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NCA exam syllabus and strategy – is it a cakewalk for Indian lawyers

I was speaking to a litigator who was considering planning her move to Canada.

Some of her friends, mostly engineers, moved there, and she thought it might be a good idea based on what she heard from her friends.

She had understood that she would have to clear the NCA exam as a first step to be considered equivalent to a Canadian law graduate.

But she was wondering whether clearing the exam is easy or difficult?

How would she manage her preparation alongside her existing work?  

I shared some insights with her from a plan that has helped 11 LawSikho alumni who started from scratch to fully qualify all phases of the NCA Exam in the past 6 months. 

59 others are on the way and have cleared some of the exams. We expect almost all of them to clear the rest of the exams in the next 4-6 months.

Out of them, 29 have already moved to Canada even before clearing all of their NCA Exams! Many have secured jobs that pay them above CAD 50k annually, which is a very good package for a comfortable life in Canada, and some even secured CAD 80-90k jobs!

Based on these results, we realised that any Indian lawyer who systematically prepares for the NCA Exams for 6 months for 2 hours per day is highly likely to clear it. Not only clear the exams, but learn enough to land coveted Canadian jobs!

Would you like some specific insights?

Here are the top 15 insights: 

  1. The first step is to apply for assessment of your LLB degree and transcripts, based on the NCA administration will prescribe the subjects for which you must attempt the NCA exam. Obtaining an assessment report takes about 8 weeks. 
  1. Most Indian lawyers are prescribed 5 subjects – 5 subjects: Foundations of Canadian Law, Canadian Constitutional Law, Canadian Administrative Law, Canadian Criminal Law, Canadian Professional Responsibility and a short 8-week course offered only by Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education that can be completed online itself.
  1. In some cases, 2-3 additional subjects may be prescribed, if your score in a specific law subject in college was very low or if your LLB degree is very old, older than 10 years.
  1. Start by preparing for 1-2 hours everyday on the side. Your goal should be to start attempting the exams from the 4th month onwards.
  1. NCA conducts exams in limited subjects every month. In one month, you will be able to attempt the exam for a maximum of 2 subjects, maximum 3 if you have additional subjects prescribed. 
  1. In this way, the exam process will be completed by the end of 6 months, if not earlier. We have seen that 6 months is enough to allocate. 
  1. Since both India and Canada follow the common law systems, there are many similarities in almost every prescribed subject. For example, you will find many similarities in the Charter of Rights in the Canadian Constitution here with fundamental rights under the Indian constitution, or concepts around federalism and division of powers, administrative law, rules of natural justice, etc.
  1. Even the Canadian criminal code is quite similar to India’s IPC. See the definition of assault in Canada’s Criminal Code here and compare it with IPC here, or theft (Canadian law: here, Indian law: here).
  1. This enables Indian lawyers to pick up concepts really fast because they have already studied similar concepts while getting their Indian law degree.
  1. How do you prepare from an exam-perspective? Practice typing answers every week on what you have studied around the NCA Exam pattern and obtain feedback from a coach to improve every week. 
  1. There are 5 types of questions – MCQs (newly added in 2024, good news!), short answer questions, fact-based questions, essay questions, and questions around the correctness of certain statements. 
  1. Start attempting full-length subject mocks 1 month before the exams that you are scheduled to attempt. Practise typing answers on a computer in a timed environment. Get feedback from a coach, ideally someone who has cleared the NCA Exam.  
  1. You should attempt 5 mock exams per subject. Initially your performance in mocks may not be impressive, but over time most candidates are able to obtain 60-80%. At that point, you are ready to attempt the real exam, as you are well above the pass threshold of 50% marks. Appearing in NCA exam without first being well prepared with mock tests is a terrible idea!
  1. Since NCA is not a competitive exam, everyone who scores 50%+ clears the subject. Official NCA surveys of pass rate are not released. However, by some estimates, the pass rate could be around 50%. In our case, students who practise mock tests before appearing and with support of our coaches, have almost a 100% success rate. We have had some students who appear without actually preparing or passing their mock tests first. This is not advisable. 
  1. In case you are unable to hit your targeted score in the mocks, you have the opportunity to reschedule the exam upon payment, and get a few extra days to prepare. You can also sign up for the exam only after you are doing well in mocks.

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