Login | November 26, 2020

Online bar exam a success or failure, depending on whom you talk to

Technology for Lawyers

Published: November 13, 2020

During the first week of October, the people who administer and who take bar exams made history. Although a few states had tried to schedule in-person exams during the pandemic, eventually the June exams were rescheduled, mostly, to online tests in October.
Over 30,000 people took that online bar exam around about half the states and, depending who you talk to, it was either a resounding success or a complete failure.
On the official end, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) President Judith Gundersen said in a prepared statement that “Overall, the remote exam was a success,” noting that only 2 percent of test-takers did not begin their exams as expected. The majority of those were no-shows or deemed ineligible by the testing jurisdiction.
However, some of those problems were a result of poor technology or planning—and, as one commentator pointed out, 2 percent of 30,000 people is a lot of people.
On the other hand, writers for Law.com and Above the Law (ATL), among other commentators, noted huge flaws in the online exam in both the structure and the implementation of the exam. ATL, for one, called it a “preventable disaster” and “two days of cruel vindictiveness” in which 2/3 of New York test takers called it a “negative experience.”
The most noted single story from the exam is the one about the guy who had to pee in a bottle live during the test, to his apparent embarrassment (he has nothing on Jeff Toobin, of course).
There were technical problems, of course, and the complaints began early. Forty percent of New York test takers reported technical problems, from internet connections to test software problems with the ExamSoft platform. In fact, problems with the test software were reported by numerous candidates across the country. Many candidates posted that the questions themselves were, well, whack.
But many of the other problems were systemic, as pointed out by commentators who found, for instance, that problems encountered by test takers who came from poor and minority backgrounds were exacerbated by the test requirements.
All of this is leading to a cry for the bar exam to be exterminated. Maybe?