Hundreds of test-takers weighed in on the virtual version of the New York bar exam and nearly 75% described the experience as negative. Here are all their complaints.

  • A snapshot survey on the October online bar exam conducted by New York state senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon was released today.
  • Of the nearly 500 respondents, 40% reported internet or software disruptions during the exam, and nearly three-quarters described the experience as negative or very negative.
  • "I don't think anyone can credibly describe the online bar exam as a success," said Hoylman.
  • To share your experiences with the online bar exam, reach out to Yoonji Han at [email protected] and Jack Newsham at [email protected]
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

More than 40% of 500 respondents who took the October bar exam reported internet or software disruptions during the exam, according to a snapshot survey released on Friday by two New York state legislators .

Nearly 75% described the experience as negative, with fewer than 8% of the survey's volunteer respondents viewing it as positive. The remaining 18% rated it as neutral. 

It's been a roller coaster of uncertainty for test-takers. This year, the two-day, in-person New York bar exam originally scheduled for July was postponed to September due to the pandemic, only to be cancelled and later rescheduled and moved online to October, as previously reported by Business Insider.

On October 5 and 6, more than 5,000 candidates finally sat for the exam in New York, but faced a slew of technical glitches, from laggy software to blurry text. ExamSoft, the Texas testing software company used for the online bar exams, has come under fire since.

The survey, conducted by New York state Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, collected responses from nearly 500 test-takers, finding a substantial number of issues with the administration of the exam. The survey was circulated online, but it wasn't a randomized sample, which means the results should be taken with a grain of salt.

Read more: The bar exam as we know it is under fire. From ditching multiple choice to making the test open book, here's the changes legal experts are calling for.

Even if the more than 4,600 other bar takers who didn't participate in the survey had glowingly positive experiences, the findings of the survey imply that about 1 in 20 New York examinees had software or connectivity issues.

The issues reported included "immunocompromised examinees having to choose between taking the test in person with accommodations or taking it remotely without needed accommodations, issues with facial recognition software not recognizing examinees' faces, and the software itself repeatedly freezing or lagging for many examinees," according to Hoylman.

More than 40% of test-takers who applied for accommodation for a disability, reported negative experiences.

"I don't think anyone can credibly describe the online bar exam as a success," he said in a press release.

Hoylman and Simon co-sponsored bills to enact diploma privilege, which would allow law school graduates to automatically be licensed as practicing attorneys during the pandemic.

Read more: From delayed starts and blurry text, law grads in New York and California faced a slew of technical glitches on the online bar exam

In addition to connectivity and equity issues, 45.3% of respondents said they were "very concerned" about the possibility of others cheating on the online exam by exploiting vulnerabilities in the ExamSoft software. The statistic underscores the skepticism and fears surrounding an online version of a make-it-or-break-it exam meant to protect the public by ensuring that only competent lawyers enter the profession.

"From those who were forced to use urinals, or suffer embarrassing accidents to avoid leaving camera frame, we saw an utter failure to provide safe, responsible, and fair testing conditions to law school grads taking the most important test of their careers," said Simon in a statement.

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