Bar exam officials to offer make-up for states that can't hold Feb. test

A teacher lays out exams at The Fulham Boys School on the first day after the Christmas holidays following a government announcement that face masks are to be worn in English secondary schools amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain, January 4, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
  • The National Conference of Bar Examiners will offer materials for a March exam
  • With COVID cases surging, software deadlines are preventing a shift to a remote exam on Feb. 22 and 23.

Jan 11 (Reuters) - It’s too late to move the nationwide components of the February bar exam online, the National Conference of Bar Examiners said Monday.

But the organization, which designs the multistate portions of the state attorney licensing exams, said it will makeup exam materials in late March should local health regulations prohibit giving the Feb. 23 and 24 test in person due to COVID-19. A National Conference spokeswoman did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for clarification on whether any makeup exam would be in person or remote.

National Conference officials said Monday they anticipate that most jurisdictions will stick with plans for an in-person February test. So far only Nevada has announced changes to its February bar exam in light of pandemic conditions, opting for a stripped down, remote two-day test that does not include the 200-question Multistate Bar Exam.

The rapid rise of the Omicron variant and COVID cases across the country has thrown yet another wrench into the bar exam process. For nearly two years, bar examiners have struggled to adapt to fluctuating pandemic conditions, to the frustration of many test takers.

Since October 2020, the National Conference has offered states the option of giving in-person or remote exams—with most large jurisdictions opting for remote testing. But at least some examinees have faced technical problems during each of the three remote bar examinations.

In July 2021, for example, some test takers’ computers crashed during the exam—a problem officials said was caused by the testing software provided by outside vendor ExamSoft. Examsoft has said its program used more computer memory than anticipated, causing the issue.

The National Conference said this week that due to deadlines set by ExamSoft, there is not enough time to pivot to a remote exam next month. An ExamSoft representative did not immediately respond Tuesday to requests for comment on those deadlines.

In June, when COVID cases were trending down, the National Conference announced plans to return to all in-person testing in February, saying that format is the “best mode of administration.”

With case counts again breaking records, bar examiners across the country are mulling how to proceed. California, for example, has told examinees that they should wear a KN95 or N95 mask at the testing site, or double mask. Examinees there must also be fully vaccinated or provide proof of a negative COVID test.

Read more:

Nevada shifts February bar exam online amid Omicron surge

'I sort of panicked.' Tech problems hit remote bar exam

Will this week mark the end of the remote bar exam?

Reporting by Karen Sloan

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com