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Licensing Examinations FAQs

Summer Licensing Examinations
April 2022 Licensing Examinations

           Studying and study materials for replacement licensing examinations
           Employment
          Call to the Bar/licensing term
COVID-19
Abeyance


Summer Licensing Examinations

Question: Why are the examinations being held in person?

Answer:  The change in the delivery method of examinations, from online to in-person, stems from the ongoing investigation into licensing candidates that strongly indicates that examination content has been improperly accessed through cheating, in contravention of the Examination Rules and Protocols and compromising the integrity of the upcoming examination period. Evidence indicates the potential involvement of third parties in this activity.

This information came to the Law Society’s attention in early March 2022.

The Law Society has a statutory mandate to ensure entry-level competence in the public interest. Continuing with an online delivery in light of this information and the ongoing investigation was not possible.

The Law Society must ensure that upcoming examinations support a valid and defensible assessment process that will support the licensure efforts of the many candidates who are not under investigation and have not engaged in cheating.

In the current circumstances, in-person delivery provides the necessary degree of security to ensure examination integrity and to protect the reputation of all those candidates who are in no way implicated in the investigation.

The Law Society recognizes the challenging impacts on candidates not involved in the investigation; our efforts are focused on delivering a plan that allows those candidates not implicated to proceed with licensure as quickly as possible, in a defensible manner, in the public interest.

The Law Society is also actively examining alternative delivery modalities beyond the 2022-2023 licensing cycle. The Law Society will continue informing candidates of new information as it becomes available.

Question: Why have the examinations originally scheduled for June been moved to July?

Answer: In early March, once it became clear that it was necessary to administer the licensing examinations in-person, the Law Society moved as quickly as possible to begin the significant task of planning summer licensing examinations for over 2,000 candidates across five locations in Ontario. While the Law Society attempted to secure venues and resources to deliver the examinations on the originally scheduled dates in June, it was impossible to do so within the time provided.

The Law Society worked to find an equitable solution for the candidates that would have the smallest possible impact in terms of both the examinations and the balance of the licensing process, including experiential training, while providing an opportunity to as many candidates as possible to write the licensing examinations. The Law Society generally requires 18-24 months to plan in-person examinations. In a very short period of time, the Law Society secured alternative dates, as close to the original dates as possible, and by quickly reallocating resources, the Law Society will be able to hold licensing examinations just one month later than originally scheduled.

The Law Society recognizes that the decision to reschedule the summer examinations is upsetting news and that it has had significant impacts on candidates on a personal and professional level. The Law Society is working hard to minimize these impacts, where possible, while also maintaining the processes for the development, administration, scoring and reporting of the licensing examinations, which are consistent with established best practices for professional licensure.

Question: Why can’t the examinations be administered individually or in smaller settings?

Answer:  Licensing exams are important tools in assessing the entry-level competence of candidates. In order to ensure the integrity of the licensing examinations, the examinations must be administered in standardized and secure venues by individuals who are specially trained in examination protocols, rules and security. These measures ensure the validity and defensibility of the examinations, so that the Law Society can guarantee that the examinations are an accurate measure of the entry-level competencies required for licensure.

Question: For folks who cannot write the exams in July and do not want to defer, why can’t there be a special smaller sitting in June?

Answer: For each licensing examination, the Law Society uses a blueprint document to ensure that the items being assessed on each examination are valid and representative of legal practice. It also ensures that the same categories of competencies are being assessed, to the same standard of competence, even though items being assessed change from one sitting of an examination to another. This is a robust process that takes significant time and resources.

The Law Society worked to find an equitable solution for over 2,000 candidates that would have the smallest possible impact in terms of both the examinations and the balance of the licensing process, including experiential training, while providing an opportunity to as many candidates as possible to write the licensing examinations.

The Law Society recognizes that the decision to reschedule the summer examinations is upsetting news and that it has had significant impacts on candidates on a personal and professional level. The Law Society is working hard to minimise these impacts, where possible, while also maintaining the processes for the development, administration, scoring and reporting of the licensing examinations, which are consistent with established best practices for professional licensure.

Question: I haven’t been involved in any wrongdoing—why am I being punished?

