Indexing Your Way Through The Ontario Bar Exams
I recently had the privilege of working with LexPD’s Ontario Bar Indexing group to index the 2020/21 Ontario Bar materials. Under the guidance of Liran Kandin and another practising Ontario lawyer, this team of Ontario Bar students collectively read through the official LSO Bar materials to identify and index keywords and phrases that would be essential to success on both the Solicitor and Barrister exams. We then peer-reviewed the index by having each group member use it on a sample bar exam in a subject they did not personally index. Finally, the index was reviewed by a few sets of eyes outside the team for accuracy and completeness.
While I’m still at the outset of the Ontario Bar journey, this exercise has made the value of a well-built index incredibly apparent. The sheer volume of information on the Ontario Bar exams, and the detail to which questions may test your knowledge, make memorization incredibly difficult if not impossible. There are simply too many fine details to remember and employ under the exams’ time constraints.
The LSO knows this, of course, which is why both the Barrister and Solicitor examinations are open book. Much like they would in actual practice, exam writers are permitted to look-up details they can’t remember in the official Bar materials during the exam. However, without an effective way to find information quickly, this open book format can create a false sense of security. You simply do not have time to self-navigate the incredible volume of material within the time allotted. Having an index, however, which presents the information in easy to navigate alphabetical format, makes finding information quick and efficient thus turning the bar materials into an incredibly valuable resource to have in the exam room.
There is a learning curve, however and using your index is not something you should leave until exam day. Every practice exam you do is an opportunity to get familiar with your index and finesse your index-augmented exam technique for success. Here are some of my top tips:
1) Tab your Index, not just the Materials Adding alphabetical tabs to your index will help you find keywords faster. The LexPD index is designed for this, as it ensures that each new letter starts on a new, odd numbered-page so you can easily print and tab your double-sided copy.
For some subjects, it may also be helpful to double-tab your index by using a different colored tab for the second letter of each index word (e.g. “Arbitration” would be tabbed “A” and “AR”). This will help you pin-point terms more efficiently in cases where there are multiple pages of terms under a single letter.
2) Start with the call of the question Before you can use your index to help you answer a question, you’ll need to figure out which subject the question is testing and what sub-topic within that subject the question is focusing on. By starting with the call of the question (e.g. usually the last sentence) and analyzing which subject and subtopic the question is testing, you will ensure that red-herring facts within the fact pattern don’t derail you. You’ll also have some ideas around what terms you might be looking for. If the call of the question doesn’t hint at the subject matter or sub-topic you can also skim through the answer choices to glean this information from them.
3) Identify a Keyword Based on the call of the question and close reading of the facts, you should have a clear idea of what keyword you need to look for in the index. For instance, if the question is asking you what a wife’s options are to make her ex-husband pay outstanding spousal support, and the facts tell you that she has registered her support order with the provincial authorities, you may look for the words “Enforcement” or “FRO” within your Family Law index. The LexPD index endeavours to arrange terms in as many logical sequences as possible so that no matter how you think through an issue or organize terms in your head, you’ll find what you are looking for with ease. For instance, in the example above, you would find an index term under the letters “E” (e.g. Enforcement - Support Orders or Enforcement - FRO) and “F” (e.g. FRO - Enforcement) among other options.
4) Find the Information in the Bar Materials The final step is to flip to the information in the Bar materials themselves. Beside each indexed term, you’ll find a chapter number, page number, column indicator, and section number (e.g. 62 - 518A - 2.14) so you can quickly find the information no matter how you choose to index your materials. The column indicator is particularly useful as well, since it tells you what side of the 2-columned bar material page to read.
While these steps may sound lengthy and hard to master, the more you practice the faster you’ll get at employing your index effectively. If you are looking for an Index to use on your upcoming Bar Exams, you can purchase printable copies of the LexPD Indexes for one or both exams by clicking here.