Past Quebec Bar Exams vs. Current Bar Exams
The Quebec Bar Exam is now around the corner and you’ve been preparing for months, but you only have past bar exams up to 2004, so is it worthwhile to do these old exams and are they even similar to current examinations? This is the topic of today’s post. (Past exams may be found here)
Firstly, absolutely, without a doubt, do as many past exams as you can. The past exams more than anything else provide you with an insight into the Bar’s way of thinking and start to prepare you for an exam full of trick and sometimes impossibly difficult questions. As I have said before, the key to getting through the Quebec Bar is to go into the exam with the mindset that every question is a trick question. There is no better way to get yourself nicely into that mindset than by doing past exams and seeing some of the ways in which the Barreau du Quebec tries to trick you.
Now you may ask, but what about the fact that the available past exams are all really old and the format has since changed, so how relevant actually are they? So, let’s take a look step-by-step. The most important difference which you will discover upon looking at past exams is that the examination process has changed substantially. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, there were four Quebec Bar exams. The material was divided by subject into four exams and you had to pass each of those exams in order to get your certification. The questions were primarily short-answer questions with the occasional multiple-choice question. The format has since changed. Currently, there are only two exams. The first day is a multiple-choice exam on four of the six selected topics and the second day is a short-answer (and drafting) exam on the remaining two topics. The good news is that you have ample material to prepare for the short-answer questions, but unfortunately, there is but little opportunity to prepare for the multiple-choice questions. Thankfully, if you become proficient with the short-answer questions, many of the subjects covered will overlap those covered in the multiple-choice.
The style of the questions has also changed somewhat. In the past exams, you are normally asked to answer the question and justify it by providing an article to back your answer up (motivez votre réponse). This results in solution sheets with answers such as “No, 2430 C.C.Q.” The current exams normally ask for an additional detail in your answers; you still have to answer the question and justify it, but you now have to provide the additional step of explaining your answer which adds an extra sentence to your answer. A current exam answer would look something like: “No, an accident or sickness insurer may not cancel an insurance policy for non-payment prior to giving 15 days written notice to the insured. 2430 C.C.Q.” You may want to already start practicing answering in the new format while completing the past exams. For a further discussion on how to write a bar-approved answer, see this post (Quebec Bar Short-Answer Cardinal Rules).
That being said, some past exam questions are just about reused as is in current exams. Questions in criminal law such as what infractions may a person be accused of often return, questions in business law on the missing components of a special assembly notice, and questions in family law on child support calculations. One of the tricky points is the fact that the law applicable to some of the subjects has changed, sometimes substantially, since the solution sheets were prepared for the past exams. This applies notably to labour law where there have been substantial changes to the Labour Code and the Act Respecting Labour Standards (Loi sur les normes du travail); to business law where the solution sheets are based off of the Companies Act rather than the current Quebec Business Corporation Act; and in anything based off of the Civil Procedure Code.
Another difference is that the drafting questions often were quite substantial in past exams and have since been reduced in importance. It is worthwhile doing these past questions, but you can focus only on the en-tête and the conclusions, omitting everything in the middle. For a further discussion on drafting questions, see this post (Bar Exam Drafting Questions: What to Expect).
A final difference is that some topics covered on past exams are no longer covered by current exams such as municipal taxation or bankruptcy & insolvency. The descriptions on this page containing past exams provide some indicators as to the questions to skip, but generally, if the question deals with something which wasn’t even remotely covered in Bar School, it probably won’t be on the exam. The key word in that phrase is “remotely”, if it was even mentioned once in passing, it’s fair game. A good example is how there was a question on amalgamations this past year which was never anything more than mentioned at Bar School.
So, what’s the final verdict? It is worthwhile to do the past exams since they prepare you for Bar style questions and may bear some similarity to the actual questions asked. That being said, don’t forget to skip the no longer relevant questions and to work to update the solution sheets to the updated laws. If you’re wondering if you should read La Collection or spend your time doing past exams, I would recommend going the route of past exams.
(Il vaut absolument la peine de faire le plus d’examens antérieurs du Barreau du Québec que vous pouvez en faire. Même si ces examens se datent de plus d’une dizaine d’années (et plusieurs près d’une vingtaine d’années) et que le format de l’examen du Barreau a changé, ces examens révèlent le type de questions pièges que le Barreau va vous poser et vous aide à vous préparer pour les questions à court développement. Le style des questions a changé un peu ces dernières. Maintenant, le Barreau du Québec vous demande de motiver et d’expliquer votre réponse au lieu de simplement la motiver. Pour certaines matières, des questions sont réutilisées quasiment telles quelles et, pour d’autres, les solutionnaires doivent être mis à jour aux lois actuelles.)