Answer:  The Law Society recognizes the challenging impacts on candidates not involved in the investigation. The Law Society is actively working to ensure that upcoming examinations are valid and defensible and will move candidates towards licensure in a process that is not tainted by the possibility of cheating.

In the current circumstances, in-person delivery provides the necessary degree of security to ensure examination integrity and to protect the reputation of all those candidates who are in no way implicated in the investigation.

Notwithstanding these efforts, the Law Society recognizes that the decision to reschedule the summer examinations is upsetting news and that it has had significant impacts on candidates on a personal and professional level.

We encourage licensing candidates to reach out to the Law Society if they require assistance related to the rescheduling of their licensing examinations.

We also extend our thanks to all the partners across the province who have assisted us to support candidates and respond swiftly to this situation.

We are all focused on providing a timely path to licensure for those candidates working diligently to launch their careers and uphold the integrity of the legal professions.

Question: Why isn’t the Law Society providing more information about the investigation?

Answer: An active investigation is underway into licensing candidates who may have improperly accessed examination content through cheating in contravention of the Examination Rules and Protocols and compromising the integrity of the upcoming examination period. This process is being led by a team of external investigators and is focused on protecting the public and the integrity of the licensing process.

To protect the integrity of the investigative process, we cannot provide specific information about the ongoing investigation into examinations, at this time.
We can say that the investigation is complex and that the Law Society is committed to ensuring a process that that is fair, just and in the public interest; updates will be provided as available.

Question: What accommodations are available to candidates?

Answer: The Law Society provides accommodation for the licensing examinations to candidates based on grounds listed in the Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19.
As the governing body of professions concerned with justice, the Law Society has a strong public interest in promoting equality. The legal approach to equality recognizes that treating people identically is not synonymous with treating them equally.

Each accommodation request is reviewed on an individual basis and assessed based on the unique circumstances of the individual making the request. Accommodation coordinators in the Law Society’s Examination Administration team are dedicated to managing accommodation requests and delivering examinations with accommodations.

Candidates seeking accommodation should review the Law Society’s Policy and Procedures for Accommodations or contact the Examination Administration staff at examinationaccommodation@lso.ca.

Question: I am concerned about my mental heath; what supports are available to me?

Answer: We recognize the stress and challenging impacts that the change in examination dates and the move to an in-person format may cause for many candidates. The Law Society has taken steps to try to alleviate some of the challenges faced by licensing candidates by extending the deadline for examination deferrals and providing financial assistance through the Repayable Allowance Program. The Law Society will continue to offer accommodations on the established examination dates for the grounds outlined in the Human Rights Code.

All candidates have access to the Member Assistance Program which provides free, confidential access to counselling, coaching, online resources and peer volunteers. Through the program you can get professional help with issues related to addictions, mental or physical health, work-life balance, career, family and more. Anyone who needs help is encouraged to reach out to the Member Assistance Program.

If you need to defer your licensing examination, Licensing and Accreditation team members will also work with you to explore your options.

Question: I am worried about exposure to COVID-19 at an in-person examination sitting. What provisions are in place?

Answer: COVID-19 protocols are currently in place for all in-person examinations. Among other safety measures, masks must be worn at any time you get up from your assigned seat in the examination centre. Seating for candidates follows all physical distancing guidelines.

Question: Why is a licensing examination necessary?

Answer: Each law society operates under its own provincial or territorial legislation. While some jurisdictions may require candidates to take a pre-licensure course that contains several assessments, other jurisdictions, like Ontario, require candidates to successfully complete one or two longer examinations to assess competence. Having a standardized assessment allows the Law Society to ensure that all candidates can demonstrate the minimum level of competence required of an entry-level licensee. The licensing examinations focus on those competencies that have the most direct impact on the protection of the public and on effective and ethical practice. The Law Society has a duty to protect the public interest and one aspect of fulfilling that duty is ensuring that all candidates who are licensed have demonstrated entry-level competence.
 


April 2022 licensing examinations

Question: When, where, and how will the replacement winter 2022 licensing examinations take place?

Answer: The March 2022 licensing examination sittings have been rescheduled to take place in person in Toronto, Ontario.   

