Latest bar exam software glitch puts some test takers in a bind

ExamSoft, the company that supplies the software used on the mandatory attorney licensing exam, told examinees in an email that laptops running Windows and using Intel’s newest chips are not compatible with the bar exam.

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Some law graduates slated to take the bar exam on July 26 and 27 were left scrambling to secure older laptops after learning this week that the exam software will not work on certain newer machines.

ExamSoft, the company that supplies the software used on the mandatory attorney licensing exam, told examinees in an email that laptops running Windows and using Intel’s newest chips are not compatible with the bar exam.

Computers with Intel’s 12-generation chipset, which hit the market in 2022, trigger the “automatic virtual machine check” function of Examplify, the software used for the bar exam, the company said. Those with incompatible laptops must take the test on a different device, the message said.

It is not clear how many people are affected by the issue. An ExamSoft spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday. Nearly 47,000 people sat for the July exam last year, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The exam is being given in person at test centers, and the vast majority of examinees use laptops.

A conference spokeswoman said Thursday it is aware of the issue but said individual jurisdictions handle the administration of the test. Examinees should reach out to their state bar examiners or ExamSoft with questions, she added.

“Quite a few” bar takers buy new laptops before the exam in order to ensure they have the most reliable equipment, said Mike Sims, president of bar exam prep company BARBRI.

Marsha Griggs, director of academic enrichment and bar passage at Washburn University School of Law, said Thursday that ExamSoft should provide compliant laptops to bar takers with affected machines at no cost, and that individual jurisdiction should push the company to do so.

“At best, it burdens those in the final crunch of bar study to expend time and money on a replacement device,” she said. “At worst, it can be financially and professionally devastating to bar takers who lack the resources to obtain a new computer.”

Some bar examinees might not have enough time to fix the problem given the exam is in less than two weeks, said bar exam tutor Sean Silverman.

“It couldn't be more of a burden during a time period in which any distractions could have a material effect on peoples' ability to pass the exam,” he said.

The chip issue is the latest technological glitch to hit the bar exam. For example, ExamSoft in 2015 agreed to pay $2.1 million to settle a class action brought by 2014 bar examinees who could not upload their essay answers on time due to a software issue.

More recently, problems with Examplify disrupted remote bar exams administered in October 2020, February 2021 and July 2021. Last July bar examinees in multiple jurisdictions had their computers crash mid-exam.

An investigation by the State Bar of California found that nearly 31% of those who took the state’s July bar exam faced at least one technical problem, and 2% experienced a major problem that resulted in lost answers or lost time.