Bar Exam Questions: What to Expect?

A typical labour law multiple-choice question

So, the Quebec Bar exam is coming up and you want to know what you’re getting into. If you think that the exam is going to resemble the preparatory annexes, you’re in for a bad surprise. The exam is totally different. For bar school, the questions which you have to prepare are broad and straightforward. For example, the labour law annex will ask you to write the delay in which an accreditation notice (requête en accreditation) and the hearing notice must be placed in the office in full view. You flip open your Labour Code (Code du travail) and you find that article 25 paragraph 3 states that for accreditation notices, the notice must be placed in full view in the office at the latest, the business day following its reception and it must be posted for a minimum of five consecutive days.

The bar exam will ask a similar question: What is the earliest day which a company may take down a posted accreditation notice if the notice was received on a Wednesday? It’s a multiple-choice question, so you have options such as the following Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. We start off by identifying the word “earliest” which forces us to assume that if there is a delay to act, the action in question was done immediately at the start of the waiting period. So, based off of the annexes, we now assume that the company immediately posted the accreditation notice upon its reception on Wednesday and basing ourselves off of article 25 par. 3 L.C., we have to add a delay of five consecutive days to Wednesday, which brings us to Tuesday (since the notice is taken down after Monday on day number 6). Sounds like the right answer, but it’s wrong. Why, since article 151.4 Labour Code states that for delays of ten days or less, holidays are not to be counted in the delay and article 151.3 defines holidays as including Saturdays and Sundays. So, this means that we need to add two days to our initial answer of Tuesday bringing us instead to Thursday. And this is why people do so poorly on the bar exam. The question is straightforward, but there’s a nice little trick. Most questions have one trick, but some have more than one. If you think that you’re going into a straightforward, fair exam, think again. The exam is filled entirely of trick questions taking advantage of every loophole and exception the Bar can think of. So how do you avoid these mistakes? You need to go into the exam with the mindset that all the questions are trick questions and you need to go through your answers step-by-step to avoid them.

A past bar question: What is the earliest day which a company may take down a posted accreditation notice if the notice was received on a Wednesday? It’s a multiple-choice question, so you have options such as the following Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.

So, back to the labour law exam question. You see the question and step number 1 is to find the right article of the Labour Code which discusses accreditation notices. If you are working on a question where the answer is in the C.C.Q., you’re blessed with a nice index and you should be able to find the answer, on the other hand, if you’re dealing with a labour law or a business law question, the index is probably not up to scratch in your relevant code. This means that you need to do some searching to find the applicable article. Hopefully, you’ll find article 25 par. 3 L.C., but the secret is not to stop there. Rather, you need to then start from scratch. Don’t assume anything. Ask yourself the question, so how do you calculate delays? Step number 2 is to find the applicable article for the calculation of delays. That should bring you to article 151.3 L.C. which explains that to calculate delays, you need to exclude the first day and count the last one of the delay (There is an equivalent article in this regard in the C.P.C.) Step number 3 is to then see if there are any other relevant articles for the calculation of delays which should hopefully allow you to fall on article 151.4 L.C. which states the special exception rule for delays of ten days or less. Step number 4 is then to make sure that there aren’t any other holidays in your spread of days, say Christmas or New Years, which forces you to look at the list of holidays contained in article 151.1 L.C. Here, there were four steps to avoid falling into the trap on a simple looking question.

The rule of thumb is that you need to play dumb for the bar exam and go through this whole process for all the questions and not skip anything in order to avoid most of the traps. And finally, good written links in your codes to relevant articles are your best friend for these types of questions. So, if you made a link from article 25 par. 3 to 151.1, 151.3 and 151.4 (and maybe even 151.2 for the delay of one business day), you get to save yourself some time searching for the relevant provision and maybe avoid one or more of the traps. This is just an example in labour law, but it applies to all of the subjects. Writing the bar exam is a question of strategy more than anything else.

Anyway, I’m going to be posting questions on other topics in the near future.


(Si vous pensez que les cours de l’École du Barreau vous préparent pour l’examen du Barreau du Québec, pensez une deuxième fois. Les questions dans les annexes de l’École du Barreau sont d’un style tout à fait différent de ceux à l’examen. Les questions à l’examen sont des questions pointues et elles contiennent généralement au moins un piège. Si vous répondez à la question et vous ne voyez pas de piège, refaites la question, car vous l’avez probablement manquée. On peut voir dans une question en droit du travail qu’une question qui apparait simple ne l’est pas. Ayez comme stratégie de ne jamais tenir quelque chose pour acquis; il vaut plutôt la peine de vérifier tout, même des éléments qui apparaissent simples à leur surface, car il se peut que c’est là qu’il a un piège et c’est là la clé pour passer ton barreau.)

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