The barrister licensing examination window is from April 5 to April 8, 2022, at The International Centre, Hall 5. The examination will be written from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. EDT.

The solicitor licensing examination window is from April 26 to April 29, 2022, at the Toronto Congress Centre, South Building, 650 Dixon Rd, Etobicoke,  ON . The examination will be written from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. EDT.

Registration will open at 8:00 a.m. EDT on each day. Candidates must arrive at least 90 minutes before the scheduled licensing examination start time to complete all security and other screening procedures. Candidates must be seated in their assigned seat at least 30 minutes before the scheduled start time. Candidates must allow for at least 60 minutes after the scheduled end time to complete additional security screening procedures.  

Some of the above information will not apply to some candidates who receive accommodations.

The Law Society will assign candidates to a date within the windows set out above. The Law Society will notify candidates of their examination dates through their online account. 

Question: What if the replacement examination date I am assigned is a date when I am not available or able to be in Toronto, Ontario?

Answer: Candidates who cannot write the replacement licensing examination as scheduled may defer to a future licensing examination sitting.

Candidates who wish to defer a replacement licensing examination will be allowed to do so with no penalty as long as they submit a Request for Registration or Deferment form through their online account by no later than March 25, 2022. Examination fees that were paid towards a March 2022 licensing examination will be automatically applied to the later sitting selected. Candidates who choose to defer to a later sitting will require the licensing examination study materials applicable to the licensing year of that later sitting. Where a candidate defers to a sitting in the 2022-23 licensing year, the 2022-23 licensing examination study materials will be provided at no additional cost.

Question: What will happen to the fee I paid for the cancelled licensing examination?

Answer: The licensing examination fee that you paid for a March 2022 licensing examination will be applied toward your next licensing examination. Candidates who do not plan to write another licensing examination should send a message through their online account requesting a refund.

Question: Will the replacement licensing examinations be online and multiple choice?

Answer: The replacement licensing examinations will be held in person using paper test booklets, with answers to be recorded on paper Scantron answer sheets. The examinations will be comprised of 160 multiple-choice questions.

Question: Will there be a scheduled break during the licensing examination?

Answer: No, candidates will have 4 hours and 30 minutes (with no scheduled break) to complete the licensing examination. Candidates may use the restroom during this time and must complete the Scantron answer sheet during this time.

Question: What if I am unsuccessful with an April licensing examination—will I have an opportunity to sit a summer licensing examination?

Answer: It is not currently known when results from the April 2022 licensing examinations will be able to be made available. Generally, results are released within eight weeks after the licensing examination windows have concluded. However, additional analyses of results prior to release may be required as a result of the investigation. Accordingly, the Law Society is not currently able to confirm whether results will be released in time to register for the next sitting of the licensing examinations. The Law Society will continue to post information as it becomes available.

Studying and study materials for April 2022 licensing examinations

Question: Should I keep studying my current licensing examination study materials?

Answer: The replacement licensing examinations will be based on the same licensing examination study materials as the March 2022 licensing examinations. Candidates who do not sit the replaced March 2022 licensing examinations (and instead defer to a future sitting) will be examined on the study materials applicable to such future sitting. Where a candidate defers to a sitting in the 2022-23 licensing year, the 2022-23 licensing examination study materials will be provided at no additional cost.

For in-person licensing examinations, candidates are not permitted to remove any paper from the licensing examination testing area. Candidates must carefully review the Rules and Protocol applicable to in-person licensing examinations.

Question: My employer does not want to grant me additional study days. Will the Law Society mandate that those employing articling students grant additional study days?

Answer: The Law Society recommends that all employers assist affected candidates in whatever way possible in light of this situation. No changes to the requirements are contemplated.

Question: What can I bring with me to the in-person sitting of the licensing examination?

Answer: The Law Society’s Rules and Protocol applicable to in-person licensing examinations  set out what candidates are and are not permitted to bring with them and what candidates must leave behind in the testing area. 

Question: Can I take the books and study materials that I bring into the licensing examination back home once I have completed the licensing examination?

