Once I decided that I was ready to face the hurdles of the licensing process. I faced it head-on. I went for exam preparation tutoring almost an hour away every weekend, I read for about four hours every day, I listened to podcasts and watched videos online every single day. If I was out of the house, I read electronic notes or listened to podcasts, when I was indoors, I was tabbing, highlighting and jotting down notes for the exams.
My past educational background was never “open-book”. I had never done a major open book exam, the closest I came to open-book exams was at the school I resumed barely two months to the NCA exams, where most questions were multiple choice questions, quite the opposite of NCA. I remember a test at work that was open book and I sincerely forgot that it was open-book and never touched a book or made use of electronic notes to find the answers, because such a concept was totally new to me, I was used to the concept of cramming, understanding and splurging it right back. The “open-book concept almost seemed unbelievable and surreal. This closed- book system helped with retentive memory and comprehension, no doubt but I was excited about open-book exams.
I asked different people multiple times, “just to be clear, are you saying that I can actually open my textbook and notes and not get penalized”. I was enlightened on the educational system of “not knowing everything” but knowing where to find the answers efficiently”. This became a funny topic of discussion amongst my co-Nigerian friends and family. I would state excitedly, “ Can you believe that It is an open-book exam” and we would all laugh. I felt blessed, little did I know how hard an “open-book” exam can be, especially when it is relatively new to you.
I excitedly went on a very expensive printing spree, I purchased multiple notes online, bought textbooks and I started reading for the two papers I intended to write in the October 2018 diet of the NCA exams.
I decided to pair Professional Responsibility and Canadian Criminal Law because I felt that they had some case laws in common.
I remember the two days so vividly like it was yesterday, 22nd and 23rd of October, 2018. On the first day, the exam was to start by 1pm but I arrived at the centre by 10.30am. I was so restless, I kept gulping down water even when I was not thirsty. I asked the individual at the front desk when we would be allowed to go in a couple of times. Unfortunately, I was too worked up to revise anything, I just kept walking around, staring at my watch waiting for 12p.m. so that I can get registered and get settled in the examination hall.
I had overwhelmed myself with multiple resources and notes. I had a hand-luggage-like trolley filled with multiple notes and I quickly realized that I was probably “the Lady” people were staring at because she had too many books and materials (I literally had over eighteen spiral bound notes). Well, I shrugged off the stares. I am Nigerian and I am not used to open-book examinations. So when I have an open-book examination. I tend to over-do-it to my detriment. I ended up using just three materials out of all the materials, but it makes me feel less insecure taking all the materials in.
As I stared around, seeing that most of my colleagues had very flat books, jottings or maximum three to four materials and I came with a trolley full of materials, I wondered if we were going to write the same exams and if I got something wrong. If it is open-book and no restriction on the number of books to bring, why is someone here with just one book or material? I was confused, but decided to not let it bother me. I told myself that it was probably just the PR course and I would probably see people with more books the next day.
Personally, I had read the rules and regulations before the exams and decided that I would write my ID on all pages before doing any other thing, so that I don’t get carried away writing the answers and the omit writing my ID number. I did this for all five exams and it gave me some sort of peace, knowing that I didn’t have to worry or rush to write it towards the end of the examination.
The first exam started, I was excited to read the questions, I liked the exam. I wrote so fast, so furiously, it hurt, but I had no intention to stop until time was up. I had been warned about time-management by one of the ITLs that replied to me on social media and I was very conscious of it. I felt good after the exam and I excitedly told my family. The pass mark is 50%,I felt pretty confident. The next day was Canadian Criminal Law, I didn’t arrive as early this time, I didn’t like that I wasted so much time being nervous the day before, I gave myself a motivational talk and walked in more confident than the day before because I was now familiar with the system to an extent.
Remember when I said I felt I would see people with more books, well that didn’t happen. Alas,I was the Lady with the highest number of materials, I had to go back to get the rest of my books while enrolling and trying to settle down in the hall. The Criminal Code was very huge on its own and I had over a dozen bound bulky notes. I laughed at myself. I realised “open-book” exams have limited time and you cannot go through a dozen materials in such time. You have to limit your materials to the most relevant and the most familiar material. Material that is easy for you to navigate because you are so familiar with it. Oh well, knowledge gained, let’s say In subsequent exams I reduced the materials from over a dozen to less than a dozen.
I read the criminal law examination questions and it excited me but it also worried me because there were a lot of issues to cover and discuss. I decided to start from the last question because it was very straightforward and I saw it as a bonus, I didn’t spend too much time on it, I picked random questions and answered in no particular order, I answered the ones I was most confident in first and left the more confusing one for last. I finished right on time and though I felt good, I was still paranoid and scared.
The ten to twelve weeks wait to get results are gruelling to say the least. Finally I got a text in January, results are out, my gosh, my gut started gymnastics, I was cold, I was anxious and scared, I composed myself, checked and saw the most beautiful two lines showing “PASS”. Whew! That’s done, time to prepare for the next exams, I decided not to write in January as I wanted to see if I did things right by seeing the first set of results and by the time I got the results, the registration deadline had passed and I didn’t prepare any way.
I must state that I’m usually pretty composed and calm about exams, well I have written too many exams in my lifetime but,I was very nervous for my first and last NCA exams.
About the author
Moyo is an experienced Barrister, Solicitor and Mediator from Nigeria. She worked in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, in the Office of the Administrator-General and Public Trustee before her relocation. She holds a Master’s degree in Law with a thesis focused on Health law from University of Leicester. She is currently working on getting licensed to practice Law in Ontario, Canada. She enjoys writing and has successfully written and produced three indigenous Yoruba movies, namely Ebi Mi, Asepamo and Isipo. She is a goal-getter and loves a challenge. She intends to make great and positive impacts in her new Home. Moyo landed in Canada in March 2018