I was up by 3:00 am on the 3rd of March 2020 , restless and counting down. I could no longer read, I just wanted to be done with the exam. I was so nervous that I could not drive, I asked my brother, Ade to drive me to the Examination Center and take a cab back. I would drive myself back home in the evening, by then my nerves will be better controlled. Whilst he drove me to the center, I developed a sudden stomach discomfort and felt the need to use the washroom. ‘Could it be the nerves?’ I asked Ade, He said maybe, try to calm down, he saw how uneasy I was. I told him that I hoped that my eyes wouldn’t get tired quickly and I hope that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed and he reassured me that I would be okay. It was a 7-hour Exam after all.
I waltzed into the exam center, checked in my coat and as my friend had earlier warned that there is a tendency to feel cold when writing the exam, I wore a thick sweater that made me feel too warm at the beginning. Halfway into the exam, I thanked my stars for wearing it, I felt exactly how my friend said, tired and cold. The exam is almost like an endurance test, to test your ability to find answers, decipher issues, understand concepts and choose the best possible answer.
I saw my friends, we hugged and wished one another the very best. Earlier on we had created Skype classes, divided the chapters and each person had to thoroughly explain the chapters assigned to them and ask us questions, we, in turn, asked questions to clarify the answers. Towards the exam date, we stopped, I guess some of us started panicking and we moved back to reading on our own but those classes helped. Some of us had been virtual acquaintances who had only seen one another’s skype profile pictures, videos and heard so much of one another’s voices, it was so nice to see them physically. I also decided to go to the washroom right before the paper started to ensure my bladder was empty for this exam. Well, that didn’t help much, I was pressed barely two hours into the paper but I couldn’t spare the time to ease myself. As I had barely 12minutes extra using my time sheet and I needed it to go over marked questions that I was unsure of.
I have written so many exams in my lifetime, yet this seemed so different, so nerve-wracking, I took some energy drink and put the rest under my chair. I felt my heart beat a little faster. The Proctor had earlier asked me to sign in and now he brought the answer sheet with a smile. I looked down at it and saw a triangle-shape portion was cut off, I hurriedly raised my hand and started wondering if I had bad luck and if the tear wouldn’t ruin anything, The Proctor said, that is how the sheets are. I said okay but was still uneasy, I needed a reconfirmation, and I waited for him to walk past and I made eye contact with another Proctor to ask the same question. The Lady said the answer sheets are like that so that it can be easily picked up, only then did I heave a sigh of relief. By this time, they had started giving out the question paper and I said a little prayer for myself and used my finger to inscribe the cross, a little thing I do when I’m scared out of my wits about an exam.
I noticed a table tag saying 575 and I hesitated, how do I pass this exam that has no pass mark with over five hundred people in this center writing, how much more province-wide? But I reassured myself that giving up is not an option. I have three daughters at home waiting to see me excel. How can I give up when I have told them every day that giving-up is not in our family’s dictionary, when I had told them that they can do anything they set their minds too?
It was time. I heard the ever-familiar voice of the same head Proctor of all the NCA exams-“You may start”. I looked at the first question and it threw me off and then I decided to move to the last question and that was easy, I shaded that off and told myself you can do it. I went back to the front and shaded the answers.
I had spoken to many people who had failed the exams and I asked why they think they failed, I learnt a lot from some of the answers: time management, second-guessing themselves, leaving a question they are unsure of blank hoping that there would be time to revisit it in the end and they ran out of time, omitting not/shall/may/must or not understanding it well enough, they were too nervous, they searched the material too much with little time, they didn’t use the timesheet and much more.
I tried to learn from their mistakes. I paid for the practice questions online and worked on my speed with that, as it is timed. I also read to understand as much as I could because the materials were quite bulky and this helped me in the exam hall, as reconfirming answers takes lesser time than trying to sift out the answers, and sometimes, I was so sure, that I didn’t need to reconfirm.
I circled questions that needed reconfirming and went back to them at the end. I realized after the exam that I changed a couple of answers which I had originally gotten right but I second-guessed myself during the final overview and read unnecessary meanings to the question. For me, it seemed my first instinct was right most of the time. During the lunch break, I could not eat, I had some crackers thankfully and that sustained me through the whole day. I and the Skype group members talked about the paper and how scary the options were as most questions had two seemingly right answers. I was usually stuck between two options, so for the ones that I was unsure of, I drew a two-point bracket over the two options I felt fit. So going back to it just meant making up my mind to confirm that I shaded the one I felt convinced about.
I remember the drive home seemed so long, I was getting calls back to back and messages, friends and family calling to ask how the exam went. I could not respond as I was mentally, emotionally and physically drained. I returned their calls the next day. They all asked how it was and I said, ‘Ok, since there is no pass mark, I can’t say anything till I see my results’. I knew it wasn’t like the Foundations exam, I didn’t have a foreboding, but I had about 6 weeks of anxious wait.
On the day results were released, I calmly opened the ITL group WhatsApp messages, unaware that the results were out until I saw a friend post, ‘I passed barristers exam’. The palpitation started as I didn’t get an email notification, I directly logged into my Law Society of Ontario portal and saw a message waiting, I clicked on it and all I first saw were Red comments, I was so confused and anxious, then I saw Pass. I was ecstatic. The usual ritual, I called my parents, siblings, friends were calling me. I put up a post on naijalawyerincanada Instagram page and it was just a ray of sunshine in this pandemic. It is a major inspiration for many. It is a tough journey.
Amidst my celebration, I couldn’t help but notice some of my friends did not pass and it truly broke my heart. I know how it feels to fail when you are not used to failing, it can scar you from within. I tried my best and will keep trying to reach out and make out time to go through the techniques and strategies, which I find are very important in the Bar Exam than anything else. The journey has been long and very draining, I do have my eyes on the prize. Never give up.
I compiled some FREE questions to gauge one’s knowledge of the concepts. The link to download is available on @Naijalawyerincanada Instagram bio.