Answer: No, as always with in-person licensing examinations, all print, paper, and paper-based materials (including study materials, notes, and books) must be left behind in the testing area. Binders, cerlox bindings, etc. must also be left behind. Candidates should not bring anything (other than food, drinks, medication, clothing, keys, government-issued or Law Society ID, or a wallet containing no paper) into the testing area that they are unwilling to leave behind for disposal by the Law Society. Candidates should ensure that they keep copies of any documents they might want to refer to after the licensing examination at home or in another location outside the testing area. Candidates should carefully review the Rules and Protocol  applicable to in-person licensing examinations.

Employment

Question: Will the Law Society contact employers to explain the situation?

Answer: The Law Society will not be contacting employers directly. If employers contact the Law Society, the Law Society will recommend to all employers that they assist affected candidates in whatever way possible.

Question: Can I practise law while I am waiting, since I was not involved in any wrongdoing?

Answer: No. Only licensed lawyers are permitted to practise law in Ontario. If you have finished your experiential training program and wish to provide legal services before being called to the Bar, you must enter into and file a Supervision Agreement with an approved principal. Supervision agreements are not effective until approved by the Law Society. The Law Society will endeavour to expedite the approval of Supervision Agreements.

Call to the Bar/licensing term

Question: I was planning to be called to the Bar in June 2022—will I still be able to?

Answer: The Law Society is investigating all available options to minimize the impact of this situation on candidates. The Law Society must ensure that, prior to licensure, each candidate meets the requirements set out in the Law Society Act and its regulations and bylaws.

Question: My licensing term was going to end shortly after the March 2022 examinations. Can I still take a replacement licensing examination?

Answer: Yes. If you were eligible to take the March 2022 licensing examinations and your licensing term was scheduled to expire before December 31, 2022, your licensing term will automatically be extended until December 31, 2022. You do not need to take any further action.
 


COVID-19

Question: What precautions is the Law Society is taking with respect to COVID-19 for the in-person examinations and what am I expected to do?

Answer: The COVID-19 protocols are set out in the Rules and Protocol applicable to in-person licensing examinations. Candidates should note the following:

  • Candidates are expected to review the COVID-19 screening questions outlined at https://covid-19.ontario.ca/self-assessment
  • Candidates are expected to stay home on the day of their licensing examination if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, even if the symptoms are mild, or if they answer “yes” to any of the COVID-19 screening questions outlined at https://covid-19.ontario.ca/self-assessment. Candidates who have symptoms should send a message through their online account and submit a Request for Examination Registration or Deferment form. In such cases, the licensing examination fee will be applied to the next attempt at the licensing examination.
  • Candidates who have a pre-existing medical condition (not COVID-19) that produces symptoms that may occur at the examination site that are similar to those associated with COVID-19 should obtain a note from their doctor confirming the presence of such a condition and should be prepared to submit such note for review at the examination site. Please note that disclosure of a specific medical diagnosis is not required.
  • If it appears to the Law Society that a candidate has symptoms of COVID-19, the Law Society may require that the candidate leave the examination site, in which case the candidate will be permitted to defer the licensing examination to a future sitting. The Law Society may also consider potential alternatives.
  • Candidates are required to wear a mask that covers both the mouth and nose at all times while at the examination site except (i) when asked by a proctor to pull down or remove the mask for identification and security purposes or (ii) when both seated and writing the licensing examination.
  • Candidates who get up to use the restroom during the licensing examination must wear a mask on the way to and from the restroom and in the restroom.
  • Candidates who seek to communicate with a proctor during the licensing examination must put their mask on prior to or upon raising their hand and keep the mask on while communicating with the proctor.
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to sit the licensing examinations.
  • Proctors will be behind plexiglass at the registration and screening areas, where possible.
  • Where possible, candidates must stay two metres apart.
  • Candidates will be seated approximately two metres apart.

Candidates who are unable or unwilling to be with other people in a room may defer their licensing examination.

The above protocols may be updated. If there are any changes to these protocols, candidates will be notified.


Abeyance

Question: I received a message that my status is in abeyance. What does this mean?

Answer: Candidates whose status is currently in abeyance are not eligible to sit a licensing examination or be called to the Bar unless directly notified by the Law Society in writing that their abeyance status has been amended or lifted.
 

Updated April 13, 2022

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