Survey on New York Bar Exam Experience Raises Concerns for Future Exams During COVID-19

The New York Board of Law Examiners moved the New York State bar exam online this year, due to COVID-19 concerns. New York Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon recently conducted a survey on the experience of test takers in the online exam. Unfortunately, the survey revealed significant concerns.

Technical difficulties affected over 40 percent of the survey respondents. These issues involved both Internet problems and software problems, such as repeated crashes. Nearly half of the survey respondents also felt very concerned that cheating could occur if test takers found loopholes in the exam software. More generally, about three-quarters of the test takers reported that they had a negative or extremely negative experience. The results of the survey echoed the experiences of test takers in other states that used online bar exams. However, they contradicted the statement of the CEO and President of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, Judith Gundersen, who said that the online exam was a success overall. The software provider, ExamSoft, reported that over 98 percent of test takers did not encounter issues.

Hoylman and Simon have sought to establish diploma privilege during the COVID-19 pandemic. Already used in some states, this system allows law school graduates to become licensed to practice without taking the bar exam. Other states have established a provisional licensing system that allows law school graduates to practice law for a limited time until they can take a standard bar exam. Based on the survey, Hoylman and Simon hope that their proposed law establishing diploma privilege will gain stronger consideration from their fellow legislators.

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