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Completing NCA exams

After a file is assessed, the NCA issues an assessment that may require an applicant to:
     1) pass examinations set and administered by the NCA  in prescribed subject areas of law;
     2) take additional courses in prescribed subject areas of law at a Canadian law school; or
     3) complete a Canadian common law degree program.

The NCA issues a Certificate of Qualification when an applicant successfully completes the requirements set out in Options 1 and 2 above. Applicants receive a Canadian law degree upon completion of Option 3 and therefore do not need a Certificate of Qualification. 

An NCA assessment normally requires an applicant to demonstrate competency in specific subjects, as described in the NCA policies. In most cases, applicants may also choose to substitute NCA examinations with equivalent Canadian law school courses. 

In certain circumstances, an applicant may be required to attend a Canadian law school and successfully complete specific courses. The number of subjects or courses required will depend on the applicant's individual background of legal education and professional experience. All applicants must request pre-approval of any law school courses taken to complete NCA requirements.

NCA assessments focus on the competence of applicants in core common law subjects, including four Canadian subjects which are mandatory for all applicants. An explanation of the mandatory nature of each is available here:

 The other core common law subjects are:

  • Contracts
  • Torts
  • Property
  • Business Associations (formerly Corporate Law)

In some cases, particularly when an applicant's law degree was less than three years, other subjects may be assigned including Civil Procedure, Commercial Law, Family Law, Remedies, Taxation, and Trusts.

Only those applicants who have received their NCA assessment, who are permitted to complete the requirements stated in their assessment by way of option (1), can register for NCA examinations.

Applicants cannot register for NCA examinations if they have not been issued their assessment, or if they have been asked to complete the assigned subjects only as part of a Canadian law program (Option (2) above), or if they are required to complete a Canadian law degree.

NCA Examination Process

The NCA examination process is entirely self-study and applicants are responsible for their own course materials and program of studies. There is no private tutoring or consultation available through the NCA. A syllabus and sample exam are available for each subject to be examined. 

These syllabi are generally revised once annually and are in effect for a full calendar year starting in January. Please note the syllabi may be updated from time to time without prior notice. Applicants are responsible for monitoring the website for updates and obtaining the most recent syllabus for the exam session. Applicants can also acquire syllabus material through various Canadian publishers and other websites. 

Free access to Quicklaw (Lexis Nexis) is available for applicants who have registered for examinations and paid the required examination fees. 

Also available is a Guide on how to write fact-based exams, similar to the type offered by the NCA.

NCA Failed Examinations

Applicants may retake an NCA examination in a failed subject. The exam fee in effect at the time of registration for the second attempt will be required. The new examination will not always be based on identical course materials, so candidates may have to prepare for the exam on the basis of a new syllabus.

Applicants may retake a failed NCA examination twice. In the event of a third failure (first try and two re-takes), applicants are required to take the failed subject at a Canadian law school. Applicants may not register to retake an exam until they receive the results of the first effort, and cannot register in the exam session immediately following the session in which they took the exam the first time. For example, if a candidate fails an exam in January, the earliest opportunity to re-take the exam would be in August of the same year.

When candidates fail an NCA examination, they receive a memo from the grading examiner providing reasons for the failure. The candidate will be given an opportunity to review the exam(s) at a date and time arranged by the NCA. A notice providing the time, date and location of the session will be sent with the exam results. Applicants may appeal their exam results in accordance with the Examination Review and Grade Appeal Process and by submitting a completed Examination Grade Appeal request form along with the required administrative fee indicated on the form.