If you are close to graduation, spring is the perfect time to start preparing for your NCA assessment and planning-out your exam schedule so you can sit your first exam(s) in October. NCA assessment can take up to 8 weeks—though in my personal experience, it is usually closer to 5 weeks. Regardless, in order to ensure there is no delay to your ability to write exams in October, you should apply for assessment sooner rather than later. Remember, you cannot begin articling until you have completed and passed all the NCA exams assigned to you.
What are the NCA Exams?
The National Committee on Accreditation Exams are your first step to qualifying in Canada. These are open-book, pass-fail exams (50% is pass) that grant you the right to article and write the Bar exam in your province. You are permitted to bring any non-electronic reference materials into the exam with you so highlight and tab-away your notes for quick and easy reference in the exam room!
Most 3-year LL.B UK students will be assigned the five core exams but 2-year LL.Bs will do seven exams--the five core subjects that everyone has to do plus two electives of your choice. Law graduates from other countries may be assigned more exams depending on their degree.
Requesting an NCA Assessment
Before you can register for any NCA exams, you will need to apply for an assessment to determine how many exams you need to write. To do this, you will need to register online, pay the $450 fee, and have official copies of all your college and university transcripts sent to the NCA (Undergraduate, Masters, & LL.B as applicable). To ensure your process is as speedy as possible, ask your current law school if they can automatically send a copy of your transcript to the NCA once they are released. You can register as early as you like but your assessment will not be started until all your required transcripts have been received by the NCA.
Planning your Exam Schedule
While you are waiting for your assessment, you should take some time to plan your exam schedule. Every NCA candidate will need to write the 5 core exams: Foundations of Canadian Law, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Administrative Law, and Professional Responsibility. Knowing this, you can start to study for these over the summer so you are ready to go in October. Personally, I suggest that Foundations, Constitution, and Admin are done in one sitting as they are closely related; their overlapping content will make studying easier and more efficient. If you aren’t Canadian and/or didn’t do secondary education in Canada, I certainly recommend doing Foundations first, as it outlines the basics of the Canadian legal system and constitution quite nicely. (Please note that NCA Tutor™ recommends doing Foundations after Constitutional Law and Administrative Law)
If you have electives assigned to you as well, the subjects will be at your choosing. However if you did any NCA accredited courses during your LL.B then these electives will not be available to you. For instance, The City Law School’s Evidence and Canadian Corporate courses preclude NCA candidates from taking the Evidence, Business Organizations, and Commercial Law NCA exams.
While exam sittings are offered in January, May, August, and October of each year, not all elective subjects are offered in every NCA sitting. If you are set on doing a specific elective subject, be sure you plan your exam schedule accordingly using the NCA Schedules posted online.
The NCA offers a variety of exam locations across Canada. However, if you are still living abroad, you can also request an accommodation to write your exam at an international NCA partner institutions (e.g. UCL in London). To find out about examination locations available in your country, email email@example.com well before the exam registration deadline. The international partner institution may charge a small fee to sit the exam at their location in addition to the NCA exam fee.
The Federation of Law Societies publishes more information on NCA assessments, as well as resources like course syllabi and practice exams to help you study! Of course, NCA Tutor™ runs exam prep courses and publishes super helpful notes for studying and reference in the exam. I personally used the NCA Tutor™ notes for my core exams with great success.
Happy Studying & Good Luck!