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Common mistakes while preparing for the AOR exam

Even though there is no limitation to the number of seats, only about 19 -24 percent of candidates who take the Advocate on Record (AOR) examination are able to crack it. That means 4 out of 5 people FAIL this exam!

Why is this the case? Here are some common preparation mistakes that most candidates make: 

Not creating a plan or not sticking to it 

How many of you plan your week, your month or even your day, and actually stick to it? The reality is that most people can’t. If you could not stick to your plan so far in life, then do not expect things to change suddenly. 

Unless there is some outside intervention.

For example, if I have to go to the gym on my own and work out, I almost never do it. But when I hire a personal trainer who comes home to make me work out, I never miss a workout and find my fitness improving rapidly. 

Most of us are like that. We can follow when someone gives us a plan and holds us accountable to it. That is why children do better in exams when they have tutors. That is why when your boss sits on your head, work gets done quicker which, left to you, may take ages. That is why students become more diligent and studious just before an exam. 

If you need coaching, hand-holding and support to prepare for a tough exam, you already know in your heart that you need it. Do not pretend otherwise and expect to become a highly disciplined and diligent person overnight.

The AOR is not an exam someone can clear by seriously studying for 2 weeks. You need to study for it regularly and over time, consistency will be key. What is important, you getting the results or you transforming into a highly disciplined person in the next 6 months? Do not confuse your goals.

So now let’s explore what is so difficult about this exam – why do people take over 500 hours to prepare even when they get guidance, support and coaching?

I’m good at drafting trial, High Court petitions or procedural laws, so I can switch to Supreme Court practice easily

This kind of thinking will get you nowhere. Here’s why. The Supreme Court has a different set of Rules of 109 pages and a Handbook of Practice and Procedure running into 280 pages. The Code of Civil Procedure spans 301 pages, and CrPC 226 pages 

Clearly the Supreme Court procedures are totally different. While there may be similarities with procedural laws, they wouldn’t need to make such a lengthy document if they could just use the CPC or the CrPC, right?

I already practice in the Supreme Court – this should be easy!

There are 15,000 members of the Supreme Court Bar Association. How many of them are AOR?

Practice and exams are different scenarios. You have access to resources for practice – this is not an open book exam. You have time to draft petitions – easily 24 hours or more. For the exam, you have to draft a petition in approximately 30 minutes.

For work, you can use your computer to type. But in the exam, you need to hand-write your answers, which brings a new set of challenges. Your handwriting needs to be legible. Your speed will be slower and you cannot write as much. You need to structure your answers beforehand – if you make too many edits the answer sheet will look untidy, you will tire quickly, etc.

You need to practice writing. A lot of people fail simply because they are not used to writing longhand any more. Even if they know the answer, they sometimes cannot write it properly within the given time. This happens to a LOT of people. This is why taking many mock tests is critical. You need to practice writing answers and get feedback to avoid this scenario.

I can rely on headnotes for leading cases – this paper should be easy 

Headnotes are 9 volumes thick, and questions aren’t set from there. People keep looking, wasting time, and then fail to find what they need. Then they fail the paper itself.

Some questions are intentionally framed in such a way that someone who relies solely on headnotes will not be able to answer correctly.

Studying leading cases the way you study for college or other exams

For your LLB exams, you are tested on an elementary knowledge of law. In Judiciary exams, you are tested on more knowledge of law with respect to specific subjects. 

But the Supreme Court exam is testing you MOST on the fact that you bring appropriate matters before the court. So knowing how to invoke the powers of the Supreme Court correctly, drafting accordingly, identifying the correct grounds and the correct question of law involved, is very important 

You have to be very sharp to know about the Supreme Court’s cases, the procedure and the gaps in different Supreme Court judgments, otherwise you will waste the court’s time as an Advocate on Record.

You will be tested in a very different way than any test you have ever taken, so you can’t prepare for this exam like you prepared for your college exams.  

Not taking mock tests and not practising

How will you know if you are actually ready to take the test? If you appear for it and fail all the subjects, it’s not only embarrassing but you will be barred from appearing for the exam the following year. 

How will you know the gaps between where you stand and where you need to be if you do not take mock tests? How will you improve, without any practise or feedback, on answer-writing? 

Coaching institutes do not provide exam format-based mock tests, or manual evaluations. They only try to give you pre-recorded video-based lectures. You cannot ace this exam by watching some video lectures or reading some books! This is one exam that actually tests your practical skills and acumen.

But if you do not get practise, how will you improve the structure of your answers? How will you build your speed, ability of expression, legibility and accuracy? 

Believing that reading a model answer is sufficient without developing your writing skills

It is possible for an AoR to share their answer sheets, but that only applies to a past exam. It doesn’t help develop your own skills. While the questions may be on similar themes, but they are not repeated  

Not focussing on professional ethics, or some other difficult parts of the syllabus

I agree that this is a dry subject. But it is as important as the other subjects. If you don’t develop an interest in this, or keep this for the very last moment, it won’t work

Raju Ramchrandran’s book is popularly called ‘the Bible’, but it is based on the older rules and was not updated for the 2013 rules. So if this is your go-to text, think again.  

To sum up…

People fail to clear the exam because they often do not have a clear picture of what they need to do. Naturally, they waste a lot of time. 

But now that you know the common mistakes, are you going to avoid them? Do you know which bullets to dodge? 

Even if you know what to do, actually doing it is another thing.

Let me give you an example: How many of you are slightly overweight or underweight? Do you know how to gain or lose weight? So why are you still not doing it? Why do you continue to be overweight or underweight?

So knowing what to do and doing what needs to be done, are two different things. This is the main reason why people fail to crack the AoR exam. It is much easier to attempt the exam with proper guidance and a systematic approach, than trying to do it on your own. Do you agree? 

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