Should I buy the required textbooks?

I am often asked whether I think students should purchase the required textbooks assigned on the NCA syllabus. The short answer is, absolutely!

The NCA Syllabus spells out what the minimum required readings are to prepare for the exams and you should be able to read at least the minimum. The optional readings on the syllabus are just that, optional!

But what if I get notes, do I still need to buy the textbooks?

Notes are not a substitute for your own readings and work in the courses. Notes serve an entirely different function. As you go through your readings of the required textbooks, you should be making your own notes, summarizing the concepts and cases that you are reading. The purpose of these notes are for you to have a quick reference guide during your exams. The NCA exams are a race against the clock and it is not practical for you to look up each and every legal test in your textbook during the exam. Making a good set of notes will save you time during your exam. Your notes should not be an attempt summarize every single detail in the textbooks and therefore, you may find yourself in a situation on an exam where your notes may not elaborate on a point you are being tested on. In such a case, having the textbook with you would be crucial to answering the question.

Where can I purchase the textbooks and what if I don't live in Canada?

There are several places to get your hands on textbooks.

1) Get them directly from the publishers. Their information is listed at the end of each NCA syllabus. Some publishers offer digitial editions of their textbooks, so if you're living outside of Canada and do not want to pay for shipping costs, this may be a good alternative for you.

2) Go to your local library. Some of the NCA books are available in public libraries, these books are often held on reserve so you have to ask for them.

3) Get them from your local university's law library or law bookstore.

4) Purchase them used. The largest NCA online community with over 2200 members can be found HERE.

Make a note about those notes...

This is a tip regarding the use of notes. There are many different versions of notes floating around, particularly for administrative law. I would like to give you a few words of advice about using other peoples' notes (including my own).

1) For some of the courses (ie. admin law) the syllabus is structured in the way the examiners want your answers structured. That means, you have to be weary of using notes that come from students who took the course at a Canadian law school. The material is not necessarily incorrect, it is the organization of the notes that may mix you up on the exam. You will also run the risk of using cases that the examiner may not be familiar with.

2) Do not bring in several sets of notes made by different people into your exam. This will just confuse you. You can use several peoples notes to combine them and make your own single set, but its not a good idea to have more sets than you need on an exam. Your time is limited and you need to be as efficient as possible on these exams.

3) It is best to make your own notes for the exams. Make sure you leave yourself at least 4 weeks to prepare notes. If you cannot make notes and you are purchasing them from someone, be sure to get many references. Red flags should come to mind if you're purchasing notes where you don't know who the author of those notes are.

Many students have come to my classes with notes they purchased elsewhere. In some cases, the notes have been incomplete, in others they were flat out incorrect. If you are buying notes, looking for the cheapest price around will probably end up costing you more in the long run.