Wednesday, July 29, 2020


A generation ago, I took the Michigan bar exam on the floor of the Breslin Center, where the Michigan State Spartans play basketball.

Two days I will never forget.

But I will never complain about it again after this year's nightmare for aspiring lawyers:

Michigan's online bar exam crashed Tuesday about an hour into the exam, temporarily locking out aspiring lawyers taking the hours-long test.

After the test was complete later in the day, the Michigan Supreme Court and the state Board of Law Examiners issued a statement saying the crash was the result of a hacking attempt.

The glitch confirmed the fears of many test-takers, some of whom spent the days before the test asking for it to be cancelled.

The exam software cuts off Internet access for those taking the tests during each module. When each module was done, Internet access was restored and test takers were supposed to log into a secure website to get the password for the next module. The test takers were unable to get into that site and get the passwords, according to John Nevin, a spokesman for the Michigan Supreme Court and the state Board of Law Examiners.

Nevin said the test continued despite the password delays.

"As a result of this delay, test takers were notified via email that the testing day will be adjusted to allow additional time and account for those who got in late. The vendor will also be emailing the passwords for the remaining modules to avoid any further issues.”

Several hundred people took the test Tuesday. By the evening, the Board of Law Examiners announced all 733 people who took the test were able to complete it, despite the hacking attempt.

So that's the good news. The bad news was how weird and Big Brother-ish the testing process was:

Test takers had raised concerns before the test.

Instead of two days of in-person testing including a multiple-choice test and an essay test, potential attorneys reported to their computers Tuesday morning for a one-day, 15-essay-question exam.

More: Michigan’s online bar exam testers worry software tracks eye movements, noises

Some of those taking the exam worried whether the computer software would work and whether test-takers would manage to stay exactly centered in their computer's camera eye for the entire exam.

The goal of the camera usage is to stop cheating. The company itself tells those taking the exam, in bright red letters, all capitalized, in the instruction sheet: "Make sure you are centered in the frame and do not change the camera angle during the exam."

Students had to download software prior to the exam. At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, they had to open the download. The software then disconnected the internet on the laptop and turned on the computer's camera and microphone. Students had to be in alone in the room — any noise, from children to a pet, could flag the video for cheating.

No thank you. Glad mine was a two day slog.

1 comment:

  1. I took a bunch of exams for a professional designation (insurance related) about 10 years ago (+/-, eight exams over a couple of years). The testing facility had cameras overhead to watch your hands and make sure you stayed at your own station. Pretty sure face cams would have pissed me off.


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