Molly Savage never accepted she’d be taking the Michigan state bar exam accidentally after admission this year from Wayne State University’s law school. Nevertheless, in July, she found herself sitting down in an office at the law firm where she already worked, taking the final seven-hour test that stood amid her and a authorization to convenance law.

Michigan, like many states around the country, had chosen a software company—in this case, ExamSoft—to administrate the test and “proctor” it remotely. Savage had had a bit of agitation tracking down a computer that could run the software, which films test-takers through their computer’s camera, and the whole thing felt a bit creepy.

“Who’s absolutely reviewing this?” she wondered. “Is it a human being who’s reviewing it in real time?”

And then article even drifter happened: Midway through the test, a website meant to bear passwords used to access the exam failed.

For Savage, the already high-stakes, high-stress test became “kind of chaos,” she said.

The log-in process, the aggregation later said, had been targeted in a “sophisticated” cyberattack. Panicked test-takers around the state were calling ExamSoft, unable to pass the log-in page as the time ticked down on their exams. The aggregation was able to get the test back on track, and according to a statement, “at no time was any data compromised.”

Nici Sandberg, a agent for ExamSoft, said the aggregation has since taken steps to advance its defenses adjoin future attacks. But it’s not the first time ExamSoft’s agenda proctoring has run into problems.


In 2015, the aggregation agreed to pay more than $2 actor to settle a class action suit after software failures afflicted the bar exams in 43 states. At the time, the bearings spawned a catchy epithet: “barmageddon.” The aggregation beneath to animadversion on those incidents.

And this year, two states with affairs with the proctoring aggregation ILG Technologies, Indiana and Nevada, adjourned their remote bar exams after abstruse glitches were appear during convenance testing. ILG Technologies did not acknowledge to a appeal for comment. Admiral alms the exams in Michigan, Indiana, and Nevada also did not reply to requests for comment.

But that hasn’t chock-full more and more state bar associations, along with a growing number of universities, from axis to companies that aftermath remote proctoring software—the University of Washington, University of Missouri, and the University of California system are just a few of the many schools that have turned to the tools.

One controlling from a aggregation called Examity afresh told Inside Higher Ed that the company’s growth was up 35 percent over what was accepted in its annual forecast. Another, from a aggregation called Proctorio, told The Washington Post his aggregation would “probably access our value by four to five X just this year.”

Even before the pandemic, the tools were being widely adopted. In 2018, Examity appear that it had seen five beeline years of more than 50 percent growth. That growth is likely to abide incessant as schools remain remote.

The states The Markup contacted did not acknowledge to requests for the dollar amounts of affairs with exam companies, but ExamSoft, for example, has been known to charge each exam-taker $134.50 in licensing fees as part of its contract. Normally, bags of people take the bar around the country each year.

Tracking eyes and faces

Meanwhile, aloofness advocates say the technology, which purports to track eyes, scan faces, and adviser typing, is troubling.

“A bar exam that forces our future colleagues to use invasive and ambiguous technology … and potentially endure bigotry is adverse to aggregate the law is meant to uphold,” Albert Fox Cahn, controlling administrator of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, wrote this month in a letter to New York admiral asking them to amend the use of ExamSoft for the state’s bar exam, citing apropos of the abeyant for racial bias in tools like face-scanning. (Some test-takers have afresh said they faced absolutely that botheration with the software—that it appeared to attempt to admit darker features.)

ExamSoft’s Sandberg said, “[A]ll exams are first advised by AI, flagged for abeyant incidents and then also re-reviewed by able human proctors.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation raised agnate apropos about the California state bar exam. Both that exam and the New York exam were given accidentally through ExamSoft last week.

Open Book Tests or No Tests at All?

The catechism is, in a pandemic’s world, what the alternatives really are.

One option, “diploma privilege,” is used in Wisconsin. It’s a action that allows some in-state law graduates to become accountant to convenance after taking the bar exam. A few other states have given 2020 law school graduates who complete assertive requirements such privileges, laying a path to convenance as attorneys after taking the exam.

But other states have been more reluctant. In Florida, a group of law graduates filed a address in the state’s Supreme Court court adjoin the use of ILG software for the state’s exam this year. The graduates asked to have the exam waived for the year and to be accustomed to convenance after alive with a accountant advocate for six months. The court ultimately shot down the request. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners did not acknowledge to a appeal for comment.

At the University of California, Santa Barbara, adroitness sent a letter to the administering aghast to the broad categories of data, from anecdotic concrete capacity to keystrokes, used by ProctorU, addition provider of software used for remote exams. “We admit that in our aggregate race to adapt our coursework and commitment in good faith, there are trade-offs and adverse aspects of the clearing online that we must accept,” the adroitness wrote. “This is not one of them.” (The aggregation threatened legal action adjoin the adroitness over the letter and said it only collects data for proctoring purposes. Use of the software is currently optional.)

“On campus, we are there to assure our students; we feel amenable for our students,” Jennifer Holt, a film and media studies assistant at UC Santa Barbara and part of the adroitness association, told The Markup. “That,” she said, “doesn’t change because apprenticeship has moved online.” The use of the software isn’t required, but there’s little another beyond alteration the format of tests.

Some experts in apprenticeship catechism whether the problems go beyond the use of any specific software.

“This is a case where we’re trying to use the technology Band-Aid for a botheration that’s much more fundamental,” said David Rettinger, a assistant of cerebral science at the University of Mary Washington, who studies ethics in education.

Rettinger said educators should accede relying more on altered forms of testing, like open-book exams, which may better authenticate how much acceptance have learned. That could also create a less adversarial acquirements environment, he said, one that’s built more deeply on trust. It’s not absolutely a silver lining, he said, since these are problems that aback have to be solved immediately, instead of over time.

Holt, for one, said she’d given the first open-book exam of her career recently. “These are crazy times,” she said. “We’ve got to make adjustments.”

But, she added, “we have to do it in a way that has these acceptance in mind first.”

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