Online bar exam takers in multiple states reported technical problems in the first day of testing, a result critics of the remote proctored exams for months had warned was likely.
Test takers on Monday complained of issues ranging from rejected file attachments to the unexpected deletion of online notes for essay questions. Some said they were booted out of the test completely because facial recognition technology didn’t work properly with their webcams.
“We’ve had a little over 98% of candidates who had already downloaded exams successfully start their exams so far,” ExamSoft spokeswoman Nici Sandberg told Bloomberg Law via email, responding to questions about tech problems. “We still have some exams in progress.”
Recent law school graduates and others who planned to take the exam—backed by some prominent law school professors and attorneys—warned that the 18 states as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands offering the tests this week were hankering for trouble. They cited tech issues encountered by software providers ExamSoft and ILG Technologies in a smaller number of states that held online exams over the summer.
Alana Quint, a 2020 University of Baltimore School of Law graduate who completed the first day of the Maryland bar exam Monday, said she encountered a significant problem when she typed into the exam’s notes section. At one point during the Multistate Performance Test portion of the exam she said periods started appearing on her screen although her hands were off the keyboard.
Quint said she rebooted her computer, as ExamSoft has instructed, but lost portions of her notes and answers to exam questions. She said she emailed the software company, and Maryland state officials, but has yet to receive a response.
“It was extremely frustrating,” said Quint, who has a job lined up as an attorney with Maryland Legal Aid in Baltimore. “I definitely used some profanities as I saw the software freezing.”
Sachin Patel, a recent graduate of the Indiana University Maurer School of Law who is sitting for the Illinois bar exam, tweeted that he was taking the remote test, when “my MPT file with the law/facts disappeared halfway through the morning session.”
Mary Brynn Milburn, another ExamSoft spokeswoman, said in a written statement late Monday that the company’s software automatically saves test responses and notes that might appear to have been wiped out. “It isn’t lost,” she said.
Milburn said ExamSoft customer support staff have been working “around the clock” to ensure that test takers are able to successfully complete the exam.
“Occasionally volumes will spike, and in those instances, we scale up support as quickly as possible to ensure that everyone receives the necessary support” Miburn said in response to a question about the number of complaint calls and emails the company received Monday over the bar exam. “So far, we’ve closed more than 1,300 support cases for Bar candidates today.”
States have been struggling with how to proceed with their bar exams since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. About half the states opted for in-person exams in late July, despite the health risks the pandemic posed.
Many others, including most of the largest states, opted to wait and off their tests online. But the track record of the several states that have offered online, remote proctored tests has been spotty. Each of those exams—except those in two states, Indiana and Nevada, which offered their exams in an open book, “take home” format—encountered a range of technical issues.