources match their needs when preparing for the 2015-2016 bar exams in Ontario.

Emond Bar Exam Preparation Software Summary

Overall, I’d recommend purchasing Emond‘s practice tests for a pre-study and/or post-study experiment to see how well you know the material.

Emond’s key strengths are that: (1) answer explanations are provided even if you get them right, (2) the entire test can be taken offline, (3) access is available immediately, and (4) it’s one of the lowest prices on a per-test basis.

I found the questions were good practice for the actual test. Sometimes I studied in coffee shops with spotty internet connections, so it’s nice that Emond’s test still works if you lose internet temporarily.  The fact that the questions are available immediately is a big advantage. It means you can use the tests to identify weak areas before you start studying. If you’re self-studying like I did, that helps you focus your limited review time on weak areas, then take the test again near the end to make sure you’re on track for test day.

Emond recently upped the numbers of questions it offers in its practice sets, so its per-question value increased to be among the best online. It also added a “flag question” feature to return to questions you’d like to spend more time on.

Emond bar exam practice test screenshot
This is what the Emond practice test web app looks like.

 

The only real weakness of Emond’s online practice tests is that the number of questions is lower than some competitor products. Otherwise, the Emond platform is one of the strongest out there.

Despite this minor shortcoming, I’d very much recommend the Emond exam set as a solid diagnostic tool that you can start using immediately. Since Emond actually provides answers for its questions, it is an overall better learning tool than other mock exams with no answers provided. With the time most students have available outside index-updating, it’s also unlikely that you’ll have much time for additional questions or full seven-hour mock exams. Emond is also attractive if you’re looking for an in-person or online preparation course to complement online practice exams. They have also made an index database available to students upon request, for those running short on time.

For a complete summary, I made this summarized chart of Emond’s 2015 practice test features (updated as of March 2016):

Feature Summary Chart

Name Emond
Website emondexamprep.ca
Price (CDN tax included)
–        Single practice test $90.40
–        Both practice tests $180.80
–        Discount for buying both? 0, or included for free with some course options
–        Individual sections? Not available
–        Price per Q (barrister) $0.65
–        Price per Q (solicitor) $0.65
In-Class Course Available? Yes
Online Course Available? Yes
Free sample available? Yes
What if you still fail? Free access
Questions
–        Number (barrister) 140
–        Number (solicitor) 140
–        Number per section About 35
–        Multiple Q’s on same case? Yes
–        Additional Q’s available? No
Attempts Allowed 4
Available immediately? Yes
Timer
–        Time provided Unlimited
–        Starts First click
–        Pauses By button click or automatically when browser closes
–        Auto-pause Yes
–        Counts down or up? Up from 0
Features
–        Auto-save Yes
–        Question flag Yes
–        Unanswered Q’s highlighted Yes
–        Usable offline Yes
–        Returns to last Q answered Yes
–        Quick keys No
Feedback
–        By section Yes
–        Answers provided Always
–        Filter by section Yes
–        Filter by correct/incorrect Yes
–        Time per Q provided No
Navigation
–        Drop down Q list Yes
–        By section No

Detailed Review

Price

Emond’s practice exam sets are priced similar to their competitors: Emond’s exams are $90.40 after tax each (for just the barrister or just the solicitor exam). Other competitors offer online practice sets for anywhere from $96.00 to $113.00 after tax each. When purchasing both tests, the competitors’ prices drop to $90.40 to $93.25 per test. This year Emond increased the number of practice questions offered on its solicitor exam to 140, reducing its price to $0.65 per question. So, if you’re only looking for a single test and about three hours of questions, Emond has the best price. If you’re purchasing both tests and prefer more than three hours of questions, then Emond’s competitors similar deals.

Access

The best part of the Emond exams is that they’re available for purchase immediately. Other competitors limit access to their exams until a couple weeks before the test. Personally I liked being able to take a diagnostic test early on to see what areas I should spend the most time on. In this regard, Emond is superior to other online tests out there.

The Emond test (including its timer) also works while disconnected from the Internet. This means you can load up the test and then complete it offline if WiFi is unavailable.

Number of attempts allowed

The practice exams from Emond allow four complete attempts. Each test can be paused and resumed at later times. However, to see feedback you need to submit an attempt. When I was using the test as a diagnostic, I’d submit partial exams to test my timing for certain sections. Unlimited attempts would be nice, but I don’t think I used all four re-submits. Other competitors have unlimited submissions, while others only allow a single marked test to be submitted. I found Emond’s four submissions were enough.

Timer and pause feature

Emond’s timer counts “up” from zero once you click on the first answer. That makes it easy on the go to record how many minutes you’ve spent on the questions you’ve answered.

The downside is that Emond’s “upward” timer is unlike the actual timer on test day. The barrister and solicitor exams have a giant timer on the wall that counts down from three hours and thirty minutes. Does this really matter? It didn’t for me. It’s easy enough to run your own countdown timer on a standard cell phone alarm app.

Questions

The Emond online practice exam has 140 barrister questions and 140 solicitor questions. There are about 35 questions per section. Emond’s questions are good; they seemed representative of the real exam.  140 questions on each test, when you take 90 seconds to answer each one, takes seven hours. This is exactly the number of questions required to simulate a full 7-hour test day, if you choose to approach it that way.

Flagging questions to return to later

While writing a mock bar exam, you may want to simulate the real experience by flagging questions to return to. The Emond test highlights unanswered questions in the drop-down list to make them easy to return to. Just this year, the Emond platform also added a flag question feature which allows you to return to previous difficult questions. This simulates the live test accurately, where you will be able to mark questions or “dog ear” pages in order to return to them later. I am glad Emond added this feature and wish it had been available when I was studying for the test.

Feedback

Another area that Emond’s test shines is feedback. Answer explanations are provided whether you get the questions right or wrong. That’s ideal because if you’re doing the exam for the first time, you may be guessing at some questions to finish on time. I found that some competitors’ tests didn’t provide correct answers for the questions I guessed at. That meant that unless I looked them up, I didn’t really know why it was right. Emond’s answers are all provided with a detailed explanation; I liked using the answer explanations as a review. Although looking up the answers in your index is good practice, it was nice being able to see the answer right there.

Emond’s feedback can also be filtered by correct/incorrect, or by section for a targeted review section. That’s a nice bonus that saves a little time scrolling. Previous test attempts are all listed on your main login page so you can see improvement. Not every test practice site out there provides that historical data.

Mobile

For the purposes of this review I tried using Emond’s online test software on my iPhone 5S using Safari and it displayed fine. Although it doesn’t have a specifically mobile-friendly version, I found the online test was still doable when I held my phone sideways (landscape). When I was actually studying for the test I didn’t bother doing practice exams on my phone, so this wasn’t something I really thought about.

Conclusion

Overall I liked using Emond’s practice exam software and I’d recommend it. It’s a good diagnostic that can help identify weak areas and to focus your efforts. Knowing that I was scoring 70-85% on most practice exam questions gave me a confidence boost before writing the real exams. Although Emond’s software doesn’t come with loads of questions, it does offer a great survey of expected test areas. The best part is that it’s available immediately, which can either help you relax with a great score or get super motivated by a terrible score early on.

Note: Since writing this review, Emond has made several improvements to their online testing software. They have added questions, a flag question feature, and continually seek feedback on how they can improve. Overall Emond’s practice exams are an even better product than when I prepared for my exams. I highly recommend.

Thanks for reading. If you have questions, study tips, or any different opinions on test prep, please share them 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.