CICC’s Immigration and Refugee Board Licensing Exam
How I passed the IRB L3 licensing exam, study tips, and general advice from Jade Calver, RCIC-IRB.
Starting in 2022, the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants announced that Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants wishing to represent clients before the Immigration and Refugee Board are required to hold an L3 Class license.
This new license requires existing RCICs to take a course administered by the College, and to pass a multiple choice 4 hour long, 190 question exam. RCICs can also apply to have some or all of their experience with the IRB counted in place of taking the Specialization Program. The exam is closed book and administered online via ProctorU. In 2023, only RCIC with the IRB class license will be allowed to represent clients before the various divisions of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
I sat my exam with the College on November 2, 2022, after which I learned on December 21, 2022 that I had successfully passed the exam. I’ve included some thoughts on the exam and some information below that I think others taking the exam might find helpful.
Over impressions of the exam
Overall, I found the exam rather challenging. Despite a fairly intensive review on my part, I found that a lot of the topics on the exam were not covered within the scope of the preparatory course that we had to take through the College. I will also note that I worked for a few years at the Immigration and Refugee Board, so I had some experience with the IRB. Despite my experience and work with the IRB, I will say that it’s still an exam that requires attention and focus in order to pass.
My experience with the exam
I think my success in the exam can be attributed to a fairly intensive study preparation schedule before the exam. The multiple choice test covers extensively in its questions the rules for the Immigration Division, Immigration Appeal Division, Refugee Protection Division, as well as the Refugee Appeal Division.
In addition to this, there were many situational questions, where there would be a long story about a case, and then they would ask questions about eligibility to make the claim as well as deadlines. Therefore, I needed to understand both eligibility rules for a person to make a claim under a specific division, but also the rules for deadlines as well as procedures within that division.
The exam also covered quite a lot of material concerning the College’s Professional Code of Conduct and Ethics, as well as other matters relating to Retainer Agreements, CPD, Agents, etc. As I took my RCIC Entry to Practice Exam so long ago (in 2014!), I think in retrospect I would have reviewed this material more thoroughly in advance of the exam.
Lastly, and more surprisingly, I found that there were many questions relating to jurisprudence in Immigration as well as legal terminology. I found that these were not covered in our mandatory courses and I found these questions to be the most challenging as a result.
Format of the exam
As previously mentioned, the exam is a multiple choice, 4 hour exam, the topics of the exam are not covered evenly within the exam per se, I would say that they are divided as follows:
15-20% of the exam questions will test RCIC Core competencies such as professional conduct, retainer agreements, file management, client account, CPD, Agents, Staff. As well as case management and client relationship skills. There are a lot of questions from the PME material here.
15-20% of the exam is testing timelines and date deadlines for the four different tribunals. Here I think being organized with charts and memorizing these early is important.
60% of the rest of the exam is focussed on your understanding of how the tribunals work, but I would say most of it is skewed towards the IRB, especially when it comes to situational questions. There is a mix of short questions and long scenario questions, as described above.
Tips for preparing for the IRB licensing exam
Start studying early, I started in early October 2022, which gave me about 5 weeks to begin studying for the exam. I finished my IRB course in late August which gave me a bit of a break before I started studying, but not too long before I had to resume studying.
Have a study plan: I studied every week day for an hour, and every weekend with at least 6 hours per weekend day dedicated to reviewing (I was intent on passing). I have a busy immigration practice and a busy personal schedule, so I had to make scheduled time for myself to ensure that I had time to study.
Do not wait too long to take the exam: I had about 1.5 months from when I finished my IRB Specialization Course with the College until I started studying, so it was about 2.5 months between when I finished the course and when I wrote the exam. I think how much time you give yourself will depend on how busy you are, if you are more consistent with your study and review while you are taking the course, you could maybe write it right away, but don’t take too long or else the material will feel (and be) too old.
Find a study partner: I offered within my Online Facebook group for Immigration Consultants to host study group for those who were sitting the IRB Specialization Exam the same date as me.
Attend an online preparation course: I found a few online prep courses to take in advance of the exam. I found this helpful as it challenged me to think about other material that would be on the exam that I wouldn’t haven’t covered on my own.
Be prepared for exam day. I would ensure that you read the College’s Candidate Guide for the exam, and that you are prepared for exam day, ensuring that your space is set up adequately in order to take the exam.
I think that the IRB Specialization was necessary and needed; the requirement for additional accreditation was a result of the Immigration and Refugee Board saying that RCICs were not providing competent representation to their clients before the Board.
I would advise RCICs taking the exam that they ensure that they have time to dedicate to study for the course as well as the exam. As most RCICs taking the exam already have a full time practice or are full-time employees, I think time management is probably the biggest factor for the case.
If you have any questions about the exam, please feel free to reach out. Please also join my Facebook Immigration Discussion group for Immigration Consultants and lawyers online here.
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