How to successfully approach the NCA Online Exam

Rebecca Lockwood is the Lead Program Developer of TSoM’s NCA Exam Prep Program.  In our first blog entry, Rebecca will offer some advice on how to approach the new normal in online NCA exam writing. Find out how to approach your Foundations of Canadian Law exams and learn how TSoM can help make this journey easier for you.

“There has been a lot of discussion about the technology issues with the new NCA online exams.  These are unprecedented times for everyone and I think institutions and individuals are doing their best to best serve students and internationally trained lawyers.  If there are technical difficulties like there were with the August 2020 exams, the NCA is doing right by participants by offering another session in September 2020.

It’s certainly intimidating and frustrating, especially when there are delays and you’ve already prepared for a 3-hour exam, and you have to wait another hour or two or three hours, I’ve heard, absolutely it is stressful and frustrating and I think we have to do our best to be patient and understand that this new technology. This is the first time that exams have been taken online with the NCA, so there will be some glitches, we expect the next round of exams to be smoother.”

Rebecca’s tips for preparing for the NCA online exam:

  • Even though you’re writing from home, treat it as though you’re in an exam room
  • Keep your things organized and make sure your technology meets minimum NCA criterion
  • Make sure you tab your notes and texts so you can find things very quickly
  • Double-check your internet connection.  A strong connection can help keep glitches to a minimum
  • “Get your space on.”  Ensure you have enough space for your snacks, water, materials, scrap notes, etc.

On writing the Foundations of Canadian Law exam:

I think with Foundations, we have to understand that this is not a purely substantive course and set of materials, but one that introduces substantive information, along with broader concepts and skills that we have to apply.  Remember that all NCA exams are application exams, but Foundations is an application exam in a new sense.

The Foundations exam in August 2020 appears to have not been connected to the syllabus, and people were not sure where to even find the answers.  It was also very different from the sample exam on the NCA website.  Although I have not seen the actual exam itself, I think I understand what the NCA was looking to do here.  Think of Foundations as a broader conceptual course that is, literally as the name suggests, introducing you to the foundations of Canadian law and the cornerstone of Canadian law.  If you think about that and then look at the sample exam, there actually were some questions that you could not just look up and find answers to in your notes.

There was one question in the sample exam, for example, on the application of the law surrounding stare decisis, and it provided you with a completely new hypothetical situation you had to go through and explain; this binding law based on the concept of stare decisis which, as a concept, was in the materials.  For a question like this, where there is no obvious answer, you are likely to find the answer from your studies if you think about things a little more broadly.  Always remember that sample exams are not set in stone.  They can change all the time.  If topics you expect to show up on the exam don’t appear, like aboriginal law or judicial review, don’t fret. Remember to think about Foundations concepts from a much broader perspective and you’ll be able to work through the questions more easily.

How TSoM NCA Exam Prep can help:

Our NCA Exam Prep course is designed to make you feel more comfortable and more confident.  Being online, our courses are easily accessible.  Our courses are going to help you not just with the substantive law, but also the application of the law, exam techniques, how to approach and break down an exam paper. In addition, every session is going to contain a practice question to help better your understanding.