NEW YORK, NY — October 26, 2020 — New York was one of the first states to administer the online bar exam in the country’s history. Whether the exam was a success or not will depend on whom you ask.
According to the Bar examiners, the New York BAR exam was quite successful. In fact, Judith Gundersen, the NCBE president, in an email to the ABA Journal, said that more than 98% of applicants had a smooth experience with the software. In other words, as per the state’s reports, the remote bar exam went well.
Examsoft, the company that delivered the test software, offers the same answer, that there was only a minor percentage of test-takers who encountered issues. Almost every participant was able to successfully complete the test, almost being the keyword here. They are in the process of gathering feedback from the jurisdictions to gain more insight.
However, this is not considering that a large percentage of the students were no-shows or fought mental battles during the exam.
The Test-Takers View
The survey released later in October gives us a different view of the so-called “success” of these remote exams. According to a survey of 500 test-takers, 74.7% described their experience as unfavorable. Only less than 8% of respondents had any positive aspect to mention about their test.
The snapshot survey was initiated by State Senator Brad Hoylman (SD-27) and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon (AD-52), who co-sponsored the legislation advocating diploma privilege. However, despite support from the graduates, local legal firms, and even the college, the bill hasn’t taken off yet.
The survey also indicated widespread concern from 71.5% of participants whether the other test-takers would be cheating. The test taker is not supposed to leave their computers during the sessions for security.
On the other hand, the graduates also raised their doubts about whether ExamSoft software would be able to access any personal information on the computers. However, given that the bill for Diploma privilege hasn’t been approved yet, there are no other means to be eligible to practice law in the state without passing the bar exam.
The survey is not the only source of negative accounts of experience from the test-takers. The ABA Journal released an article with reports from five participants who encountered multiple software crashes during the test.
The software also uses facial recognition technology for identity verification. However, there are also reports that the software has issues in accurately reading the faces of people of color. As the company will store the biometric and facial recognition data, there are also questions regarding privacy.
Those who reached out to the software team received answers that smaller issues with the app, such as crashes, were expected. But such warnings were not sent out for students.
However, while there is plenty of negative feedback, there are also those who preferred the remote format to the traditional bar exams. While 6.6% of respondents found it positive, 0.6% confirms that the remote test experience was extremely positive.
While the state and the software company continues to insist that the exam was a success, the reviews show otherwise. It is likely that 2021 will also see a couple of online bar exams. In that case, the state should be better equipped to provide fair and reliable testing conditions to the graduates.
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